Understanding sexual consent, according to campaigners in the UK, is as simple as understanding you don’t invite people over to your house and force them to drink tea, even if they said they wanted tea, or had tea with you in the past. “It’s As Simple as Tea” is the latest salvo in the war to convince men they’re all rapists and without some cutesey-pie videos, will invariably continue to tackle and force visitors to slurp down Orange Pekoe whether they like it or not. Because everyone knows tea parties generally include full body tackles and pinning Pookie Bear to the couch while waterboarding him with Earl Grey.
That actually sounds like kind of a fun tea party, but I digress.
Cathy Young fires back with an absolutely brilliant counter analogy, “It’s A Piece of Cake”:
If someone offers you cake and you say, ‘Oh, I’d love some!’, that’s consent.
If someone offers you cake and you don’t really feel like eating it but say, ‘Sure, I’d love some!’, because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, that’s also consent.
If you say, ‘Thanks, but I don’t think so’, and they convince you to change your mind, that’s also consent. It doesn’t matter how many times you said no. It doesn’t matter if your friend was being an obnoxious, guilt-tripping, sulky, passive-aggressive pest. (Well, it matters. It may be a reason to reconsider your friendship. But it’s certainly not a reason to go to the cops.) As long as you were free to refuse the cake without risking some tangible harm, it’s up to you to grow a spine [emphasis mine].
If you’re drunk (but sufficiently in control of your faculties to eat cake…), that’s also consent. If you weren’t thinking straight and ate so much cake you were sick the next day, chalk it up as a valuable learning experience.
It’s up to you to grow a spine.
That’s the part that interests me. Why are there so many spineless women in the West? And honestly, the men who attend these consent classes, or agree even in passing that they might be rapists, can be added to the pile of the spineless jelly blobs masquerading as human beings.
Where the hell did they all come from?
Part of it has to be related to the institutional care model. From infancy, many of these children have been raised in highly structured settings, monitored relentlessly, and never allowed to take any risks that mommy might disapprove of from her cubicle across town. Mommy’s all-consuming guilt at paying the hired help to raise her children results in a hypervigilance that denies children the freedom to just be, well, children. Leonore Skenazy is engaged in a push-back against paranoid parenting called Free Range Kids that encourages parents to relax and let their kids learn some lessons the hard way, but for most parents, the thought of allowing Parker or Petal the freedom to walk a block to the park by themselves is inconceivable! And if Parker and Petal can’t navigate the suburban jungle of leafy sidewalks and hybrid cars, how on earth are they going to manage college, never mind the real word of recalcitrant cable companies and obnoxious tax-collectors?
I think there’s more to it than just mentally and emotionally crippled adults raised on Special Snowflake Farms (aka daycares) – and I think it gets right to the heart of what I find so off-putting about the entire mindset of the traditional left. I’m generally a big fan of anthropologist David Graeber, who explores a lot of interesting economic ideas from the perspective of anthropology: how do economic systems organize and add significance to human societies? His article on Bullshit Jobs is well worth reading, and his manifesto on Debt even more so. Given Graeber’s interesting approach to a subject I find easy to engage with, I was looking forward to reading The Utopia of Rules: on technology, stupidity and the secret joys of bureaucracy.
Full disclosure: I’m only on page 130, which is about halfway, so it’s possible it might get better, but I’m not feeling terribly optimistic. For one, Graeber is slobberingly obsequious to feminist theory and theorists, to the point that I serious wonder if he’s trying to get laid with this manuscript. It sure feels like it! He’s not all wrong, and perhaps he’s just hilariously ‘mansplaining’ feminist theory to feminists? He comes up with the breakthrough intellectual insight that people who have the power to kill uppity minions beneath them have little incentive to consider what the life of a minion is really like. I mean, who cares? If they irritate you, kill them. Minions obviously have a much greater incentive to understand what might upset their overlords because on the whole, minions prefer not to be killed.
Graeber calls the act of working to understand how not to piss off the overlords so one can stay alive ‘interpretive labor’, and then gives a shout out to feminist ‘standpoint epistemology’, which he had never heard of before. I’m sorry, but that’s kind of funny. Oh, sorry, feminists, I was over here doing real social science while you ladies were dithering over standpoint and my gosh, look at this! The silly ladies came up with the same theory as me, the true intellect! Perhaps the ladies aren’t so dumb after all? Graeber pats cute feminist scholars on the head. Pat! Pat! Good wittle feminist!
The really interesting stuff happens on page 89, where Graeber lays out the essential mindset and philosophy of the left:
From a left perspective, then, the hidden reality of human life is the fact that the world doesn’t just happen. It isn’t a natural fact, even though we tend to treat it as if it is – it exists because we all collectively produce it. We imagine thing’s we’d like and we bring them into being. But the moment you think about it in these terms, it becomes obvious that something has gone terribly wrong. Since who, if they could simply imagine any world that they liked and then bring it into being, would create a world like this one?
This is the ultimate revolutionary question: what are the conditions that would have to exist to enable us to…. just wake up and imagine and produce something else?
The naiveté is almost endearing. The complete, confused failure to understand that the rule of life is the same for all living things, from single celled organisms to the greatest mind the world has ever known: kill, or be killed. Graeber talks a great deal about the power of violence to enforce the rules of society, particularly the rules of bureaucracy, but thus far, he does not seem to have wrapped his head around the fact that violent might as well be synonymous with human. Humans can transcend violence, to be certain. But a human society without violence is impossible. All we can do is remove the violence from the hands of individuals and place it in the hands of someone (theoretically) more accountable for how that violence is deployed.
And therein lies the great danger of the left. The left somehow appears to believe that if violence is used to enforce ideals like peace, equality, fairness, justice – any other feature of utopia – then gosh darn it, what can go wrong? It’s idealism that ignores the fact you must violently impose utopia or it won’t work. There is no way out of this conundrum.
I myself prefer the more cynical approach of the right, which is to acknowledge that violence is a necessary condition of human society, and then just debate who gets the shit kicked out of them. It’s gonna be someone! There’s no avoiding that. So let’s just talk openly about which minions we are gonna crush and what we can do to avoid forcing people into minionhood. That’s the central ideal of the American right – there will always be minions, and they will always end up crushed under the wheels of history, but birth alone should not determine if you are a minion. That should be down to whether you behave like a minion or not. The minions should be given ladders and the opportunity to climb them, and if you choose not to? Well, sucks to be you.
Prepare to be turned into minion goo.
What does this have to do with consent? Feminists are hellbent on convincing women that they are, have always been, and unless they fight back, will always be the minions of the world. As minions, it is up to them to understand men, the overlords, and figure out how they think and act and feel and then govern themselves accordingly. Consent classes are an attempt to flip the script, and make the overlords attempt to engage in ‘interpretive labor’ and try to understand what the fuck the minions are thinking, and then the overlords must govern themselves accordingly. There are just a few, wee problems with this:
Men are not overlords. On college campuses, indeed, men are the minions
Women are now the overlords, but imagine themselves to be minions
The actual minions are trying to understand the overlords, to avoid being killed
The pretend minions are insane
The insanity, of course, comes from the left. The mindset of the left is that if you simply imagine a world in which everyone is loving and kind and farts glitter, that world will magically come about. Except they can’t enact that world without engaging in violence themselves – the violence necessary to force everyone to fart glitter.
The funny thing about feminist theory, and standpoint theory in particular, is that standpoint epistemology immediately makes it clear that gender has never been the primary point of intersection between knowledge and power: it is, and always has been, command of resources, especially violence. Class, in other words. A rich person has always had more power than almost everyone, because they have the power to command violent resources. Add race to that dynamic. A rich white person has always had more power than almost everyone, because they have the power to command violent resources. Add physical attractiveness. A rich, white beautiful person has always had more power than almost everyone, because they have the power to command violent resources. At that point gender factors in, but to a much lesser degree than anyone wants to discuss. Does a rich, white, beautiful man really command a rich, white, beautiful woman?
Would you rather be a rich white woman or a poor Black man? No brainer. Would you rather be a rich white woman or a rich white man? More complicated. Would you rather be a poor Black man or a poor Black woman? Also more complicated. Being poor sucks, but women have more social protections than men. I’d still pick being a woman. In all cases, I’d pick being a woman. If gender were the most important determinant of power, then it would be better to be a man in all circumstances. But gender is not. Being rich will always be better.
Money is power.
Money, backed up with violence.
Welcome to humanity.
We are violent creatures, who like cake. We want to have our cake and eat it, too. Consent classes are an attempt to imagine a world that doesn’t include real, actual humans, and to deny the centrality of violence to who and what we are….by engaging in violence. Mandatory consent classes are violence, make no mistake.
Wanna find out?
Refuse to take the class. Complete all your other courses. Attend graduation. Try to get on stage to demand your credentials. Expect to be met by a man with a stick, who will hit you with that stick, drag you off the stage and place you in a metal cage.
That’s violence. That’s how our whole world works.
And feminism, like every other political regime out there, is an attempt to command violence to enforce ideals. All we need to consider is what ideal we plan to accept as enforceable. I’ll take the meritocracy of the American right, thanks very much. People have always been, and will always be, crushed. As long as everyone has an opportunity to avoid the tank tracks, I’m okay with that. Every human being deserves the basic opportunity to avoid being one of the minions reduced to rubble and blood. Food, healthcare, education.
What you do with that opportunity is up to you. There will be roadblocks and people will try to trip you on the way up the ladder, because they want to take your spot. Boo hoo. Learn to protect yourself and your spot on the ladder. If you let go, and find yourself mired in the mud at the bottom because it was just too hard? Cry me a fucking river. And prepare to die, minion. Here’s some cake.
Or get on your feet.
Lots of love,