Do we have the courage to challenge the sacrosanct notion of consent, as it is deployed by the very rich and very determined sex industry to further its enslavement of women? Michael Jensen writes.
One of the most problematic - but unexamined - aspects of contemporary discussions of ethics, and especially sexual ethics, is the concept of consent.
In the language of liberalism, consent is a holy concept. It is easy to see why: consent means "free choice", and when we express our true humanity through free choices over our money, our labour, and our own bodies, we are at our holiest.
"Consenting adults" are free to choose what to do with and to one another without interference from governments, do-gooders, and churchmen like me.
Since our society's political system is based on the notion of free choice, it is hard to argue that freedom of choice shouldn't permeate all aspects of social interaction, including what happens in bedrooms.
The notion of consent is crucial to the rights of women to not have unwanted sexual experiences, not simply in the college dorm, or in the street behind the pub, but in the home.
But if consent can be established, then freedoms should be granted by society for a person to pursue whatever ends they wish. You want to consent to be eaten by a cannibal with apple sauce? Sure, we say: who are we to judge?
But the notion of consent relies on the assumption that individuals are free to make rational choices to do whatever they want. And this is where the notion of consent starts to fray, because we know that we can persuade someone to give consent through nagging, bullying, insistence, manipulation, drugs, and the inducement of money. We can also see when systemic forces, like poverty, addiction, racism, or sexism, compromise our free choosing.