Up Close and Personal: Consent as a Felt Sense and the TSA

[…] The woman who patted me down last Sunday was so good at making the encounter feel consensual — or more consensual than usual, or perhaps “minimally non-consensual”, anyway. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was she did, how she moved, how she inflected her voice and when and where she made eye-contact specifically, to inject a sense of non-violation into the situation. But it was something about her own gently expressed awkwardness in combination with her unquestionable competence and professionalism that did the trick.

She made me feel like we were both humans stuck in a bad situation that neither one of us was happy about, but that it was also sort of funny in a sad way, and that it was a worse situation for me than it was for her, but we were agreed on the point that we mostly just both wanted to get it over with and get on with our lives without either one of us causing the other undue hardship.


And this is my point. Even though every TSA agent uses the exact same words and touches the passenger in the exact same places, some of those encounters feel more consensual than others. According to a legalistic definition of consent as permission, every encounter I have had with the TSA pat-down has been identical in terms of consent. But there is absolutely no question in my mind that this is not the case. “Consent” is an experience much more nuanced and rich and complex than a simple question of whether I said “yes” or “no.”
Link to the rest of Unquietpirate's essay

I love that you’re talking about this. And because I thought you’d find it interesting, I wanted to chime in with a story of my own. Read more... )
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[Addressing the OP directly because that’s how this post flowed.]

Here’s a shitty fact about straight society: there are a lot of things that don’t explicitly mean “do you wanna have sex with me?” that do, in fact, often mean “so, wanna have sex with me?” It’s confusing, I know. A lot of women turn down offers to do stuff that they wouldn’t actually be averse to doing, like … you know, meeting someone in a private place for coffee, because they have a diffuse sense of social discomfort that warns them they might not be hearing exactly what the other person is implying. And yes, straight men set up this dynamic, in order to make sexual offers to straight women and not be turned down directly.

When everyone’s on the same page, it sort of works. Like, “I turned down his offer to grab some coffee together after dinner, and we can both pretend he didn’t just covertly proposition me.” Or “I can agree to have coffee with him, and the rest of the room can pretend we didn’t just have a conversation about how we’re going back to his place to have sex.” It’s not fair of straight men to get their reaction to hearing their own secret codes used in a non-sexual way all over your fabulous gay self. That sucks.

I would be all in favor of said secret codes being a lot more publicly accessible, or abolished entirely, because it’s dangerous for, say, socially awkward or neuroatypical women (and everyone who didn’t grow up with English as their first language) to have to navigate a world where people are offering one thing and believe they’re obtaining consent for another. But it clearly also creates problems for you, as a gay man who wants to have literal coffee with man friends and keeps being misunderstood.

On those grounds as well, help us dismantle the patriarchy. :)

Tags: sexuality, feminism, consent, psychology
[This post and previous discussion truncated.]
since I make clear that they can not actually cripple me with self-doubt, they do everything they can to cripple others with self-doubt. This forces me and mine to defend not only against the infliction of direct challenges to our senses of self, but to (over-)extend ourselves to reach others for the same kind of defense. That’s not merely harder to do, it’s also not actually within our power to do. And even if it was, it’s certainly not ethical to do unilaterally.

They know this, which is why second-order attacks and whisper campaigns are so effective. That they would resort to these tactics without questioning who these whisper campaigns actually harm (i.e., that they harm survivors who have consistently shown a great self-motivated desire to have access to the anti-violence technology we build) reveals their abusiveness to anyone with even a shred of perspective on the matter.

I left this alone for a while because I needed to think about it. But something Unquietpirate said in the post you pinged me added a dimension I’d been trying to put into words. How much energy it takes a person to defend a thing they believe in, when doing so puts them in conflict with vocal, angry people, is not a fixed quantity. It’s something they can learn to do with reduced wear and tear (and less fear of wear and tear, as they develop confidence) and get less worn out doing. This is the specific skill that mainstream activism blocks people from developing, first by victim-blaming the people who are being most viciously attacked by the opposition, but overall by presenting burn out as totally normal, as opposed to … a thing that happens when you’re fighting really hard with no clue how to mitigate the effect of constant invalidation, opposition, and emotional abuse being aimed at you.

Trying to make your allies stand with you no matter what would be impossible and/or abusive. But making them aware of ways to develop the strengths you have isn’t.

Tagging idlnmclean on this because I want their input. I have misgivings, but my impression is that most people who abuse this kind of power already have ample access to it. And people with marginalized identities tend to be so caught up fearing that what they do might make them just like their abusers (if they switch to less self-doubt and more effective tactics) that few of them deliberately learn how to fight without sacrificing their spoons and emotional well being in the process. And IME, you self teach or you don’t learn, because no one is talking about this. Thoughts?

Tags: discourse, changing things, gaslighting, psychology, security, advancing despite stop energy, distributing power and fire, idlnmclean
The reason I am ruffling so many feathers is that my critiques of the BDSM’ers are not at all similar to the ones coming from people who know nothing about BDSM and thus make outlandish, obviously false comparisons to chicken fuckers or whatever pathetically weak arguments they tend to make. (See, for instance, this Twitter thread.) I am not saying BDSM’ers are pedophiles—it is actually BDSM’ers themselves who are comparing me to pedophiles, in the exact same way anti-SM 2nd wave feminists famously compared me to pedophiles and sex traffickers years ago, ironically—what I am doing instead is pointing out how ubiquitous and mundane rape in their spaces has become. And that is a much more dangerous existential threat to both their self-image and their cultural legitimacy. That much is clear; we all know this.

Yeah. I’ve said this before, but it’s abundantly clear to me that the people who’ve called you a pedophile are throwing the worst accusation they know in your general direction. They’re hoping it will scare potential allies away from you and distract attention from what you’re actually saying. To date, they don’t seem to have a good response to any of your points about the BDSM community facilitating abuse and silencing/victim blaming survivors.
That being said, I would not be surprised to learn that BDSM spaces do harbor “the really stigmatized stuff,” because there is literally no better place for such stuff to hide—see, for example, FetLife’s relatively recent attempt to “cleanse” any controversial material, for this exact reason. But the important point to make here is that “the really stigmatized stuff” is stigmatized even within BDSM circles. That doesn’t mean it’s not there. It means it’s stigmatized.

I know a lot of spaces that periodically kick people out because they don’t want to get a reputation for harboring unsavory stuff. I don’t tend to give them credit for evicting pedophiles, so much as willingly participating in a moral panic.

But … hmm, point taken.
Finally, I appreciate the distinction you’re making between “most normal people” and “people who are uncommonly invested in shutting you up.” This is the exactly the correct way of thinking about it, I think, and it’s precisely why you’ll see me say “kill yourself” to people who I think are probably not that invested in shutting me up, and why I will doxx the people who are. The two tactics are different because the target of those tactics are different. And, of course, doxxing someone doesn’t actually shut them up; shutting them up is not my goal, anyway. (My goal is to get them to leave me and my spaces alone.) What they do instead, then, is begin gaslighting the people socially proximal to me and trying to ensure I am isolated and my work is censored. But that is an indirect attack, rather than a direct one, and given that I do not yet know how to defend against indirect attacks, I would rather be forced to endure only those than to endure both types.

I’ve been looking for countermeasures for those for a while, because I’ve known people who are a lot more easily gaslighted and disheartened than you who also have this problem. Even though they didn’t do anything wrong, having a few people constantly insinuating that they did and hissing hate in their friends’ ears affects them on an emotional level. The experience has made them paranoid about getting to know strangers or trusting at all, because they’re very aware that certain people will go to great lengths to hurt them. And, as I understand it, their pool of potential friends has contracted as a result, because the Just World Fallacy is a thing. I.e., most people assume that if anyone is that mad at them, they must have a good reason to be. They wouldn’t just lie and bad-mouth them everywhere for no reason, right? Which is to say, the ignorance of people who have never been on the receiving end of that kind of malicious whisper campaign results in a kind of victim blaming.