Friday, 3 December 2010


It's Angry Feminist Friday, folks! And you know what that means. It means I trawl the internet looking for something to get angry about and then I get angry about it. Now, like many people, I am a woman, and object to the idea that some people think it's okay to have sex with me without asking my permission first, so it didn't take me long to find something to get angry about. Today, it's Edward Pasteck using semantics to argue that it's okay to rape people.

Other bloggers, such as Sady and Lindsay Beyerstein, have covered this perhaps better than I can, but in a nutshell: Jezebel dot com fucked up once again last week by publishing an article (linked above) which suggested--well to tell you the truth, actually it just comes right out and says that
"America gets many things wrong about sex. Right there near the top of the list is our attachment to the idea of consent."

I'm not an American, but I am kind of attached to the idea of not getting raped, so I guess that's half a a slap on the wrist for me. I wonder if anyone has suggested to Edward that he is too attached to the idea of not being hit in the face repeatedly with a hammer.

But to continue. The crux of Mr Pasteck's argument seems to rest on some kind of impenetrable imaginary barrier between the definitions of "consent" and "decision". French women, he argues, "decide", rather than "consent", to have sex, and are therefore more empowered than their American counterparts since
"...our [Americans'] use of the word "consent" complicates the way we view the relation between sex and pleasure. "Consent" is a weighty term otherwise reserved for elevated, formal, even sanitized contexts."

So he's managed to point out the particular resonances of the word "consent". Well done. Protip, Edward: deciding to do something is still a form of consent. If you decide to have sex with someone, you're consenting to them having sex with you. You can't do one and not the other; the definition doesn't change because some wannabe journalist wants to get laid more often.

To paraphrase Spock (and yeah, that's probably going to be the only sci-fi reference in this article, sorry) his logic is flawed. I'd like to be able to say that the writer has simply not expressed himself very well, and that he merely wants Americanwomen to feel as comfortable with the idea of sex as Parisian women appear to be... and that might well be the case, assuming Edward Pasteck turns out to be some kind of fucking idiot who genuinely believes "consent" is French for "Objecting to having sex with Edward Pasteck". Alternatively, it could merely be a ploy for attention--"hey guys, look at me, I'm using highly contentious language to get people to read my article".

However, I feel it is a lot more likely that the whole "consent"/"decision" malarkey is actually shoddy pretense for the real argument in his article, which can be summed up as "I wish I could grope women without having to worry about whether they want to be groped or not".
"I'm not suggesting that a woman have sex with someone she doesn't want to, but I'm hoping we can start having more guilt-free sex by any means necessary."

That's French for "I don't get enough guilt-free sex". Well, Ed, maybe you should stop writing articles that make you sound like a rapist. That's French for "Shut the fuck up, you talentless hack".

Jezebel has since published a half-hearted apology, where the editor Jessica Coen (not the writer) kind-of apologises (but not really) for "[failing] to give an explanation as to why [Pasteck's article] was on Jezebel in the first place." (Holy backpedalling, batman!) Apparently

"sometimes it's worth being confronted with the voice of an issue head-on, particularly in a place such as this, where you can safely react and discuss if you so choose."

Sorry, Jessica, but if I wanted to hear an arsehole talk about how it should be okay to get women drunk and then rape them, I'd hang around Watford town centre on a Saturday night. I think you simply agreed to publish the article without realising what a stupid idea it was at the time. Then, when you realised, you engaged in what we call a bit of classic derailing. That's French for "being a fucking idiot". Frankly, I expected better.


  1. D:

    That's so sad, because in other contexts (ie in the mouth of anyone who isn't a talentless hack of a journalist who obviously is bitter about not getting any himself) the discussion of the nuance between "decision" and "consent" could have been a really interesting one.
    "Deciding to have sex" sounds much more pro-active and enthusiastic consent to me than merely "consenting to have sex", which is a much more passive phrasing...
    Somehow though, I don't think that's what this idiot meant...

  2. Hey dude! Thanks for commenting :)

    I think if he'd approached it from any starting point other than "if women didn't worry so much about consent they wouldn't be so damn uptight", it would have been an interesting article. I've read some great stuff about the political implications of the word (poke me if you want articles). But there is no way you can divorce the word "consent" from the concept of "deciding to have sex" without coming off sounding like a douchebag.

  3. No problem :) Perhaps you can return the favour over on my blog! It's another ranty-feminist one, though it hasn't seen much by way of ranting of late... must do something about that...

    I think you're right - there's masses of interesting discussion to be had around issues of consent, propositioning, and sexual assertion with regards to gender roles, but men talking about sexual freedom frequently, in my experience, end up meaning sexual freedom for *themselves*, and often don't remember that everyone should be as free to say "no thank you" as they should be free to say "yes please".

  4. Ranty feminism, eh? I am afraid I didn't see your comment until after my latest post, but I shall take a look tomorrow morning when it is no longer go-to-bed-issy-it-is-two-fucking-a-m :) Delicious ranty feminism!

    Ditto replying to your excellent point on sexual freedom. I just thought I'd let you know I'd seen it and wasn't ignoring you :)