Cleaning out my inbox, I came across some of my earliest notes to myself when I started having the thoughts that eventually lead to You Can Take It Back: Consent as a Felt Sense.
This is quick and dirty, not nearly as fleshed out as the final essay, but maybe its brevity will actually help make the ideas more accessible. This is from May 1st, 2013:
The idea that you could retroactively revoke consent terrifies ppl cuz the current debate hinges on legalistic arguments about permission, how it’s communicated and verified, and who gets to set the terms of the contract.
But consent isn’t something that can be given. It’s an experience. It’s a feeling. If you feel one thing in the moment and have a different feeling later, that’s legitimate. Don’t let anybody take your feelings away from you by claiming they weren’t documented w the proper forms.
For tops, what this means is that we don’t get to rely on bottoms giving us permission to harm them as a quick and dirty way to absolve ourselves of whatever complicated feelings we might have about doing that. Consent is not a get-out-jail-free card for interacting w humans in ways we never would w.o consent, cuz consent is legit fleeting. If what you really wanna say is ‘I’d never do this to another human w.o permission,’ that’s tantamount to taking some responsibility for that person, even if they were “consenting at the time.”
A friend of mine in highschool used to have a policy: never have sex w someone you don’t want to have a relationship w for the rest of your life. This sounds like excessive moralizing but his point was more subtle: kids. This feels apropos to me here. Don’t top someone if you don’t want to be at least partially responsible for their psychological well-being long-term.
This gets back to one of my major points which is that the BDSM scene, in order to be truly non-abusive, needs to be encouraging ppl not just to do consent stuff but also acknowledging the intensity and making mental health support available to practitioners who, perhaps, want not to come out in public and be supported in accusing a prominent community member of rape — but need a safe, supportive place to process the FEELING of having “consented” to rape w.o having to caveat, “It was rilly hot tho!” to protect egos.