Monday, May 14, 2012

Assumed Consent To Objectification

Thoughts come at me from all over. In this case, watching a video about the Mass Effect 3 ending a few weeks ago, I heard someone break down the meaning of informed choice / informed decision, for why the endings are horrible; namely that without knowing the full consequences of your actions, without being able to interrogate for more information, any choice you make is no real choice because you cannot internally follow a line of logic to a reasonable conclusion. They brought up the Socratic process, reasoning, logic and several other things.

For me, something I had always taken for granted, as understood, was laid out into words and via an analogy and it became the difference between instinct and logic; the difference between arriving at the answer at the math problem without being able to show the work, and having three sheets of proofs.

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[Mass Effect 3 Ending: Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage (SPOILERS) - 4:11 - 4:40]...

"Back in the day in Ancient Greece, Socrates would sometimes wake up in the morning, put on his best philosophising robe, go down to his academy, stroke his beard thoughtfully and then ask one of his students a question that began with; Suppose _______. He would outline a hypothetical situation and challenge his students to use their creativity and reason to determine the proper thing to do. This is called a Socratic Exercise."

Mass Effect 3 Ending: Tasteful, Understated Nerdrage (SPOILERS) - 11:50 - 12:20 ]...

"Details used to matter in Mass Effect. But in the ending they're ignored. How can I make this choice, if I don't know what the possible consequences of it are. Where's the agency in making a choice if I don't understand what it is that I'm doing. That's not a choice at all, it's just something that superficially resembles one.

This is not a socratic exercise anymore, because I can't approach it with logic and reason. I can only approach it with flimsy conjecture or by trying to second guess the intentions of the writer."

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I grew up calling Socractic Exercises - 'Mom's Homework', 'Grandpa's Story Time', & 'Daddy's Being Difficult'. I've been doing them, since I was about three. Reasoning on this level is instinctive to me and it had never quite occurred to me that others couldn't follow said reasoning and didn't utilize it for everything.

Thus why the video made an impact for me, in terms of the phrase 'Informed Consent'. Informed Consent is about making an aware choice, making a rationed decision. And I've heard about it for decades specifically in regards to sexuality, and a woman's autonomy. And it seemed a cultural thing that it had to be reminded about, in those cases in particular.

If judgement is impaired then you can't make good choices, that seemed obvious to me; especially considering the fact that judgement being impaired by sleepiness, can result in not turning on the bathroom light for a middle of the night pee, and falling into the toilet bowl if there are certain people in the house. You're not making the best decisions - able to partake in the best decision making process when you're half asleep.

Sleepiness, sleep deprivation impairs judgement; logical. Chemicals in the system also impairs judgement. And thus hormones in the system also impairs judgement and emotional states are often associated with surges of hormones and thus emotional states are also a place of possibly impaired judgement.


Except, not so simple. Not so simple at all and I kept running nose first into how not simple it was and being horribly confused by the lack of thinking.

And I just saw it again. Not just a lack of respect for what Informed Consent and an Informed Decision means, but a kind of Assumed Consent, that's been scaring me for ages now.

What prompted me to write this post - the final straw; a tumblr response by Blogitty-Blog-Blog" regarding a post where there's an image of a young boy, claiming when he was 14, he got his young girlfriend pregnant and 'she killed my son'.

Blogitty writes:

“Why must the fetus pay the price of the parents mistakes?”...It’s not just the males fault, but also the female. She lost her right to her body when she let him inside her, so anything she says about how it is her body is utter b.s...I am completely against what they did as it was stupid in every sense of the word. This is why we have an age of consent... But that’s yet again another human being who has had the right to life stolen from them because some uptight women feel that their body is more precious than that of a baby. Nice move there. It shows real respect for other people, great empathy skills."

Aside from the fact that I find Blogitty showing absolutely no empathy of their own right now, even as they call out what they claim to be the sociopathy of people who believe women have a right to determine what happens to their own bodies - there are other things as, or possibly more and relatedly disturbing.

"She lost her right to her body when she let him inside her, so anything she says about how it is her body is utter b.s..."

"...because some uptight women feel that their body is more precious than that of a baby."

I've been having some thoughts for a while now, about sexuality portrayals in main stream media (particularly USian), with some focus on porn. And it's all swirling together around the concepts of informed decision making, personal autonomy and how so much porn, erotica, sexual portrayals in varied media, is saturated in a Culture of Assumed Consent To Objectifaction which, if it isn't the same thing AS Rape Culture is pretty damn close to it.

There seems to be this definition of sexual activity as kyriarchal status choice that doesn't get the spotlight in places where not only can I see it and involve myself in it, but where young women (and young men) can become involved as well. When I do see it, it's usually flying over the heads of huge swathes of the population; namely the white population, as WoC on Tumblr discuss it as it (assumed consent to objectification + assumed consent to sexual objectification)relates to repercussions to Women of Colour, due to centuries of institutional white prejudicial racist baggage on their bodies and in particular the repercussions to WoC in traditional subservient service jobs.

I see conversations on the intersection, but not broader conversations about the origins, power and control of this Assumed Consent Culture and how to attack and dismantle it; possibly because too many white individuals are busy trying to justify their personal emotions on a thing - and thus miss the point of how and why it and all intersections should be feminist issues but currently aren't.

'She lost her right to her body when she let him inside her, so anything she says about how it is her body is utter b.s...' - Combine that thinking with purity balls. Combine that thinking with abstinence only sexual awareness programs. Combine that, with porn that has increasingly shifted to a near sociopathic level of objectification; where recievers of the phallus are automatons with holes to be brutalized, disrecpected and subjected to all manners of uncleanness and pain.

Here I admit I haven't seen much male on male / gay porn, to note if the language of the scenes; the subtext is the the same as what I've observed just being alive right now, and dealing with heterosexual based porn (in advertising to actual erotica). But I'm going to keep trying to keep my language inclusive.

This stuff scares me. The unchecked, non-perceptive, privilege assumed domination going on regarding sexuality, scares me. That the first time someone has penetrative (any form of it) sex, if there's not a ring/marriage license, some form of possessive framework in play then that body no longer has any autonomy... and if that person is not white, they never had it and will never have it.

Further, if that person has sexual aspects outside the mainstream then they're ASSUMED to have consented as well, to sociopathic objectification.

Thus consequently, individuals who are not white, who have sexual aspects outside the mainstream, in such an environment, not only aren't counted as people, but are often assumed to have consented to everything and anything with anyone and attempts to affirm that they maintain personal autonomy is often met with violence, brutality and rage.

But let me back up. A culture of Assumption of Consent / Assumed Consent (a little rape culture, a larger layer of kyriarchy...) - what is it that it is assumed an individual is consenting to? What stereotypes are playing into that? What isn't being thought about, because it's been the brick layer foundation of interaction for so long and people are loathe to change it?

'She lost her right to her body when she let him inside her, so anything she says about how it is her body is utter b.s...'

So the girlfriend of a 14yr old boy, thought she was giving informed consent to him, and only him. Whether or not she was capable of giving said consent in the first place - let's put that on pause for now. It is apparently assumed that she KNEW, and understood, fully, that she lived in a society that deemed her first penetrative sexual experience as a fully aware declension into non-citizen, non-human status? That she CHOSE this new status?

And even the fact that she got pregnant, thus to my mind proving she had not at all been prepared for the consequences of having piv sex, and thus wasn't truly able to make an informed decision - she's still held to have lost ALL RIGHTS to her own body?

Ignorance of the law does not excuse crossing it?

Uhm, doesn't that attempt to criminalize sex? Oh wait. Forcing pregnant women to have children they don't want has been seen as 'fit and proper punishment' for the longest time already, hasn't it. And cross dressing and homosexuality actually has been criminalized in the past and is still on the books in some places, or was as recently as ten to twenty years ago.

Thing is? If people had actually consented to dehumanization, objectification, violence, brutality and pain? Then yes, they could be considered deviant. And then it would make sense, perhaps, to have debates and dialogues about if there was anyway that could ever be experienced in any kind of safe space / why would anyone want to experience, etc...etc... I'm not versed in BDSM culture except the barest of basics; I apologise if my phrasing is offensive. Email and let me know.

But just living your life? Just being non-white? Just being someone who has received penetrative sex outside of sanctioned marriage or a long term relationship or whatever that arbitrary goalpost is? That's not choosing deviance. Nor is it somehow accepting the truth of some blatant obvious signpost of natural/inherited wtf ever deviance. That's NOT an informed decision to CHOOSE a lesser status than human*.

Hmm, maybe next time I'll get around to posting what disturbs me about the kyriarchal dominance games in an assumption one has chosen to be a dehumanized, sexualized object and how I relate it to the term 'kyriarchal status'.

* BDSMers aren't choosing to be thought of, seen as, or actually be sub human or less than human either. May need to work on that phrasing.


OT PS: As much as there's a thriving community of conversations on Tumblr that interests me and I have looked into missing e quite recently; I'm upset at notes that images etc, can be removed by Tumblr staff - lack of autonomy of one's tumblr space. That, plus their lack of following through non racistly on abuses towards Bloggers of Colour - has me disinclined to join the medium.