Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Pornosophy: Have You Signed a Pre-Coital?

Illustration for Les Sonnetts Luxurieux of Pietro Aretino by Edouard-Henri Avril (1892)
How is our justice system supposed to deal with seduction in the age of "affirmative consent?" California has just passed a law requiring universities to enforce policies insuring that sex is consensual (“California Law on Consent Pleases Many but Leaves Some Doubters," NYT, 9/29/14). Don Juan would probably have been expelled from the University of California—or worse, depending on what stage of his seductions consent was measured. And how about passion and the notion of love as a form of madness? What about the role of idealization which is one of the ways that animal instinct mediates the shoals of consciousness? The notion of sex being a rational decision in which two parties act in a reasoned manner is in fact contrary to well…sex. It’s what philosophers call an aporia to the extent that it’s a supposition containing two mutually exclusive ideas. Perhaps the Harvard Law School faculty recognized the difficulty of adjudicating sexuality in recent protests about Harvard’s new policy on sexual misbehavior  (“Some Harvard Professors Oppose Policy on Assaults,” NYT, 10/15/14). The attempt to protect one person against violations and assaults can result in a violation of another individual’s human rights, particularly in an atmosphere of hysteria, where collective rather than individual emotion and a crowd mentality begin to inform the perception of reality. Even in the most morally relative universe, there's right and wrong. The notion that a woman who wears a revealing outfit invites rape has no more validity than the idea that a person who leaves their front door open should be robbed. But in matters of the heart and the crotch, intention can be exceedingly difficult to determine and with the increasing politicization and ideologization of sexuality by varying campus interest groups, who will render the Solomonic judgement? Affirmative consent is like having Big Brother involved in the sex act. While the safety and protection of students should be a major source of concern, do we want campus versions of the the Salem witch hunt or a situation where the equivalent of pre and post-coital agreements (modeled on prenuptial agreements and specifying exactly what sexual acts do and do not constitute consent) will have to be negotiated by high priced lawyers before a couple can make love?

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