Contemporary Political Theory 19 (3):359-380 (2020)

This article intervenes in a critical debate about the use of consent to distinguish sex from rape. Drawing from critical contract theories, it argues that sexual consent is a cruel optimism that often operates to facilitate, rather than alleviate, sexual violence. Sexual consent as a cruel optimism promises to simplify rape allegations in the popular cultural imagination, confounds the distinction between victims and agents of sexual violence, and establishes certainty for potential victimizers who rely on it to convince themselves and others that their partners implicitly or explicitly agreed to sex. In each of these cases, the power of consent rests in its tendency to obscure sexual violence in a set of questions around victimhood and agency, rather than to clarify whether or when it has occurred. Following in the critical contract tradition, this article argues that the optimistic attachment to the clarifying power of consent helps to explain the persistent commitment to better sexual consent as a ‘solution’ to the problems of rape and sexual violence, and that this ‘solution’ is insufficient to the task.
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DOI 10.1057/s41296-019-00362-8
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References found in this work BETA

[Book Review] the Racial Contract. [REVIEW]Charles W. Mills - 1999 - Social Theory and Practice 25 (1):155-160.
The Sexual Contract.Carole Pateman - 1990 - Ethics 100 (3):658-669.
Our Bodies, Whose Property?Anne Phillips - 2013 - Princeton University Press.
Intercourse.Andrea Dworkin - 1988 - Hypatia 3 (2):174-177.
Women and Consent.Carole Pateman - 1980 - Political Theory 8 (2):149-168.

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