Paul Reynolds (Edge Hill University)
15 November 2016
Much research that intersections sexual violence, sexual politics and sexual ethics sits on the cornerstone of sexual consent – the ethical ‘golden mean’ of sex. Consent is at the centre of the battleground in the fight against rape culture, the epidemic of rape and sexual violence against women (not exclusively but in particular) and for better sexual etiquette and relationships. Yet in this paper, I will focus not on the scope of consent, but on its limits. I will argue that sexual consent as a legal-analytic concept mis-describes sexual communication and mis-directs attempts to improve sexual relationships and practices in sometimes counterproductive ways. Sexual consent is best understood as a necessary fiction – necessary but not sufficient to effect a change in the way we relate sexually. That does not mean it has no value – but its value is severely limited unless it is accompanied by a broader approach to sexual ethics and the ethical transformation of sexual – and social – relationships and culture.
Paul Reynolds is Reader in Sociology and Social Philosophy at Edge Hill University. His research focuses on sexual ethics and politics with special reference to sexual consent, literacy and well-being, radical – particularly Marxist – theory and politics and the role and responsibilities of intellectuals. He is co-convenor of the International Network for Sexual Ethics and Politics (INSEP) and co-editor in chief of its Journal, and co-Director of the
international network Cultural Difference and Social Solidarity (CDSS).