Consent is Not Opaque
Not able to be seen through; not transparent.
Ex: “But then again, it’s exactly with such opaque language that committees like to dig their way out of trouble.”
It is a doubtless certainty that if you have spent even the most infinitesimal snatch of time on planet earth you have encountered both literal and figurative opacity. From the Latin ‘opacus,’ meaning ‘darkened,’ Oxford gives forty rich examples of its usage appended to its above definition. In essence, opacity has the figurative connotation of deception or inscrutability. From the opacity of supposedly useful statements which renders them confusing and foggy to the opacity of supposedly useful people who conceal their nefarious worthlessness beneath a guise of apparent function, the word is so loaded as to be simultaneously very useful and dangerously useless.
Some words can mean so many things you have to wonder at whether they have objective meaning. But this word is not one such word. And it’s very relevant this brisk September afternoon. It’s not autumn yet, technically—that doesn’t come for another 190 hours and 45 minutes. But nature would have you fooled without the assistance of IoT, news and calendars. I took a 6 mile bike ride today into town and I received some truly wonderful messages from a good friend of mine. I’ve had two cups of coffee and I’ve had plenty to eat. I should be happy. I was happy. I would still be happy but I just read something frustrating. You know this feeling. You were pleased but now something vile has entered the periphery of your consciousness and it nags at you.
Here is a very high-opacity quote:
“While we are not perfect human beings, we are not kidnappers, rapists, or criminals. As such, we strongly deny the allegations that have recently been brought against us.
We ask that everyone please reserve their judgement until a definitive outcome has been reached, as charges have yet to be pressed. Full testimony and evidence will be presented in due time, and we have faith in that process.”1
This quote was lifted off of the Facebook page of Polish technical death metal band Decapitated, a band which has recently faced quite a dust up. All four members of the band were arrested and are being detained on charges of first degree kidnapping and are also accused of gang raping a woman.
The internet peanut gallery is spending their blog writing time fixating on facts and speculation. Did they do it? Is it right to doubt rape allegations? I heard she had bruises. She was carried out of the tour bus. To be honest, we don’t have enough information. To speculate is a waste of my time. For all I know they brutally gang raped her, consent was not given, and they kidnapped her. Frankly, I don’t care. (If you do, there are court document details2) What I want to focus on is consent and opacity because when I put my prophet-hat on, I foresee that the next stop on this dizzying train ride back to Poland is the topic of consent.
The number one consideration in my mind whenever I think about sex crime is consent. As I have sifted through public opinion, I have found countless arguments which are predicated on the woman’s condition. It’s said she had bruises, was incapacitated, and numerous other things. Therefore, it must be rape. She was drunk, too. Oh my. They took advantage of her, right?
In my mind the most important piece of evidence is the following: Did she give consent for what they did to her? If she did, case closed. And as soon as I say this a horde of indignant onlookers will challenge whether she was ‘fit’ or ‘able’ to give consent, casting aspersion upon the credibility of the woman. This is the same crowd that raises their pitchfork and torch and writes a 1,654 word exposé3 on the definition of and culture behind rape, mounting a megalithic circumstantial argument against anyone who would dare challenge the legitimacy of her rape claim. And yet I see a contradiction here, in all of this dialogue.
How can you simultaneously challenge her ability to give consent while refusing the right to challenge the legitimacy of her consent?
When I was in fifth grade I was taught a simple law. They taught me “No means no.” This statement, I’m sure you’re aware, eliminates all cognitive dissonance surrounding consent and entrenches the significance of the word No so that it is impregnable, irrefutable, and beyond the realm of challenge. I want to make a proposal, however. You may be aware I’m fond of those:
I propose we begin also teaching “Yes means yes.” Surely if No means No, Yes means Yes. Right? “Not so,” chime the peanut gallery. They plead, “What if she was drunk? What if she was high? What if she was tired? What if she didn’t know what she was saying yes to?” What if upon what if upon what if. No, I’m sorry. I reject all of that. And so should you.
If you are asked a question and you give an answer, that is the definitive record of your opinion and will. I am not going to spend my life doubting whether you were mentally fit to give me that answer. I don’t have that time and neither do you (I hope you don’t?). What’s more, such a doubt is unethical. It places myself into a position of cognitive authority. It places you squarely beneath me, unable to have the same self-determination and respect as I afford myself.
At the root of the consent legitimacy debacle (which is occurring right now, somewhere near you, guaranteed) is a diabolical cretin we can call, for now, Immunity. Immunity creeps into your psyche and he tells you things like “Well, if you didn’t really know it’s just not fair that you would suffer a consequence,” and things like “Is it really right that he be punished? Did he understand the consequences? Is that ethical?” These little nagging doubts seem so righteous. So fair. So modern and ethical. They are like balm on our consciences in this modern, Western world.
My advice? Find the nearest cudgel and beat that fucker to death.
Those words contain one of the most toxic societal ills the West. It’s so opaque you’ve probably never even given it much thought. Behind a veil is a veil and behind that veil is another one, and another one, and another one. But when you rip them all back is this smug little monster Immunity, corrupting the most basic ethical premises. According to the systems of thought that flow, as a natural consequence, out of these ideas is that you are essentially immune from all causal responsibility. What you do is ultimately not your fault. You can lawyer yourself behind a comforting and perpetual, ever-renewing curtain of argumentation incrementally eroding at the significance of your choices.
Well, yeah I said I want to be fucked by four men and dominated within an inch of subspace. But when I thought about it the next day, I thought to myself that I had had a few drinks. I was horny. I was overwhelmed by fatigue. The music had me in an emotional high. They raped me.
Well, yeah I. I may have drove over that kid at 39th and 5th, but there was a strip club there. I was distracted. That woman shouldn’t dress that way. That sign shouldn’t have said those words.
If you’re anything like the throngs of people I’ve met and whose opinions I’ve read, you’ll probably be horrified that I would even compose the first example and horrified at the moral bankruptcy of the second example. But I am here to tell you that both people are using the exact same system of thought to extricate themselves from responsibility for their actions. Both have shifted the weight of their actions elsewhere and have exonerated themselves as a causal agent. They have taken their choices and displaced them, providing themselves immunity.
But really, if you’re dead-honest with me, you’ll admit that the first person gave consent and the second one is a manslaughterer.
To tread where I am treading will require our society to make a paradigm shift toward personal responsibility. It will require our culture to reject its base desire for moral immunity. It will require our culture to own to up to hard things and to accept the self as a moral agent that, in the safe and cliché language of Decapitated, admits “we are not perfect human beings.” We fuck up and, sometimes, we are just going to have to deal with the collateral damage of our choices.
It is not enough to say no means no. We must also remember yes means yes. Consent is not opaque. It is unethical to perform intellectual gymnastics to excuse yourself from the weight of the words no and yes. It isn’t an abstruse theorem or a miry puzzle. It’s as black and white as it gets. Even sucklings know what yes and no mean.
P.S. If you belong to that glorious crowd of people who thinks that art should be appraised on its merits and not the beliefs or actions of its creator, and also like death metal, here’s a link to their new album (I haven’t heard it yet):