stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
The sexual encounter made public this week between comedian Aziz Ansari and an anonymous woman highlights the shifting definition of consent in 2018. Instead of treating a woman like a gatekeeper to merely say yes or no, men must ask: Is she having a good time?
space
space
By MARINA ADSHADE, NEIL MCARTHUR
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Saturday, January 20, 2018 – Page O8

Economist Marina Adshade is the author of The Love Market: What You Need To Know About How We Date, Mate and Marry. She teaches at the University of British Columbia's Vancouver School of Economics and SFU School of Public Policy. Neil McArthur is associate professor of philosophy and director of the Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics at the University of Manitoba.

The persistent belief that men have sex for pleasure while women have sex in exchange for things they want - love, marriage, a promotion or even just the chance to spend a night with a famous person they admire - has convinced many people that once a man has gained a woman's permission to have sex, he can pretty much do anything he wants. The widespread acceptance of this transactional approach to sex has given us a model of consent - which some call the "gatekeeper model" - that is failing to protect women from very unpleasant sexual experiences. We need a new one. And there is reason to believe a new model of consent is indeed emerging.

With this model, partners will be expected to ask for more than just a "yes" - the question will be whether both are actually taking pleasure in the encounter. But for a society that is still grappling with "no means no," this reconceptualization of consent still has a long way to go.

Events this week have made this clear. On O Monday, the website Babe published an account of a sexual encounter between a woman known as Grace (not her real name) and the comedian and actor Aziz Ansari. Grace says she agreed to go on a date with Mr. Ansari, which ended at his apartment. Once there, the two engaged in sexual activity that left her feeling violated and assaulted. Mr. Ansari doesn't challenge that the night took place, but says that "by all indications [it] was completely consensual." Society's ideas about consent have evolved dramatically in the past decades. For a long time, men took for granted that "no" at least sometimes meant "yes" - that a refusal was negotiable, if only they persisted. Feminists fought a long battle to replace this idea with the clear standard of "no means no." These two concepts - "no sometimes means yes" and "no means no" - may seem diametrically opposed. But in fact, they share a particular model of what consent is - what feminist and activist Jaclyn Friedman calls the "gatekeeper model." According to this model of consent, men initiate sex, and women either give or deny them access. Period.

The gatekeeper model is linked to another idea, that sex between men and women is basically a transaction. Traditionally, the transaction in question took place in the context of marriage. Women, it was thought, gave men access to sex, and in return, they received the income and security that came with being a wife. A woman's withdrawal of sexual access was a violation of that contract, just as abandonment was a violation on the part of the man. For this reason, a man did not need consent to have sex with his wife. It wasn't until 1983 that Canada reformed its laws to allow for the possibility of marital rape, and the notion that rape can occur within a marriage unfortunately remains far from universally accepted.

The transactional model's roots go far back in human history. Traditional agrarian lifestyles gave men an economic advantage, as they produced the food that financed the household, and led to women's roles being as caretakers of children and minders of the home. This arrangement was advantageous for families, but it made women dependent on men for their survival. It also encouraged unmarried women to feign sexual disinterest, in the interest of marrying men who valued faithful wives. The result?

A society that (falsely) believes that women are biologically hardwired to be disinterested in sex and a social order in which men essentially gain access to women's bodies through the long-run commitment of marriage.

Since the sexual revolution, it has been increasingly acceptable to have sex outside marriage. But the transactional view endures. Some people have suggested that the only difference is that now women are willing to trade sex for something else: a relationship, financial support or just the prestige of being intimate with a high-status male. Just in the last year, a book by sociologist Mark Regnerus, titled Cheap Sex, gained significant media attention by arguing that as a result of social change, the price of sexual access for men has fallen - that, in other words, women now ask for less from men in exchange for granting them access to their bodies. Men now can have sex with very little emotional or economic investment. He thinks that this cheapening of sex has hurt women, because sex is how they extract resources from men. The less they gain from having sex, the worse off they are.

It seems not to have occurred to purported experts such as Mr. Regnerus that women have sex for another reason: because they intend to enjoy it. Recent research has found that women will engage in casual sex just as frequently as men if they can reasonably expect it to be a satisfying experience. The author of several studies of women's experiences with one-night stands, Terri Conley, points out that women who avoid casual encounters often do so because they have every reason to believe it will be unlikely to give them much pleasure. Statistics show that women only orgasm 35 per cent as often as men do during encounters with first-time sexual partners, in large part because those partners invest little effort in the other person's satisfaction.

Once we accept that women might actually expect pleasure from sex, the transactional view collapses. And with it goes the gatekeeper model of consent. We need a better one, one that gives us the tools to deal with encounters such as Grace and Mr. Ansari's. Grace says Mr.

Ansari "ignored clear non-verbal cues." Legal experts have said such non-verbal cues would not, given the circumstances, be enough to successfully prosecute Mr. Ansari.

Bari Weiss wrote in The New York Times that Mr. Ansari was "guilty of not being a mind reader." But once we shift from thinking about their encounter using the gatekeeper model - did she or did she not open the gate and consent to sex - there is much less ambiguity about the whole situation. Reading Grace's account, and Mr. Ansari's statement, it is possible to believe that Mr. Ansari misread her signals so completely that he thought she had consented to at least some of what happened. It is not possible to believe that he thought she was actually enjoying herself.

Thankfully, the societal belief that sexual pleasure is not important to women is unravelling, and with it the notion that sex for women is purely transactional. It is not surprising that these changes have brought with them a movement toward an entirely new understanding of consent. A number of different models have been proposed, which we call interrelational models of consent. These include ideas such as "affirmative consent," "contextual consent" and "enthusiastic consent." All of these are intended to change how we perceive women's roles during sex. By affirming that women might actually be in it for pleasure, they encourage a man to ask himself whether, during this particular encounter, his sexual partner is actually enjoying herself. If Mr. Ansari had asked this question, things would surely have gone very differently that evening.

Instead of acting out his own sexual fantasies on Grace, they might have come together for a sexual experience they both enjoyed.

Associated Graphic

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Jeffrey_Simpson Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page