Theories of Consent: Subjectivity and Sexual Ethics
What does it mean to say yes or no? Do we—or can we—always know the consequences of what we agree to? What criteria do we use to assess when consent can or cannot be freely given? And just who is the self that says yes or no? In what ways is the ability to consent, and to evaluate consent, bound up with notions of will, agency, and autonomy? In other words, how does the idea of consent implicate everything from our notions of individual subjectivity to the concept of the social contract to what it means to be an ethical sexual partner, in monogamous contexts and otherwise?
In this course, we will explore the philosophical, ethical, and practical complications of consent, above all in relation to questions of sex and power. We will examine the relationship between our politics and our sexual politics, considering accounts of what might constitute genuine consent alongside critiques of the very concept. Is the fetishization of the category of consent, as recent theorists have argued, itself an impediment to the development of a meaningful sexual ethics? Can we reimagine consent outside of the transactional terms that classical liberalism has bequeathed to us? Readings will include selections from Joseph Fischel, Hazel/Cedar Troost, Jennifer Doyle, Alexandra Brodsky, Vanessa Grigoriadis, Kate Manne, Alan Wertheimer, Heidi Hurd, Robin West, Carole Pateman, Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin, Judith Butler, Kelly Oliver, Kristen Roupenian, and more.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
November 16 — December 07, 2020