A Question: Is the power differential between male and female so uneven that there can never be true consent between the two?
Some background first: I was reviewing a number of possible challenges that I was considering over the next several months. Of the three two were purely smexy if you know what I mean. *wink wink* *nudge nudge* I showed the prompts to a close friend to gauge her interest and it sparked a discussion about certain kinks. Now, she identifies as a radfem and goes to rallies and as a woman I would like to think of myself as a feminist although I do not necessarily agree with her on every point. That said, her reaction and opinion of the prompts was so violent that I felt the need to re-examine the subject.
She gave me a link to a reddit discussion on the kink in question and dutifully I read it, and I came to the same conclusion as I started with. The subject is thorny, one that needs to be spoken about chiefly by the people who engage in it. Those of us who have not been educated or initiated are making assumptions and that is close-minded. The heart of the matter is whether or not the people involved consent to the activity. Beyond that, it is none of my business. This topic is back in the spotlight because of a number of highly publicized deaths due to what I assume to be negligence and poor communication (or sheer dumb luck, undiagnosed heart conditions maybe?) These cases are extremes and should not be taken as examples of the whole community.
Let's circle back to the power differential issue. This is the heart of the debate, and to be clear the statement that a woman is not able to give consent because of a power differential between her and a man who wants to do a thing, then I sure as hell don't understand how that is a feminist viewpoint. It asserts that a woman cannot have the ability to consent in a sexual context if there is a man because she's programmed to very likely make a decision that is not in her best interest when it comes to her body and its use.
You can't use this argument in only a 'kink' context. That's sloppy, and suggests that if the feminist community approves of vanilla pudding then of course the programmed woman can do that, but Hecate forbid if you should want Rice Pudding. Or even a slice of lava cake. Nope, can't consent to those.
Now, I'm not a enthusiast of Rice pudding or whatever you want to substitute in for the kink on hand. The point is I trust that if done right, lava cake is a valid dessert that can be enjoyed by both parties so long as there is proper consent.
My personal experience is limited, but what I do know is that the average sexual M/F relationship of my generation didn't have a lot of open conversation about what the couple would be and wouldn't be willing to have on the proverbial dessert menu. I wish we had. I know that I would have been much better off. I myself was hurt more than once in the consumption of vanilla pudding.
Consent, enthusiastic consent is my main kink and it is necessary; without consent dessert becomes assault punishable by law. Good communication between partners needs to happen. Always. There are checklists that you can use to help facilitate these conversations if you are not comfortable with discussing what is and isn't on the menu. It can be an uplifting and eye opening experience, a jumping off point for building trust between partners. If nothing else, if you find yourself uncomfortable discussing these things with your partner, for whatever reason, perhaps something isn't quite right. It should be okay to say no, or that you are not comfortable with dessert and you should be able to do so without fear.
I do not wish to upset people or hurt feelings, and I hope I haven't. I am still not certain of what to say to my friend, and this post is the product of my agonizing over the subject. It is my sincere hope that it makes at least one other person think about the issue in a new way.