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Can you consent to rape?


I’m reposting this old one because I think the unfortunately hashtagged #MeToo movement has given it new currency.

I should probably point out that this post was largely prompted by the traumatising reassessment of my own sexual history that came in the wake of my work developing non-judicial community-based responses to sexual assault, some involving colleagues within the Sydney progressive/revolutionary activist community.

Years earlier I had painfully come to realise I was a victim of sexual coercion and assault, albeit relatively minor. I was now forced to come to terms with the fact I may also be a perpetrator of such actions and that I may never understand the impact that had on my sexual partners who may have been less than completely willing.

This post was also an attempt to accept responsibility for both employing and succumbing to sexual coercion, though I’m fully aware some will choose to interpret it as victim blaming.


Paul Barclay promoted the ‘Sex, Sport and Power‘ episode of Big Ideas with the question “Is there a grey area between consent and rape?”.

Predictably the online commenters were apoplectic over Barclay’s incendiary promo and completely missed what his guest, writer Anna Krien, actually had to say. Which is a shame, as Ms Krien’s thoughts on sexual assault are a bit more nuanced and developed than his scandal mongering introduction would suggest.

Yes, she did touch on the question of what happens when a young woman seeking sexual adventure finds herself in a situation that is slipping out of her control. Trying to balance the possible consequences of calling a halt with the risk of allowing the situation to develop without protest. Questioning whether it was possible for listeners to understand that someone might comply with something they had not consented to even if not actually threatened.


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