I’m re-reading Lois Pineau’s article entitled “Date Rape: A Feminist Analysis.” It talks about date rape and the legalities of the procedure. The thing that really interested me was the end of the article where Pineau describes the difference between Contract and Communicative Sexuality. Pineau says that contract sexuality is biased towards females, especially in the context of date rape, but I’ll focus on these two models since that’s what my interest is. What’s the difference?
Contract Model of Sexuality: When a woman behaves in a sexually teasing, tempting or open way, she is implicitly committing herself to having sex with the man she is with. She is entering into a non-verbal contract to have sex, which she is not entitled to break. The reason this contract is binding is that it is unreasonable to expect a man who has been sufficiently aroused, to respect any subsequent verbal or even physical protestations. Now this doesn’t have to be during foreplay either. It can be in the middle of the sex act. So if the individuals involved are having sex and one decides to change her mind, under the contract model, the other individual has been “cheated” because there was some contract that suggested that there’s a plan of action and that action hasn’t been completed yet. The one who changed her mind broke the contract, in other words. The idea is that if a woman is acting in a certain way, then she is making an implicit contract and she must fulfill her duties under the contract. And so the argument has these premises
1. People should keep their agreements.
2. Sexually provocative behavior is making an agreement.
You can think of it in a silly way from this website that one of my students, Jory, has provided for me here. If you look at the contract, we obviously don’t do sex this way. But in a way, we implicitly do this by looking at the body language (or perhaps verbal language) of the partner and from that language, that’s a signal for the “go ahead” signal and you are aloud to do that activity under that contract. With this, this is the model we’re in right now according to Pineau.
Communicative Sexuality: Both people are responding to the other. They don’t overwhelm each other with desires. They will treat the negative emotions such as boredom, anger, or fear as a sign that something needs to be cleared up first before they continue. It’s an ongoing state of concern instead of a “let’s make a deal” mentality. There’s no talk of duties, rights, or consent, but merely an awareness of mutual desire. An analogy is friendship. We don’t call upon our friends based on duties, rights, but merely fostering an interaction and the quality of the relationship. After all, there’s a significant difference between our friends and our business contacts. Likewise, we should look at our sexual encounters like that. So this isn’t a “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” that’s a contract. It’s more of a mutual satisfaction. We respect the dialectic of desire.
Ok, so then under the communicative model, all that is needed to show that it was indeed rape is that the woman can show a lack of interest, indifference. So even when a woman acquiesces to aggressive noncommunicative sex under pressure, she should not be seen as having consented to it. Pineau is saying that even when a woman goes though with sex without explicit protest and refusal, she may not have consented to it. So on her view, even that would count as rape. This is because there was no communication going on. Thus, if there was no communicative sex, this is already a presumption that there was no consent; whereas in the older, traditional view (the contract view), there was consent. Thus, consent is an ongoing process, an ongoing cooperation instead of a one-shot deal like the contract view. So in the end, the woman would not consent to certain sexual acts (or even sex at all) because it can be aggressive, non-communicative, and unpleasurable; the man is pushy, and silence replaces the discussion, she feels no desire towards him.
When I first read this, I was thinking “interesting, but I don’t think it’s feasible.” But then as I was doing more research, it turns out that a university has adopted this model, Antioch University which you can read here. I will give a summary of their policy below, (the quotations are their actual policies, without quotations means it’s my take on that policy):
1. “Consent must be obtained verbally before there is any sexual contact.” This means no implicit body language. You must say “yes.”
2. “Obtaining consent is an on-going process in any sexual interaction.” This means you must consistently say “yes” to each sexual interaction. As you progress to a different move sexually, you must still obtain consent.
3. “If the level of sexual intimacy increases during an interaction. . . the people involved need to express their clear verbal consent before moving to that new level.” Any new interaction (removing of clothes, new positions, etc.) need verbal consent before hand.
4. “The request for consent must be specific to each act.” You must verbally say what you’re going to do and you must request a “yes” from the other person.
5. “If you have had a particular level of sexual intimacy before with someone, you must still ask each and every time.” So even if you’ve had sex with the other person and you’re expecting some sexual relationship, you must still verbally obtain consent from numbers 1-4. This may also apply to married people as well but I didn’t have time to look into that, but I’m sure it still counts.
6. “If someone has initially consented but then stops consenting during a seuxal interaction, she/he should communicate withdrawal verbally and/or through physical resistance. The other individual(s) must stop immediately.” If someone wants to stop, everyone stops because communication has stopped. If it continues, there has been no consent which means it counts as rape.
7. “Don’t ever make any assumptions about consent.” A drunk girl passed out isn’t consenting. Pressuring someone isn’t consenting. And even if they’re “into it” during the sexual encounter, you must still ask verbal consent if you want to increase sexual intimacy. Passive acquiescense does not count as consent (whereas in the contract model, it does).
This policy has been put in place since 1996 and it’s still in place. So against what I thought, it actually is working.
I’m more interested in the differences between the two models and not much about the feminist applications (although that is interesting as well, I’m more interested in the models themselves). Can the communicative model be applied elsewhere? It’s indeed a paradigm shift in thinking of sexuality.