Is there consent?

A wife is hit for the second time in a week by her husband, but when her best friend begs her to leave him, she refuses, saying that she loves her husband and that it is her fault that he is violent with her. Is there consent?

It depends what is going on in the mind of the wife. Is she torn between her compulsion to stay with her husband and her wish not to be abused? If so, in staying with her husband, she is acting against her will—against that part of her will that wants her not to be abused. In this case, whilst she might be deemed to be consenting in the legal sense of the term, she is certainly not consenting in any other sense, and her husband is acting immorally in hitting her.

Conversely, suppose this is a very happy marriage and the wife wholeheartedly prefers the spanking and wishes she could get through to her friend that this is not an abusive situation, this is her husband indulging her desire for a strong, dominant man who isn't afraid to take her in hand now and again. In this case, there is consent and the husband is not acting immorally.

Here is another example:

A couple of lovers are walking along a deserted cliff in the moonlight. They are not speaking, but every now and then, they look at one another and smile. At one point, the man sweeps the woman off her feet literally, and makes love to her. Is there consent?

Again, there is not enough information to go on. There might be, or it there might not be. What is the woman's state of mind? Is she thrilled? Joyful? Happy about it? Or is she horrified? Or in an unpleasant state of turmoil? Does she wish that he had respected her request that he not do anything like that this week? Or is she glad about it?

The most useful sense of the word “consent” for our purposes is moral/psychological consent. Is this really what you want? Are you in conflict? Is that conflict real and distressing to you, or do you see it as an exciting adventure or exploration? Is it something you would really rather not have to endure, or is it actually something you welcome? If you could press a magic button that would instantly stop your husband taking you in hand, would you press it or not? In your heart of hearts, do you actually love what your husband does, or do you wish he did not take you in hand? Have you been longing for a man who would be firm with you and are you overjoyed to have found such a man—or do you long for the day when he will no longer take you in hand?

If you've been having trouble sleeping and you are getting worn out and under the weather, and your husband tells you not to drink coffee after midday, do you find that irritating or controlling? Or if you are honest, do you find it thrilling? If you were single, would you look for a man who never says no, or would you look for another take-charge man? Do you prefer your man to wear the trousers, or is it something you merely put up with? If you were never taken in hand again, would you miss it or would you be glad? Is this what you really want, or something you tolerate?

Notice that whether or not there is consent in the relevant sense hinges on the state of mind of the person consenting. There are other senses of the word “consent” which are not so relevant here, for example, legal consent. It would be a disaster to use the same standard of consent for legal purposes. Legally, it makes sense to err on the side of assuming consent. If a woman goes along with a man's sexual advances, and he has not drugged her or threatened her, etc., the law has to assume that she is consenting. For legal purposes, she cannot reasonably claim rape if she does not at least try to convey her reluctant state of mind to the man. But for our purposes, that is too low a standard of consent.

An honourable man doesn't just want to stay on the right side of the law, he cares about real consent: he wants the reality to be that the woman he is with is genuinely, wholeheartedly, deeply wanting him to do what he is doing. If he thought that she was actually in the same state of mind as a battered wife, he would be appalled. For a decent man, it is not enough to have his wife's “blanket consent”. Even if she has said that she gives him blanket consent, he wants to feel sure that she is truly consenting on an on-going basis. The man who gets his wife's agreement and then doesn't care how she feels thereafter is likely to violate consent and is unlikely to have a good relationship.

In my next article about consent, I talk about the psychology of consensual non-consent. Click here to go to that article now.

the boss

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Comments

Frank Nelson

>The most useful sense of the word “consent” for our purposes is >moral/psychological consent.

This subject of consent is always one which I find fascinating. It seems to me that we have bascially two different kinds of Consent which I describe briefly as 'selective' consent regarding the physical acts permissable. We spank as a selective consent, agreed upon before hand usually with reference to the kinds of implements, severity, etc, which can be used. any other specific behavior we choose I refer to as 'selective consent.'

A more important kind of consent is, I think, what is meant by 'moral/psychological' consent. I understand this consent as deriving from the relationship between people, intimate consent that develops and grows over time. This is where another question comes up: The question of Intent. How do we change the quality of Consent whne we change the quality of Intent? For example, if our mutual intent is to enrich our intimacy then this consent resembles something like a biblical description of mutual submission as both partenrs must give this very real consent to become one in the realtionship fabric. But what happens if the intent of one or the other is control such as in abusive relationships?

An example is given in the article when the husband is abusive (i.e. hitting his wife to supposedly control her behavior...she 'deserves' it after all) and the intent of the wife at least ostensibly is to 'do better' so she her husband won't hit her again. Her intent is connection and his intent is to gain power and control. These are diametrically opposed intentions, unworkable simply because it is not possible with whatever force to gain control over the free will of another. But what about the consent?

Relationship is about connection but our relationship is indifferent to its connections. As an entity, relationship will gain connection in any way it can. This, I believe, is why many women will stay in abusive relationships long after it should be clear it is abusive, because abuse is also a form of connection. Connection is not always about gaining intimacy but connection absolutely requires some form of consent. Not legal, not moral, but the kind of indifferent consent that binds people in absolutely corrupt situations. As individuals, we can break off any consent we wish, of course, because there is no power in the universe that can ever defeat a human soul. Not even God can act for Intimate Connection without consent.

What happens when the intent of the woman is something other than enriching intimacy in some form of a DD relationship? What happens if she wants to be taken care of as a child, what happens if she views her behavior as the only source of marriage problems? What happens if her first intention is not to enrich her marriage? It is easy to see what happens if the man wants power and control, but what happens if the submissive partner is trying to gain power and control by selectively specifiying the behavior of her partner, wanting him to control her against his 'real will?' What about the quality of consent of the dominant partner? What if he wants intimacy and an enriched marriage and she wants only to be told what to do' when that telling is based or founded on her own fears or hangups?

Is this any more sustainable in domestic discipline?

Frank

Intent is at the heart of the matter

Frank, your thoughtful comments, as always, reveal another aspect of the situation. Even as we (Men) administer our attentions to our partners, it is worth asking whether we are giving them what they need or what we *believe* they want; and in the act of giving, what was our real purpose in the exercise...our Intent?

Is there a harmful effect if there is a difference in Intent between the partners, even if both seem to get what they want from the arrangement? I think there can be a sense of mutual satisfaction, but I suppose the real limitation is that there may be less new knowledge being *shared* if each person is merely gaining what they (as individuals) wanted/needed from the event.

This comes back to the level or depth of the connection and ability to communicate openly to each other, but this is usually the limiting factor in any relationship. To be able to let go and give voice to feelings that might be mere abstract concepts of a very personal nature can be too much for some people to share with another human being. The best time for this communication may well be during the afterglow of the activity, especially if it was followed by sex so that the more open and relaxed and honest/trusting atmosphere can allow partners to understand the Intent of the other and whether they have moved closer to that goal or are drifting farther away (or whether there has been a real change developing).

The very fact that I cannot foresee a battered wife successfully explaining to her abusive husband how his violence affects her sense of self (outside of a court appointed counseling session),

makes the difference between people who subscribe to the ideas presented here on Taken In Hand stand out in stark contrast to the abusive relationship. There is *real* communication happening when a woman asks her man to take her in hand...at least the door is opened; it's up to the partner to ask questions to ensure that consent is there and to determine the Intent of the other person so that they can form their own Intent where there was none before (with regards to DD). Perhaps it is the adjustments made to our overall Intent towards our partner that we are dealing with here. If your Intent is to love your partner and do all within your power to keep them safe from harm, you have to decide what you consider *harm* to be.

I feel we have an innate desire to help someone we care about move closer to happiness even if we cannot deliver a complete solution for them, so the idea is that adjustments can be made in our own Intent in order to improve the chances of both parties getting what they want from a shared activity and creating a more successful experience all around. Reluctance to discuss or modify Intent is likely to limit the growth of the relationship.

Howard Frank

RE: Is there consent?

I have been told all my life (by those arrogant religious types) that anything erotic is sinful, even between huysband and wife! I was messed up for years, living in denial of who I really am. I have come to the conclusion that if we would all be honest and true to our nature, that the word "denial" would not have been made as popular as it is these days.

I would willingly consent in a heartbeat for my H to adopt this kind of relationship.

I appreciate this article because it touched on something my H said about me getting mad at him should he decide to spank me hard or something, and calling the town police. He knows I would never do that though, but he keeps finding excuses. He knows me well enough to know that when I don't want to consent to something: I express it very clearly.

I read something on another site about non-consensual consent. I was thinking that that may be how it is for some here, no? This consent stuff can be a bit confusing for a newbie, that's for sure.

Elizabeth, hopeful at this point...

Is there consent?

I enjoyed your example about the man telling the woman not to drink coffee after midday because it makes her sleep badly at night. I think that is an example of the sort of thing that I would find sexy, because it would be a case of the man caring about me. A similar situation in my own life is reading in the car. I read constantly and obsessively, everywhere I am, but I was cursed by a bad fairy at birth who makes me get sick every time I read in the car for more than a couple of minutes. So if we're on a long journey and I get bored and start reading and my husband says "DON'T read in the car" in that forceful tone of voice i find that very sexy because he's showing concern for me (also, I suppose, he doesn't want vomit all over his upholstery). However, it goes so far and no further, if he tried to stop me doing something I REALLY wanted to do, there would be a hell of a row, like for instance if he tried to stop me reading anywhere other than in the car. I can go so far but no further, I am temperamentally unable to take the plunge that some Taken In Hand commentators seem to be able to, and become totally submissive. Actually I don't want to be. I think. Probably not. Maybe. Definitely not. Probably.

Powerless or persuasive?

That a man is obligated to get consent (psychological consent not verbal, and psychological consent is a higher though blurrier standard) does not mean the woman holds the real control as far as I can tell. He is not rendered powerless by a withholding (or potential withdrawal) of consent but required to be persuasive, trusted to be persuasive. I have vowed to love and to obey my husband, and I am not inclined to proclaim blanket consent beyond that. This is not because I don't trust him (though of course an anvil could drop on any man's head) but because I do trust him -- to proceed just fine without it.

Um