Social Philosophy Today

Volume 37, 2021

Respect, Social Action, and #MeToo

Sarah Clark Miller
Pages 23-31

Criticizing Consent: A Reply to Susan Brison

In this article I engage Susan Brison’s “What’s Consent Got to Do with It?” by offering multiple contributions regarding the limitations of the language and culture of consent. I begin by briefly appreciating what consent reveals to us morally about the harms of nonconsensual sex. I then offer five points regarding the language and culture of consent: (1) Conceptualizing rape as nonconsensual sex hides from view the moral harm of having one’s will subjugated by another. (2) The framework of consent renders women’s desires insignificant and invisible. (3) Epistemic gaslighting represents one major and underappreciated form of epistemic injustice that consent-based views of rape propagate. (4) Consent-centered accounts of sexual violence impede our ability to imagine better sexual futures. And (5) consent not only functions to normalize gender-based violence but also to normalize other forms of violence, such as those that erupt in light of race, ability, nationality, weight, and age.