Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Kipnis and "Retroactive Withdrawal of Consent"

This is not very good.
   I'm not going to waste a bunch of time on it, but the post isn't even trying to engage with Kipnis's point. This is what happens when philosophy goes bad. It's embarrassing to academic philosophy that Kipnis, from film studies, is being so much more reasonable and acute than the philosophers who are criticizing her.
   I'm not going to go through Kipnis's book and cite chapter and verse, but look: she in no way denies that Smith might engage in a sexual encounter at t1, and believe it to be consensual at t1, but realize at t2 that it wasn't. Smith might learn new information, for one thing--might find out that drugs had been secretly administered. Could Smith, without learning anything new, simply reflect in new ways on things already known and then recognize that the relevant kind of consent had not actually been given? That's less clear...I'm skeptical...but not strongly let's say yes, arguendo.
   Kipnis's point is really this: not every case in which Smith asserts, at t2, that Smith did not give ("meaningful") consent at t1 is, in fact, a such a case. That's to say: with respect to whether they actually gave consent in the past, people can err in either direction. Contemporary feminists seem to want to say that people (actually: women) can only err in one direction--they can think they gave consent when they actually didn't. But they can never think that they didn't give consent when they did.

   Kipnis is saying something like: in some cases, it is not plausible that consent was not given. By writing of "retroactive withdrawal of consent," she does not necessarily mean that there's backward causation. Contemporary feminism seems to think that such cases work like this: Smith reflects on Smith's previously acts of giving consent, and concludes that the consent was not "meaningful"--so, in some sense, not actual consent. There's no backwards causation. There is a later conclusion to the effect that an earlier attitude was wrong in some relevant way.
   A certain pattern that has become all-too-familiar: a woman gives what appears to be paradigmatic consent to sex. The relationship continues for some time, and clear evidence of this. There is clear evidence of additional, paradigmatically consensual, sex. Then the relationship goes sour. (Maybe it's at this point that the woman encounters some radical and implausible contemporary feminist ideas about consent and rape.) The woman then declares that her previous consent was not real/meaningful.
   In some such cases, the judgment about earlier consent might possibly be right, I suppose. But in some cases, the subsequent judgment will be wrong. The ordinary, non-feminism-motivated view is probably: the woman's earlier consent is probably at least as likely to be rational as her later "withdrawal" of it. Knowing humans, we know that when relationships go bad, they often become irrational and dishonest about them. They often give biased descriptions of them. They often think: I shouldn't have done that. Contemporary feminists convince women that, often, instead of I shouldn't have done that, they ought to say: I didn't do that. That is, roughly: It was not actually something I did. It was something that was done to me. Not having really consented, it was not an action. I was a victim, not an agent.
   Anyway. That post is another weak potshot at Kipnis.


Blogger Aa said...

I find it puzzling that they put someone with no legal experience as Title IX coordinator. Or perhaps my institution is just strange. The person hired is a former public prosecutor, with extensive experience in dealing with legal issues surrounding "sex crimes" (for lack of a better term).

11:40 AM  

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