Is consent a retroactive formation? Temporalising consent in contemporary feminist culture

Cefai, Sarah. 2022. 'Is consent a retroactive formation? Temporalising consent in contemporary feminist culture'. In: Console-ing Passions 2022. Panel "Sex, Consent and Intimacy". University of Central Florida, United States 23-25 June 2022. [Conference or Workshop Item]

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Abstract or Description

“You know where you’re into it and then you’re just suddenly not sure. I thought about calling a taxi but [pause], I felt like I owed him”–EastEnders, 2018

We consent to that which is intimate to us. In the current mediatised discourse, the right to consent faces forward—we give our consent to an event or occurrence that hasn’t happened yet. The legal rights framework is subtended by a tacit model of consent, which becomes the special preserve of rape and sexual offences legislation when tacit consent is transgressed by particular forms of social action. This model of consent is presumptive in terms of gendered bodies and behaviours, but not subjects. This paper considers what we can learn about the limits of consent as a feminist concept given the temporality of what is exchanged in its moment of transgression. Drawing on feminist theory, affect study and cultural anthropology, the paper conceptualises consent as a temporally disjunctive mode characterised by the sublimation of exchange by a relation of power. That is, the paper explores what it would mean to think through consent as that which is given only after it has been taken, and therefore to consider consent as a retroactive formation. The paper explores this argument through close readings of the gendered aesthetics of sexual exchange in various examples from contemporary feminist media culture.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


24 June 2022Completed

Event Location:

University of Central Florida, United States

Date range:

23-25 June 2022

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Date Deposited:

23 Nov 2022 09:48

Last Modified:

23 Nov 2022 09:48


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