Consent-deception: A feminist cultural media theory of commonsense consent

Cefai, Sarah. 2023. Consent-deception: A feminist cultural media theory of commonsense consent. Feminist Theory, ISSN 1464-7001 [Article] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

This article draws on feminist cultural studies, media and cultural theory, and engages with feminist law and criminology, to argue for a newly invigorated conceptualisation of consent in feminist theory. The article argues for a feminist cultural media theory of commonsense consent, drawing attention to the fact that there is no concept of consent that is particular to sexual encounters. A more universal, commonsense theory, shaped as much by twentieth century media as by eighteenth century political philosophy, informs how consent shows up to social experience. The article furthermore situates consent in relation to feminist culture linked to cultural discourse of intimacy, all of which are undergoing transformation in relation to digital and social media. By revising certain feminist discussions about consent in law, political philosophy and cultural studies, the article proposes that existing studies of sexual politics, such as Laura Kipnis’ (2017) Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, can be read as descriptions of consent’s affective structure. Such a reading also points us to the way media, from early cinema through to contemporary social media, co-locate consent with deception. Subsequently, the media concept of consent-deception invites a culture of suspicion and betrayal, in turn shaping how consent is imagined as commonsense. To further enquire into how personalised media are transforming commonsense consent, the article discusses the example of The Tinder Swindler (Netflix, 2022). Significantly, various production techniques set up a view of social media as an encapsulation of the social life and affectivity of consent-deception, suggesting a number of implications for a feminist cultural media theory of commonsense consent. The analysis of the programme in view of consent-deception calls for further critical examination of how the evidentiary status of informational media produced by social media relate to the sense-perception of commonsense consent.

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Identification Number (DOI):


Affect, betrayal, consent, deception, intimacy, social media, suspicion, true crime

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


25 August 2023Accepted
26 October 2023Published Online

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

18 Sep 2023 08:33

Last Modified:

01 Nov 2023 14:21

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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