liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
[personal profile] liv
Lots of internet communities I'm peripherally aware of talk about consent culture. I think the idea started from sex-positive feminism, a sort of more advanced stage of dealing with sexual consent beyond just "no means no". People should actively choose the sex they want to have, without being subjected to even subtle or indirect pressure. It's not a big leap to notice that this principle applies to interactions that aren't particularly sexual, hugs and other social touch, say, and indeed relationships and emotional connections beyond just physical touch.

So in a consent culture frame, the only reason to enter into any kind of relationship, or to continue an existing relationship, is because everybody involved actively wants that relationship. That includes capital-R officially together romantic couple relationships, of course, but also everyone involved should consent to how close they want to be as friends or acquaintances or whether they even want to have any kind of contact and interaction at all. This seems a totally logical extension of principles I hold about autonomy, and I want to live in a world where relationships are freely chosen and not coerced. I think I need to adapt my own attitudes and behaviour to promote consent culture values, though. And I definitely want to think through the detail of how this works in practice.

I am setting to one side really fraught questions about how a consent culture attitude towards relationships works with parenting. I have several friends who are trying to raise their kids in a consent culture frame, which I really admire. There are questions of just how much very young children can meaningfully consent to or refuse relationships, which is one thing. I don't for a moment believe that consent culture advocates are suggesting that parents can just abandon their dependent children on a whim, so obviously that is an exception to the principle that you can leave or reduce any relationship at any time for any reason. In any case, I want to examine the consequences of a consent culture attitude to relationships between adults, because simply stating the principle of all relationships being freely chosen doesn't give you a complete moral guide.

I think part of what's prompting this introspection is that I'm aware of a number of serious, divorce-level breakups going on within my various circles. People ending relationships that were intended to be lifelong, with major major life and financial consequences. I mean, that's partly a factor of the age I am, I'm in my mid-30s so I know people who are getting divorced. But I'm seeing a lot of people dealing with the consequences of a partner deciding they don't want to be in a relationship any more. And some who are leaving partners who have done something completely unforgivable. Consent culture says that if your partner abuses you, you have the absolute right to leave them, which seems vastly preferable to telling abuse victims that they must honour commitments made on the assumption that their partner would not in fact be cruel or violent to them. Consent culture also says that you can just walk away from a relationship, even a marriage, even if you have financial entanglements, even if your partner is partly dependent on you or has made major sacrifices and rearranged their life for the sake of the relationship. I think that's morally right, but it no longer seems simple.

I am trying to figure out how to be the kind of person who doesn't coerce people into relationships with me that they don't want. I don't think I'm quite capable of going through life with no expectation at all that relationships that currently exist will continue into the future, whether that's emotional closeness or the practical reality of what I depend on other people for. Perhaps I can manage a lower level than that, perhaps I can get away with assuming that existing commitments will continue in most cases but being aware that the other people involved have an ongoing choice and may in fact decide to dial back or break off the relationship. But does aiming for that lower level mean I'm committing the ultimate consent culture sin of "entitlement" to other people's time, affection, practical support etc? Also I am seriously trying to work out how I actually live like that, practically and emotionally, taking as a serious possibility the idea that people in my life might withdraw consent for that particular relationship.

The other thing that's prompted this is that I've been reading lots of Captain Awkward and seeing the advice that the Captain and the community give to people, coming from a consent culture perspective, and introspecting about whether I'm living up to the ideals behind the advice. I mean, to take a minor example, I've been in situations where I preferred spending three minutes giving a blowjob over three hours reassuring a partner that my not really feeling in the mood for sex doesn't mean I reject them or that they're a terrible person. Based on how the Awkward Army respond to people who mention similar experiences, I fear they would tell me that I was horribly violating consent culture principles by doing this, I wasn't "using my words", I wasn't properly defending my boundaries or practising "good" consent. Or else that I was actually having sex with Darth Vader without realizing it and the fact of my partner having crises of confidence was actually abusive. I mean, this was all ages ago, and perhaps it's relevant that I didn't feel moved to write to an agony column asking for help dealing with this problem. Lots and lots of things are only a problem if they're a problem! I guess, ideally, everybody should be completely self-actualized and never feel insecure about rejection, whether sexual or otherwise, but that does seem an unreasonably high standard for people to have to reach to be competent to engage in consensual sex and relationships.

Captain Awkward has also been giving lots of advice to people who have experienced a relationship being ended unilaterally, including friendships, romantic relationships, and familial relationships between adults. And again, I feel like I'm not really living up to their standards. More ancient history examples here:

I had a friend I was really close to, we talked about everything, really intense affection. One day we had a quarrel, which started out being about my negotiating to reduce how much she was calling me in the middle of the night, because much as I cared about her I wasn't physically able to offer that particular form of support as often as she requested it. And I lost my temper and said something mean, and the next day I wrote to apologise because I really shouldn't have said what I said. I received a reply saying that she didn't want to talk to me any more. I tried to respect her choice, but I messed it up. Partly I didn't know what she intended by not wanting to talk any more, whether for example it was permanent or just at that moment. I didn't want to ask for clarification because that would be forcing her to continue talking to me when she'd said she didn't want to, and equally I didn't feel able to repeat my apology or ask for ways to make amends. Over time it became clear she wasn't interested in reestablishing contact at all, and she even told me not to participate in LJ communities she was also a member of, because she didn't want to see my username or comments anywhere. I was pretty heartbroken about this, but, well, I had said the mean thing, and she had the perfect right to cut me out of her life and was not obliged to give me a second chance. A couple of years later I wrote her a letter asking if she could consider forgiving me and what I would have to do to convince her I wouldn't do anything like that again. I tried to be as non-pushy about it as possible, but what actually happened was that she considered that I was stalking her and threatened to call the police if I ever contacted her in any way ever again. I mean, I only just coincidentally happened to see the threat because she didn't communicate it to me directly, and she had asked me not to read her public blog, but I just happened to see it on a friend's friends page.

By the standards of the Awkward Army, I am a terrible person for asking for forgiveness like that. I'm not really allowed to feel that this reaction was disproportionate to my saying one mean thing in heated moment. I suspect that this person may believe I did something worse than what I actually did, but since I'm not allowed to communicate I have no way of finding out if there was an actual misunderstanding or if my snapping at her was really that bad. And much as I do want to live in consent culture, I am not sure I want to live in a world where a strong, long-established friendship is completely obliterated by one person saying one word wrong, with no possibility of forgiveness or sorting it out. In this case, yes, I was deliberately mean, but it's easy enough to have a genuine misunderstanding, and it feels as if consent culture leaves no possible way of ever clarifying any mistakes.

Or take my one bad breakup. I had a kind of summer romance thing when I was 20, met someone I got on really well with, was blindsided to discover he had a crush on me, and after days of intense negotiations agreed that we could try dating, but we swore blind that even if it didn't work out we would find a way to stay friends afterwards. The relationship was kind of a bad idea in retrospect; I hurt this guy badly through inexperience, and we had a really really horrible fight which ended with him breaking up with me. And then we did what we'd promised eachother and tried to rebuild the friendship, and basically failed because we were in such an emotional mess. I got together with someone else rather soon after the breakup, which he couldn't really cope with, and as a result of that he asked me not to contact him for a while. Again, I respected that, though I liked him really much as a friend and was really sad about breaking off contact. A long time later, I again wrote to my ex and asked if we could try starting to talk again, which, I don't know, maybe I shouldn't have done. In fact he did seem ok with it, and we agreed to meet up and see if we could still be friends. At that time he made it really clear that he didn't want to hear about anything major or personal in my life, so we kept the conversation at a small-talk level. And I didn't manage to maintain that sort of superficial contact, there was geography in the way, and he doesn't really do email or internet, and I wasn't organized to find the time to write paper letters if I wasn't getting the reward of a close friendship with meaningful discussions.

How would that have gone if I'd followed consent culture principles? Part of me thinks I should have pushed less, I shouldn't have ever sent that follow-up letter, I should have waited for him to take the initiative if he wanted to re-establish contact. But part of me thinks that we promised eachother we'd find a way to continue being friends, even if was emotionally hard, and we should have put more effort in to trying to fix what went wrong when it turned out we weren't compatible as romantic partners. Or maybe I should have put more time into the friendly acquaintances level of connection which is what he asked for. Honestly letting that slide wasn't a deliberate choice by either of us, it was just that practicalities got in the way.

There's also this recent letter about a friendship ending. Not absolutely everything in that letter is applicable to me (for a start, I'm not at all socially anxious, I'm extroverted and gregarious, and I have lots of other friends), but lots of it is. I had a really really close best friend, I can't even really describe how close, because it sounds completely ridiculous. And she just kind of stopped contacting me; we never quarrelled, just her passionate declarations of eternal friendship got further and further spaced out, until the last one came after a two-year gap, just as passionate as everything that had gone before with no hint that it would be the last letter I'd receive from her. I mean, that was well over a decade ago now, and I still half-hope that maybe she will get back in touch. I have no workable contact details for her any more (again, she doesn't to my knowledge socialize online), but I don't know whether I should try looking for her since in words she said she would always want to hear everything about my life, or whether I should respect her apparent decision to end the friendship, even though she never communicated that decision to me? Was I wrong to continue writing at all when I wasn't getting replies? I can't help wondering if the friendship ended over a misunderstanding which I could have cleared up if only we'd had one more chance to communicate.

I suspect the other reason I'm angsty about this stuff is that I'm in the middle of committing myself financially and life-shape wise to buying a house with [personal profile] jack. Of course I entirely accept that he has the right to end our marriage if he should choose to, and I wouldn't in the least want to compel him to stay with me if the relationship wasn't making him happy. But what if he doesn't even want the level of contact and cooperation necessary for disentangling our finances without going through a horrible, expensive, adversarial process? Not that I think this is likely, at all, I'm not in the least worried that he's some kind of gold-digger who is setting me up to steal my savings! But surely people can get married and / or move in together with some kind of expectation that the relationship will continue, that if there are problems you will make some kind of good faith effort to fix them, that if in fact the relationship does come to an end there is some sort of, I hate to say it, but some obligation to stay in contact the minimum necessary to sort things out?

It's certainly easy to imagine relationships with more pressing external reasons to maintain some kind of at least business relationship even if the affectionate relationship is no longer mutual. People who break up and who are co-parenting children, for example, or couples where one partner actually can't manage financially or practically without the other. Lots of feminism, especially the rare disability-positive feminism I'm most drawn to, points out that people aren't truly independent, the possibility is a cultural myth. I happen to be in a situation that if my marriage did come to an end, I would probably be ok, because for example I have a job which earns me enough money to support myself without needing to rely on my husband, as well as many other advantages. Even as it is, I'm making decisions that are financially sound if we do in fact stay together forever, and financially reasonable if we remain committed to our agreement that we will try to do the right thing by eachother even if we break up, and potentially financially disastrous if (hypothetically) my husband revokes his consent to be in a friendly, cooperative relationship with me at all. And most people are just not fortunate enough to be able to go into all their life relationships with the attitude that, well, if it doesn't work out that'll be a loss but not a disaster. Plenty of people in fact give up jobs or relocate for the sake of relationships, plenty of people can manage if they share housing costs and physical labour and tasks, but can't manage on their own. Anyway, you can't make any kind of life plans if you simply have no idea whether people are going to want to continue in serious, major relationships with you from one day to the next!

Last time I tried to talk about something like this, I think some people got the impression I was advocating forcing people to stay in abusive relationships, for largely spurious reasons like "for the children" or "because God said so". I don't want that at all, I want to be in consent culture, I'm just trying to work out how to be confident and secure enough, let alone all the practical considerations, to make sure I don't find myself coercing people to be in relationships with me that they don't want.

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Date: 2014-06-03 01:39 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
*hugs* *hugs* *hugs* I have lots of things to say but no time to say them. Remind me to come back to this later.

Everything you say sounds a lot like how I often feel, if I feel somehow obliged to take someone else's opinion seriously, but don't understand it, and veer between "this thing I'm supposed to do is stupid" and "I'm evil for not understanding it". But I think the truth is not really either of those.

I think what you said before about consent culture often overemphasising personal freedom over personal responsibility is right, but what you did sounds to me like how consent culture should work. I don't think people saying "consent ALWAYS trumps personal responsibility" mean that literally, I think it's primarily expressing extra emphasis that "consent is important, and if you don't get that, maybe 100% consent is better than what we've got now, or maybe not, but for god's sake, pay attention". Like, for children, I don't think most people are saying "children have a right to impulsively run in front of a car without their parents stopping them", but rather, "parents routinely overrule their children when they don't need to, let the child have as much autonomy as is practical when their preference is fairly clear" (with 'practical' having fuzzy boundaries).

I think re-apologising for something the day after someone says "never talk to me again" can be aggressive and pushy, but for most people, sending a letter six months or two years later, is fairly normal (assuming you haven't done things which are OBVIOUSLY going to be traumatic to dwell on). But that's gambling that someone might be receptive, or might ignore you, or might be horribly upset again. And I think it's ethical to take that chance on someone else's behalf, as long as you're genuinely making the best decision you can and genuinely for their benefit not only yours. And occasionally it goes wrong and there's nothing you can do. I think you and she were mostly just really unlucky :(

She doesn't sound reasonable to me, but some people who don't sound reasonable will actually be really hurt by something it's impossible for me to get a clear idea of. I think the point of consent culture is that after that point, it's pretty clear that whether her objection to you is reasonable or not, it's not something you're able to fix -- the only thing to do is leave her alone.

(I think I said this before, but if it ever comes up in the future, the only thing I can think of is to get a second opinion if you didn't already, just someone a bit less involved in the issue to say either "yes, talk to her" to "I don't know why, but I don't think she'll ever want to hear from you").

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From: [personal profile] jack - Date: 2014-06-03 02:52 pm (UTC) - Expand

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Date: 2014-06-03 01:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thought-provoking post.

I'm more towards the marriage-as-permanent-commitment side than you are, but of course I don't want people to be made to stay in abusive relationships either.

I think communication is an important factor - we've seen a couple of friends' marriages end by one partner walking out and it being a complete surprise to the other partner, they didn't even know anything was wrong. I find this terrifying, and at the time we promised each other that if we ever did split up it wouldn't be a surprise. I think if a marriage is going to end there should be discussion about the problems and attempts to fix them first, perhaps counselling or mediation, and a clear explicit statement that this is a potential-divorce issue rather than just an irritating niggle. (Unless the partner who wants to leave feels they're actually in danger; then just run.)

And if you two have arranged that you'll stay together as long as you're both happy, and that if you split up you'll stay civil enough to sort out the practical things, then you are entitled to expect each other to stick to that, and to go back on that would be wrong. The nature of your agreement (as I understand it) is that you've committed to negotiate civilly even in a hypothetical future where you feel very negatively towards each other, so it's no good getting to that hypothetical future and then withdrawing consent to that part of the deal.

Actually, that's a more general point: it is possible to make commitments which give consent to things in advance, and voluntarily give up the option to withdraw consent to some aspect of a relationship in the future, and I think that's OK as long as it's explicitly communicated. So you two have each voluntarily given up the option to be acrimonious and petty about dividing your stuff if you do split up. We have given up the option to have other partners, or to leave just because we get bored.

To go back to the sexual analogy you started your post with, it's generally wrong to try to have sex with someone while they're asleep, but it's fine in the context of a relationship where they've given prior consent for that.

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Date: 2014-06-03 01:56 pm (UTC)
lethargic_man: (reflect)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
This may seem obvious, but I think it needs pointing out that consent culture cannot be a default; you have to communicate that this is your expectation of any kind of relationship. Several of the examples you give seem to me they might not have happened had not one partner been under the expectation of consent culture and the other not. And, after all, imposition of an expectation of consent culture does not constitute consent!

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Date: 2014-06-04 07:49 pm (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
I don't see why it "cannot be a default". I think it often *isn't* the default; and of course it can be difficult when two people in a relationship (any kind) have very different expectations of how to conduct that relationship - but I don't see that making "consent culture" the default is any *harder* than making any other way of doing it the default.

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Date: 2014-06-03 01:59 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
I think there always has to be a place for obligations as well as freedom. A stereotypical marriage is "one partner gives up their career potential and does childcare, the other gives up the opportunity to be as close to the children, with the understanding that the income of the remaining partner is shared amongst the whole family".

But the trouble is, you have to renegotiate obligations when circumstances change. If you've accepted obligations, the answer isn't always "throw over those obligations", but neither is it "blindly keep them even when they're obviously unfair and not what you would have chosen at the time."

The difficulty comes when different partners have different expectations of how obligations have changed, and have to be worked through somehow.

For instance, you might say "if a couple can't stay together, they still have to pool resources to look after children, but aren't compelled to live together".

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Date: 2014-06-03 02:52 pm (UTC)
emperor: (Default)
From: [personal profile] emperor
I think consent culture (CC) as you articulate it here may not be entirely benign. It seems a bit individualistic, a bit rights-over-responsibilities. Let me try and illustrate why I twitched a bit:

Relationships can involve commitments being made between the parties, and then people in that relationship may rely on those commitments when making important life decisions. CC seems to me to be trying to undermine that, to say that Alf shouldn't rely on commitments Bob makes because Bob is entitled to end that relationship whenever Bob wants. I don't want to outlaw divorce or anything like that, but I think that Bob ought to be at least mindful of commitments he made to Alf rather than just saying "I no longer consent to this relationship, kthxbye".

I think that people do act on the assumption that relationships will continue into the future, and that it's reasonable for them to do so. That doesn't mean that I think I have the right to expect a relationship of a particular form with anyone, but I think perhaps it does mean that I have a responsibility to someone I'm in a relationship with. Specifically, I have a responsibility to try and communicate with the other party if I want to withdraw from that relationship. If I've been close friends with you for years, we have a row, and I say "I never want to see you again!", I don't think it's unreasonable if after a while you decide to write/email/whatever and say "Um, sorry about that argument, do you really never want to see me again?". In particular, I observe that sometimes that sort of interaction is a useful part of the healing process.

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Date: 2014-06-03 07:56 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
I think that Bob is _totally_ entitled to end that relationship whenever they choose to do so.

And that, if everyone around Bob thinks that this was rash of Bob, and that Bob was breaking promises Bob had made, then they are totally fine to condemn Bob's actions and cease relying on them, as Bob has made it clear that they are not reliable.

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Date: 2014-06-03 03:16 pm (UTC)
kass: Jon and Stephen from Stephen's Christmas special (chag sameach)
From: [personal profile] kass
Consent culture also says that you can just walk away from a relationship, even a marriage, even if you have financial entanglements, even if your partner is partly dependent on you or has made major sacrifices and rearranged their life for the sake of the relationship.

I have a complex reaction to this. On the one hand, I hear it and I acknowledge the wisdom in it. And on the other hand, it seems to me to not be taking into account the significance of -- for lack of a better word -- covenant.

Imagine for the moment that I decided to leave my marriage. Not because my spouse had done anything awful (those situations, I think, change the equation -- in that instance, the awful act has effectively broken the covenant) but just because I don't feel like being entangled anymore. To what extent am I morally obligated to try to work things out, to enter into a period of marriage counseling or what-have-you, before just walking away?

I've been in situations where I preferred spending three minutes giving a blowjob over three hours reassuring a partner that my not really feeling in the mood for sex doesn't mean I reject them or that they're a terrible person.

And see, this seems entirely reasonable to me. It's all a matter of balances, of choosing for myself when I feel up to having the conversation which I know might ensue, and when it's easier to just do something nice for my partner which won't require much from me in the grand scheme of our 21-year (so far) relationship. (My God, how did that happen, 21 years? I don't feel old enough for that! Holy wow.)

Anyway, you can't make any kind of life plans if you simply have no idea whether people are going to want to continue in serious, major relationships with you from one day to the next!

Yes -- this resonates with me. I have to operate on the assumption that the people who are in my life will want to continue being in relationship(s) with me. I know that sometimes that won't be true, and I grieve every time a friendship ends -- fortunately that's quite rare -- but I have to operate on the assumption that my relationships are stable and that they are meaningful for the other parties as they are for me. Otherwise how could I even get up in the morning, you know? It's like gravity, or the sunrise. There are some things I have to just count on. Acts of faith, as it were.

Happy Shavuot!

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Date: 2014-06-03 03:20 pm (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
I think that if you buy a house with someone and then it all goes horribly irrevocably tits up then they are, at the very least, obliged to participate in the process of the division of assets; alas this obligation can be discharged via lawyers. It is clearly hideously painful to go through the adversarial process, but at the point where you simply can not bear to even talk to the other person hiring a lawyer is better than having the bulk of your assets tied up in an unresolved divorce case.

I think it's mostly OK to plan on the assumption that things will likely go on much as they are with people you are close to; because otherwise planning may become entirely impossible! But if things fail to go on as they are that it is not OK to demand that the failure be reversed.

I'm never really sure about reaching out to say sorry. In general I would err on the side of respecting a request to fuck off out of their life - if having done that they later choose to reach out to me (for instance to demand an apology or explanation) then that would be the time to give such a thing. Demanding that one absent oneself from all shared activities seems ludicrous to me, unless the shared activity is something you only did in order to share it with the ex-friend; I would at the very least expect them to say "I want to not see you in pub X; in return I promise to never go to Running Club Y" or somesuch.

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Date: 2014-06-03 03:21 pm (UTC)
wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (Default)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
I think at least my reading of Captain Awkward is not quite as extreme as yours. It's all very sliding-scale, and I think most people, at least, do acknowledge that - it's difficult, because you don't want to draw lines like NEVER TRY FOR ANY APOLOGY OR RECONCILIATION but there's no really clear and obvious point between that and STALK THEM FOREVER to say, yes, this is right. And of course it's compounded by the fact that there are always other factors involved - someone on there pointed out a couple of years back that sometimes people, for instance, refuse to take "no" for an answer when they offer you alcohol, and that's clearly problematic and sometimes deliberate boundary-testing, but equally it's often considered polite to say "no" to an initial offer, and if it's reiterated then it's "real" and you can accept. I try not to push people but if someone says no to an offer I will very often ask "Are you sure?" to make sure it isn't just politeness. And some cultures allow open expression of actual desires and preferences much less readily than others, which again confuses things.

I think you have to assume that relationships will last, unless they show clear signs that they won't; I don't think that's denying consent, unless you refuse to acknowledge any such signs. But I run into problems sometimes around issues of "ongoing consent" - clearly marital rape is a thing that happens, but equally I don't think most married couples feel the need to actively affirm willingness before engaging in any romantic or sexual activity. That's what "consent culture" would say was necessary, and I can see the reasons why, but I'm not sure it's practical always?

It might be helpful to think of consent culture more concretely as an opposite of rape culture - rape culture doesn't mean that every sex act is rape, or every individual is a rapist, or anything like that, but only that there is a strong tendency to enable and support those behaviours. So consent culture doesn't have to mean that everything must always be laid out and defined and agreed in advance, only that those behaviours are useful ones to aim towards? That we should enable and support those kinds of frameworks?

I have lots of thoughts. Sorry.

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Date: 2014-06-03 06:50 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
+1 on the interpretation of Captain Awkward; I am not one of the commentariat but I do go to meetups/socials. The post you are talking about is about Ask/Offer culture distinctions, and the failure modes of each (Tell/Guess): if a link would be useful I can dig it out no problem.

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Date: 2014-06-03 04:07 pm (UTC)
amianym: A small boy, with the head of a squid behind him. (Default)
From: [personal profile] amianym
I think the failure modes of consent culture do not necessarily indicate a problem with the fundamental principle of not coercing people, but more often seem to come from... not factoring in anything but personal pleasure in making decisions. Say I had agreed to bake you a cake next Tuesday, and I bought raspberries and chocolate and even got started making little chocolate fans to decorate the top and- *ahem.* Anyway. Say I planned to make you a cake. Then Tuesday rolls around, and baking does not sound fun, it sounds totally exhausting and miserable and I just want to watch cat videos. If all I'm thinking about is my personal pleasure, I'm not going to make that cake. That's not the only thing I care about, though. I value sticking to my agreements, I enjoy being generous, and I don't want the ingredients to spoil. I'd turn up at your house with that cake, and that would be just as much of a free, uncoerced choice as if I backed out.

I was exposed to consent culture memes pretty early, and I notice myself reaching for "break up" or "completely break contact" as solutions in my relationships more quickly than I think actually serves me. I think the attempted normalization of breaking contact comes from people reacting to being told they should always put their partner's feelings first, and getting approval to break contact completely is what helps them recalibrate back toward a healthy level of self-interest, and of course, get out of genuinely abusive relationships. For me, though, that message came so early that it mostly didn't occur to me that breaking contact could be an unkind or unreasonable thing to do, and there are a couple of relationships I would have ended differently if I was even trying to empathize with my partner's perspective.

These two Pervocracy posts talk a little bit about how consent for sex can work, and be totally valid, without necessarily being "YES FUCK ME NOW" consent - might be of interest. Ultimately, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with the principles consent culture is starting from, but those ideals often seem to be implemented with little empathy and consideration for the person on the other side of the coin.

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Date: 2014-06-03 04:19 pm (UTC)
altamira16: A sailboat on the water at dawn or dusk (Default)
From: [personal profile] altamira16
How do children work in consent culture?

I have seen numerous instances of "I consent to making a baby, but I do not consent to parenting it" where people walk away from relationships because early childhood is tough. And keeping a family together when multiple people have careers that are specific to certain geographic areas can be hard.

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Date: 2014-06-03 06:05 pm (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
"I consent to making a baby but I do not consent to parenting it"

That's pretty mainstream though. Nearly 2 million single parents in the UK.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-03 06:32 pm (UTC)
highlyeccentric: Sign on Little Queen St - One Way both directions (Default)
From: [personal profile] highlyeccentric
I think you're reducing Captain Awkward's maxim applied in relevant situations to a Rule. Other Captain Awkward principles might also be relevant. Before "anyone can end a relationship at any time", for instance, CA and co often invoke the "if it was still like this in six months..." hypothetical test.

Moreover, in the VAST MAJORITY of the situations in which CA advises people to end relationships because they don't want to be in them, the writer has *already tried to fix it*.

The 'no one owes you an explanation' rule is usually brought out when the writer can't get an explanation from someone and really needs to move on, or when no explanation they give is going to be enough for the third party. Again, they've *usually tried to fix this*.

To say that CA doesn't advocate working on or fixing relationships is... a vast misreading. And I'm not sure why you're reading Captain Awkward as the 100% Most Reliable Example of Consent Culture, for that matter.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-03 06:57 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
I note that one of my hard-line "rules" is one I sometimes express as "no explanations, no excuses, no apologies." But that is one I only invoke when Getting Someone Abusive The Hell Out Of One's Life: as I hope is obvious from knowing me it's absolutely not something I apply in all (or even a significant proportion of!) cases.

-- re CA: Liv, I wonder about the extent to which you're doing the "this is something a lot of my friends who I think are good at this value, therefore I must find the value they see in it and adhere commensurately" thing? In that that is something I have absolutely done about things I've thought are Blatantly Wrong and it's taken some effort to sort me out on the topic of "actually, no, this person can be wrong even if they're frequently liked, cited and respected". And thing is, the Captain is wrong at least sometimes; at least sometimes, they explicitly acknowledge that and apologise. But on top of that... a lot of the time I think the advice is really at a very fundamental level geared towards abusive/traumatic histories/situations, and that necessarily affects how it is phrased? Like my rule above. Hmm.

(I wish I could make better words on this post, because it is a good post. I might try but snippets are apparently easier at the moment. *sigh*)

as a member of the Awkward Army

Date: 2014-06-03 06:53 pm (UTC)
redbird: SF Bay bridges, during rebuilding (bay bridges)
From: [personal profile] redbird
One of the things that I can and do consent to is talking to the people I care about, and trying to solve problems between us. That doesn't just apply with people like [ profile] rysmiel, who actively like geeking about relationships: it's at least as important with people who value the result, being comfortable together, but would be just as happy if we could wave a wand and get there without the conversations.

From my viewpoint, "I'm not in love with you anymore" is a valid reason to end a relationship, but it doesn't mean that the person must end the relationship. They can wait and see if their feelings change again, try joint counseling, or simply decide that there's more to a relationship than those sparkly feelings, and that overall the relationship is still worth it to them.

"You don't have to justify a break-up" is often in the context of "this person asked why I was breaking up with zir, and then tried to argue me out of it/announced that I couldn't end the relationship because zie didn't agree with my reasons." If there's a real problem in a basically healthy relationship (meaning here both non-abusive and that the people involved try to communicate with each other) it's not going to come out as "I'm leaving you because $thing_I_never_mentioned_before." It's more likely to be either "I'm leaving you because this thing that you know bothers me isn't changing" or "I've concluded that this is a fundamental incompatibility, not something we can compromise on."

[I may say more later on ending long-term entangled relationships.]

Re: as a member of the Awkward Army

Date: 2014-06-03 07:00 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
(Yes. That One Gent has been very clear throughout that what I need in terms of keeping myself sane/healthy is paramount, and if that means taking a break from our relationship or breaking up full stop, he'll respect and support that. I am astonished by how... reasonable and healthy this is, compared to past relationships where I've said "I don't think I can keep doing this for reasons xyz" and the other party insisted I could for reasons abc, with no compromise.)

Re: as a member of the Awkward Army

From: [personal profile] naath - Date: 2014-06-03 07:11 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-03 07:59 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
"The relationship was kind of a bad idea in retrospect; I hurt this guy badly through inexperience"

I think that you are judging yourself harshly. We learn how to have good relationships through having bad ones, and this is _hard_. We need to get in there, and feel the rush of emotions, and fail to cope with it, and then slowly learn how to deal with them and be a functional person at the same time, and _then_ we're good at relationships.

If we never got into any relationships where someone might get hurt, we'd never have one at all.

Which is why I wish I'd had my first ones at age 14, when fucking up is pretty-much expected, and you're far less likely to hurt someone in a long-term manner.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-03 08:06 pm (UTC)
andrewducker: (Default)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
Oh, and consent/responsibility is never a black/white thing. People that treat it like it is are a massive problem for those around them. There are black and white edges, but most people's behaviour, most of the time, is in the grey bits in the middle.

The person who phoned you repeatedly in the middle of the night, and then cut you off, and _then_ accused you of stalking because you wanted to fix things with them? That person is _not normal_. They have major issues. And I feel bad for them, but that doesn't mean that you should use them to build rules in your life around. Unless the rule is "Learn to recognise people like that quickly, and don't let them get too close to you, because they can really mess you up."

Your "Do I want to spend three minutes giving a blow job, or three hours reassuring my partner that I love them, but don't fancy sex." is also a perfectly reasonable decision to make, that's your judgement call. So long as nobody is forcing you to make the decision, and your partner isn't using the implicit threat of long conversations to push you into blow-jobs.

However, again, if someone can't take "I don't fancy sex tonight" without it turning into a three hour conversation about not fancying sex, then _something is wrong with that person_. And if they are able to recognise it, and are willing to work on fixing it, then they may be worth staying in a relationship with. But it is not something you should put up with in the long term.

In fact, frankly, all of the examples here make it sound like you ended up engaged in some pretty appalling relationships, which are good examples of how I'd expect 16-year-olds to behave, but not something I'd expect of an adult.

I hope that Jack is rather better than that (and having read him a lot, I'd say that this was the case). Because there are definitely people out there who are better than that. People who _are_ reliable, and willing to stand up to their responsibilities. And if someone hasn't repeatedly shown themselves to be willing, and able, to do so, I'd hope you wouldn't marry them.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-03 08:46 pm (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
I think also that a one-time decision of "3 minute blow-job now rather than 3 hours of angst" is perfectly reasonable, but probably one to be followed at a later and less emotionally-fraught point by a conversation about being able to refuse sex without Massive Angst as a long-term goal.

(no subject)

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Date: 2014-06-03 09:02 pm (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
I think that I like the idea of consent culture, and I also stand by the principle that "wanting to leave is enough" for the person who wants to end a relationship.

But that doesn't mean the person/people being left have to feel ok about it. They get to grieve the ended relationship, they get to feel hurt and let-down, they get to make decisions about much the leaver's word can be trusted. They get to ask for discussions/decisions how shared commitments will be handled. They certainly get to explain to third parties how the person leaving has screwed them over financially / socially / etc.

What they don't get is to insist that the other person stays against their will, or explains their leaving against their will, or stays in contact against their will.

I've been through a breakup where the party I left Would Not Stop asking me WHYYYY and COME BAAAACK and passive-aggressively taking up activities they had repeatedly refused to do while I was with them, and never ever leaving me alone at friend-group social events, and basically taking a mile for every inch of "let's stay friends!" I could be persuaded to give.

That's the kind of situation that "wanting to leave is enough" and "you don't get to continue contact with someone when they've asked you not to" comes from. Those kind of statements seem extreme in a more healthy context, but people having a more healthy breakup probably aren't writing to Captain Awkward.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-03 09:34 pm (UTC)
forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
From: [personal profile] forestofglory
No advice, but it sounds like you are stressed out about buying a house and what that means for your relationship with Jack so *hugs and support*

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-03 11:36 pm (UTC)
karen2205: Me with proper sized mug of coffee (Default)
From: [personal profile] karen2205
I think there's probably something within consent culture commentary about only agreeing to do things you're willing/able/are reasonable for you to do.

It would have been entirely reasonable for you to say "no, LJ comms are public/semi-public spaces. I'm not willing to limit my participation in them." and "no, if you write a public blog, I may well see it." - it might be different negotiating previously shared social spaces with a former partner, where there might be reasons to agree that for a period of time each person will avoid particular spaces but for someone outside of that context who was refusing to discuss the situation, what she was asking for was something you could have simply said no to.

Becoming financially dependent on someone else without thinking about how you're going to get out of that situation is unwise. Even if it's a situation where partner A who previously had a high paying job becomes chronically unwell and unable to work, meaning that partner B, who had say, not worked at all/had worked in a low paying job, is now in the unenviable position of trying to improve their earning capacity at a time when they've got an ill partner to care for. Or if one partner dies when of working age. Contingency planning isn't always about relationships failing and knowing there are options/having back up plans is useful anyway.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-04 04:45 am (UTC)
metaphortunate: (Default)
From: [personal profile] metaphortunate
I think you're overstating the Captain's position a bit: see the letter on following your heart.

I think the consent culture thing is in two parts, really:

One part really is overstated, and it's overstated in reaction to the overwhelming cultural narrative that women owe things to men. It's overstated for the same way that we get memes like "Black girls are beautiful!" and "Fat girls are beautiful!" and responding with "All girls are beautiful!" is missing the goddamn point. "You don't owe anyone shit" is an asymmetric response to an unequal situation. Should the playing field ever be leveled, I would expect thoughtful people to spend more time on the other side.

(That being said, I think it's totally reasonable to explore the other side here, on your own time, as you are doing in this post. It is different than it would be from, say, going over to the CAwkward comments on a post about "My dude is an asshole, should I keep trying to make it work?" and responding with "Well, have you made a commitment?" Not that I am saying you have done or would do such a thing, just trying to clarify that I don't think this post is bad or derailing or anything. In your own space, in your own time, it is its own rail.)

And I think the other part of it is something of an acknowledgment that, short of abuse, you can't really make people do things. It's a point of view that asks less "is it morally okay to beg someone to be your friend?" and more "Is it going to work? [No] Is it going to scare and upset that person? [maybe] Do you want to do possibly scary things that don't get you what you want? [I hope not] So maybe don't do that thing."

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-05 11:35 am (UTC)
atreic: (Default)
From: [personal profile] atreic
It's a point of view that asks less "is it morally okay to beg someone to be your friend?" and more "Is it going to work? [No] Is it going to scare and upset that person? [maybe] Do you want to do possibly scary things that don't get you what you want? [I hope not] So maybe don't do that thing."

Oh, that's a really helpful comment - thank you! :-)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-04 10:48 am (UTC)
atreic: (Default)
From: [personal profile] atreic
Three things, all of which I think have been covered in the comments already, but maybe not quite in these terms...

1) "This is a bit like freedom of speech". Some of the comments seem to be 'Fred has the right to leave Bob whenever he wants for whatever reason, Alice has the right to think Fred is a douche for leaving Bob and not have Fred in her life anymore because of his actions'. It reminded me of 'freedom of speech is being able to say whatever you want, but other people don't have to agree, or listen to it without arguing, or give you a platform for it'. Although I think I'm uncomfortable with it as a position, it feels a bit like 'yeah, I totally believe in consent culture, you should be allowed to leave whenever you want, but, err, actually if you leave in circumstances that I disagree with, I'm going to reserve the right to be judgemental and sanction you for what you did'

2) "Desert island, rights depending on affluence" I wibbled a lot about these sort of ideas back on LJ years ago, but the idea that most rights come out of a background level of affluence. Like, I think in a country like the UK, there should be a right to clean and safe water for absolutely everyone, and the state should be working to provide people with this right, because the basicness of the human need is large, and the cost to society is relatively small compared to the wealth of the society. If there were two of you on a desert island, and one of you said 'I'm going to sit here until you build a well and get me some water, because I have a right to water' that would be ridiculous. I think more affluent (in many dimensions, not just money) societies can be more generous with 'rights', and I have a vague feeling that true consent culture might be something that works best in a more affluent situation. For example, if Fred leaving Bob leaves Bob sad, but with a job and a house and a pile of supportive friends, that's very different to if Fred leaving Bob leaves Bob sad, homeless, starving and alone with 7 kids to look after.

3) "pulling the pendulum back to the middle" I think it's a common trope of arguments to be very absolute, when the world needs to change by a huge amount before the arguers feel that the potential problems would be priorities. I think this is a big part of my effective altruism position - I'm not 100% convinced that everyone in the world should donate to the top 3 charities, and I'm a bit worried that we could create an industry where we spend more time evaluating charities than actually getting on and doing useful stuff, and I'm a bit worried that our evaluation methods aren't perfect and could lead us into dangerous errors - but I think we are so far away from that at the moment that keeping key simple messages of 'some charities are more effective than others' and 'we should look at how much good charities do' and 'we should try to focus our giving on charities that do a lot of good' is the right thing to take us in the right direction, and once we've moved in that direction a lot and the key things are accepted as axioms we can argue about the more subtle points (I know other people's milage might vary, and I'm not hugely interested in the Effective Altruism debate right now, it was just the most obvious parallel) So I think consent culture talk is a bit like that - the key idea that 'it is your choice who you are friends / lovers with, not someone else's right to demand, and at the end of the day that is your decision alone and you don't need to justify it' is the key idea they are trying to mainstream, and it's not that your concerns aren't real, it's just that the world needs to buy into the key idea so much more before the concerns would be biting. Of course, this is the usual thing where you have lots of worlds, so you can have 'most people don't get this at all yet' and 'in this subgroup, there is great buy in to this idea, so the possible downsides are starting to bite'

Disclosure - I would actively work against living in the caricature of consent culture where people routinely leave whatever they've committed to with no reasons, for all the reasons you discuss above. I think people do have responsibilities to each other that are in tension with their rights to perfect consent, and I think normally the right answer is for people to think 'I have the deal breaker right to walk away from this if it's what I really have to do, but I have the responsibility to try and think things through and fix them'. But I do think 'it is your choice who you are friends / lovers with, not someone else's right to demand, and at the end of the day that is your decision alone' is a meme we should be promoting much more to get the balance right in this tension.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-05 10:08 am (UTC)
simont: (Default)
From: [personal profile] simont
Although I think I'm uncomfortable with it as a position, it feels a bit like 'yeah, I totally believe in consent culture, you should be allowed to leave whenever you want, but, err, actually if you leave in circumstances that I disagree with, I'm going to reserve the right to be judgemental and sanction you for what you did'

I kind of feel as if being judgmental, after the fact, is not nearly as bad – or perhaps I mean 'not as opposed to the notions of consent and autonomy' – as threatening to be judgmental in advance as a means of control.

It's one thing for Bob to watch Fred unexpectedly walking out of the door and say 'well, I don't have to like it one bit, but that's your choice' and then afterwards rant to his friends about how hard done by he feels, with the consequence that they sympathise with Bob and end up with a lowered opinion of Fred; but it's quite another for Bob to try to pressure Fred into not leaving after all by warning him that if he does then Bob will do his damnedest to make sure none of their mutual friends ever speaks to Fred again.

(I assume here that Bob's ranting-to-friends in the first case is basically proportionate and accurate. Of course if it consists of massive self-serving exaggeration and/or outright slander, that's a different matter entirely.)

Where you drew the analogy with freedom of speech, I'll draw an analogy with blackmail: an action which is perfectly legal, or even obligatory (e.g. telling the police if I have knowledge of a crime), becomes criminal if rather than just going ahead and doing it I instead use the threat of it to make unreasonable demands.

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] atreic - Date: 2014-06-05 11:40 am (UTC) - Expand

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(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-04 12:40 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
Ah, today the good Captain actually talks about commitments and responsibility and decision-making:
Right now, my boyfriend’s job is the source of my affordable health insurance, so while I wouldn’t want him to stay somewhere that made him miserable, I would be upset if he quit without talking to me first and without a plan, because it does affect me. Our household expenses are low, but not easily carried by just one person, so I also should not quit my job without telling him or having another plan lined up. That, in my opinion, is a reasonable worry or issue between interdependent adults. You and partner have some planning and talking to do, without your mom’s worry getting all over everything.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-04 05:35 pm (UTC)
azurelunatic: A glittery black pin badge with a blue holographic star in the middle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
I think the consent culture messages assume that the person is already inclined to take seriously existing relationships and commitments. (Related: my response to the meme of "believe people who report they have been abused" is take seriously any reports, because they're vastly more likely to be true than not, but a blanket "believe" is not a message I can support.)

I'd say that you have the right to ask whether there's anything you can do to fix a relationship which the other party is clearly unhappy with or offer reconciliation, but the other party isn't obligated to accept that offer from you, and you're not entitled to use offers of reconciliation as a bludgeon to coerce someone unwilling to continue a relationship to keep communicating. If someone's said "I just don't want to talk to you for a while", then clearly not talking to them for a while is the thing to do -- sometimes it might actually be a case of "and by a while, I mean FOREVER" but if someone has said "a while" and you give a reasonable length of time and try again, that's not actually a problem, as long as you would be able to hear and respect "no, actually, I don't want to talk to you, goodbye" as an answer when you do try again.

I have three stories I want to mention.

Once was the time when I popped in to your comments and unexpectedly found that I was banned. I was surprised, because I hadn't thought that I'd said anything out of line, but recognized that it was possible that there might have been signs that I hadn't seen. So very cautiously, I looked to see whether there were any offsite means of contact for you, and phrased an email very very carefully to clearly signal my willingness to accept the ban if it had been intentional, but to ask whether it had been an accident. Which in fact it had, and I was very relieved.

Once was a time when my "avalanche" temper overflowed. I had met someone at a convention, and we hit it off very well as friends initially, and went full-speed at getting to know each other. It was lovely. And as I got to know her better, it became less lovely. I slowed down, but by this time I was far deeper into the friendship than I really should have been, with someone who turned out to be very un-suited to me. I had no idea how to signal that I had problems without deeply distressing her. I had no idea how to take our friendship back to the level that I was comfortable with. I would have been happy to, say, attend her wedding, but profoundly uncomfortable as part of the wedding party, and she was viewing me as maid of honor material. So when she finally said something that I felt I could genuinely take offense to, I took that as an excuse, declared that I was offended, and didn't want to talk to her. She was utterly taken by surprise and very distressed. By that time it was much too late to do anything about. Fixing it would have involved time travel, and probably giving me a lecture on how moderate distress over a discussion about how this friendship was going too deep too fast would be preferable over what did ultimately happen. I handled it poorly, but I don't see how I could have done it differently (given my skill set at the time) without realizing where it would end up if I didn't do something sooner.

The third time is when someone in my social group at the time, a friend of a friend, was systematically bullying me in a way that was calculated to be just short of unforgivable. His sense of humor was generally mean-spirited, but since he purported to not mean any harm by it, he was allowed to continue. I stopped seeking out contact with him, but we still brushed up against each other. One day he IMed me from his friend's account during a party at her place, asking questions which seemed reasonable on the surface but that I just knew were him fishing for information which he would use to mock me. I have a hard time articulating exactly how hard I found it to resist the social pressures that told me that I needed to be open, accommodating, and willing to help out someone in my social group when they needed information for a purpose that they said was legitimate. I asked another friend whether I should answer, and they said I should. It was only when I told them that I fully expected that the guy would use the information to bully me more that the friend said that oh, maybe I shouldn't then. I knew that this guy was going to keep abusing me as long as I was in any contact with him, and I still found it incredibly hard to not "be reasonable" and play along.
Edited Date: 2014-06-04 05:38 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-04 10:27 pm (UTC)
ewx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ewx
I think the extension of consent culture from short term activities (sex, touch, conversations, food, ...) to very long term ones (jointly owned homes, children, ...) isn't as small a leap as all that, because of the scale and shape of the consequences of someone wanting to withdraw from the latter.

For example if someone wants to stop having sex then there's no particular cost to the disappointed person. (They might be grumpy for a bit if their partner is obviously bored!) But if someone wants to extract themselves from joint house ownership then it's inevitably going to be expensive and disruptive, no matter how well the people involved behave.

That isn't to say that people might not have perfectly good reasons for abandoning long-term joint activities. But unless we're going to abandon the idea of (freely made, commonly understood) commitments completely, I think we need to retain the notion that breaking such commitments without sound reason is a bad thing to do. (Which in turn doesn't mean that we can't take a critical look at how we react to such breaks happening...)

(I think friendships fall somewhere in the middle. Someone stopping wanting to be a friend any more isn't likely to cost you money, force you to move house, massively increase a childcare burden, etc; but might nevertheless be disruptive in social terms and quite possibly be more upsetting than the occasional 'not tonight dear' from a sexual partner.)

There seems to be a term 'Relationship Anarchy' for the idea of actually eliminating obligations and agreements between people, though it's getting a bit late to fully understand what its advocates are getting at (and indeed whether I'm misrepresenting them here).

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-05 02:33 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
On relationship obligations, I'm not quite sure, I'm working this out as I type, but it seems like there's both material obligations and emotional obligations.

In most ways, material obligations are easier to think about. You can agree what they are, and recognise the most likely problems (a) you both assumed you knew what you were committing to, but your assumptions were different and (b) your assumptions agreed to start with, but the situation changed in some way you hadn't considered, and you had different assumptions about how to handle it.

And I think we've made comparatively few obligations (house, but still separate ownership, and no children), and communicated fairly clearly about what we both expect those to be.

And emotional obligations are similar, but simpler (in that there's not a fixed amount of stuff to divide) and a lot more complex (because you can't completely control your own emotions.)

So, you can't have an obligation to go on loving each other for ever, because you can't control that. But you CAN have an obligation that, if one particular big thing is scary and difficult and you hate it, you will make an effort to talk it through before it becomes too bad, and trust the other person to help find something you're both ok with, rather than suppress it until it becomes unbearable, because the rewards of the rest of the relationship will be worth it. And if the relationship reaches the point where it's nothing but horrible things and you don't have anything you actually enjoy about each other, then maybe it's over. But you usually only think that after you've tried to fix it and failed.

And I think that's imperfectly described, but what most people would expect out of a family obligation (and to a variable extent to a friendship), and we can talk through whether we have similar expectations here, just like with material obligations, and we have done, and we do have similar expectations, so yay :)

I think the examples from CA are very much, you've already talked about this for years and it's not getting better -- can you live with it or not, because there's no significant chance of it changing? And that can come to a shock to the person who's left, but usually only if they've had scores of conversations where the other person has made it clear it's a problem and they've brushed it off as the other person being irrational. Not that people are encouraged to just leave with no warning (except in cases of abuse).

I hope we will be able to bring up serious problems and sometimes the answer is "I don't know if I can fix that, can you help?" and sometimes the answer is "oh, I'm sorry, I should have known, I can easily stop that immediately" and either way we will be able to do something sensible before assuming it's unfixable.



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