On the matter of consent in porn and beyond: If “yes” does not mean “yes”, what does?
In the wake of a searing press statement by the production crew and male performer of a March 6, 2018 porn shoot, and the subsequent release of the complete “behind-the scenes” nanny cam footage of the shoot starring female performer Leigh Raven, the subject of consent has come into sharp focus.
In advance of the video’s release, Leigh Raven’s wife Nikki Hearts admitted that the video is exculpatory on its face, but said that doesn’t matter.
But, as I wrote Wednesday, if the video of what transpired should not be believed because Leigh Raven convincingly acted as if everything was fine, and laughed and joked around, in order to manipulate and “appease” the crew, then how were scene partner Rico Strong and director Just Dave to know that anything was wrong?
If Raven was lying and acting to hide her discomfort and terror, and was so good at it that it warranted a public statement to convince readers that Raven’s actions captured on the tape does not tell the real story, then what is the basis to claim that the people on set knew, or should have known, otherwise?
Veteran director and cameraman Mike Quasar put this way:
Thursday, Raven engaged with me on Twitter.
Then I put to her a question about the manifestation of consent that was posed in the production team’s press statement:
If behaving as though one consents, having a positive, cheerful demeanor, and refusing to take a director up on his offer to call for a ”cut” in the action if a boundary is overstepped, constitutes behavior that is not to be trusted or believed, then how could anyone on the set have known that she was (allegedly) distraught or experiencing intolerable discomfort?
And moreover, we ask: by the standard Hearts and Raven propose, what behavior would EVER constitute proof of “real” consent? What Hearts and Raven propound doesn’t merely attempt to rescind or invalidate consent, it un-defines consent as a concept.
It was then that Leigh Raven stopped responding.
I’ve put the question to many of raven’s supporters over the last few days, and none has offered a direct answer.
This much I do know: consent is not something one keeps only in one’s head. And it is most certainly not something one decides upon after the fact.
This is really serious, folks. In fact, it does not get any more serious than this, either in terms of porn and fetish production, or in the broader cultural realm.
One of the most insidious concepts ever to be introduced into world culture is the oft-leveled (but empirically invalid) charge of “false consciousness”. It’s a concept that dates back, at least, to bronze age religious writings, was given an update by Marxism (as extended by Friedrich Engels), and currently forms an integral part of Marxist- (and later Maoist-) feminism.
Essentially it’s a logical fallacy which maintains that if you cannot see the “truth” of what the speaker asserts, it’s only because you have been brainwashed (or possessed or otherwise corrupted) by ideologies, creeds, or institutions.
If only you were “sinless” or “a good, normal citizen” and not a “traitor” to your own kind by virtue of your opinions — your thoughts — you would see things as the speaker does, and as he or she demands you do. It is only through the acceptance of a “revealed truth” (i.e., ‘Jesus died for you!’, or ‘the defining institution in the world is Patriarchy!’) that one can not be a brainwashed tool of malignant forces of hatred, prejudice and oppression.
And agency is a requirement of true consent.
Since he nanny cam video from March 6 does not show anything even remotely close to what she has publicly charged, Leigh Raven now contends that it has been “edited to [sic] fuck”.
This claim is false, as any viewing of the recording makes it crystal clear that we are seeing the beginning, middle and end of the scene. We don’t see glamour or so-called “pretty girl” stills being photographed, but that is irrelevant because they are shot before the sex scene, not during or after, and Raven has claimed that all the abuse took place during the scene.
However — for sake of argument let’s take Raven at her word. Let’s accept that the rape and assault she (and notably, her wife) claim happened was seamlessly chopped out. What is left, under that scenario, is a woman being cheerful, positive, tender, agreeable and patient (at least until she finds out that her wife is waiting outside, at which point she becomes antsy), while never once complaining or expressing unease or discomfort.
This construction of events beings us back to the same core problem: the manifestation of consent.
Enthusiastic consent and reductio ad absurdum
A lot has been made in recent year of “yes means yes”, and “affirmative” or “enthusiastic” consent. However, as sex worker advocate and author Maggie McNeill wrote last year, such constructs actually reveal the desire of
hypocrites [to] overrule the consent of others in the name of “protecting” it. It isn’t enough that consent be given; we are told it must be explicitly verbal, ongoing, and “enthusiastic”, and that it must be bureaucratically and tiresomely re-ascertained over and over and over again no matter how clearly it was expressed in the first place. Some “authorities” choose to add even more adjectives to the list, insisting that consent be “creative” and “honest” (presumably, the one seeking consent must cart around a polygraph machine to fulfill the latter condition).
Others insist that consent is compulsory under certain conditions, and those who wish to inflict violence upon others for sex acts they consider “deviant” (including sex work, BDSM and in the past, homosexuality) claim that people who make these choices are suffering from mental disorders such as “Stockholm syndrome“, “trauma bonding” or the Marxist fantasy of “false consciousness”). Possibly the most bizarre of these, popular among neofeminists for years but now gaining momentum among tyrants pretending to be “progressive”, is the idea that if a person is paid to do something he wouldn’t do for free that constitutes “coercion” or even “violence”. This dogma is, frankly, deranged; it sounds more like something that might be ejaculated from a Maoist circle-jerk than something an official in a Western capitalist nation (whom, we might note, does not do HIS job for free and is therefore equally coerced) would say in public with a straight face.
One can easily recognize many of the themes McNeill specified in her column in the rhetoric utilized by Raven and Hearts’ supporters.
Moreover, Raven now also claims that Rico Strong was drunk during their sex scene. However, under several of the strict definitions of consent McNeill addresses, Raven might actually be in trouble for raping him!
The good news is that members of the adult community have begun got re-examine the difficult issue of consent.
And as long as we can all steer clear of ideology and focus on the safety of all members of the adult business, solutions will be found.