Against consent

Event status:

Professor Heidi Matthews headshot You are invited to this public research seminar, livestreamed on Zoom Webinar, by Assistant Professor Heidi Matthews (Osgoode Hall Law School, York University), as part of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) Research and Practice Seminar Series.

Wednesday 28 April 2021 10:00 am until Wednesday 28 April 2021 11:00 am (Add to calendar)
Dr Renae Fomiatti
Presented by:
Assistant Professor Heidi Matthews
Type of Event:
Public Lecture; Seminar/Workshop/Training; Public
Free - no RSVP required

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Sometimes what we want, sexually, is not fully known to us in advance. The details of desire and satisfaction are often discovered, and produced, in the sexual moment. What is more, consensual sex is not the same thing as wanted sex; conversely, non-consensual sex is not the same as unwanted sex. Equating consent with unambiguous desire significantly alters the sort of sex that society deems permissible in troubling, namely regressive, directions. There is no reason to believe that even truly wanted sexual encounters correlate with good sex. Unwanted, or partially wanted, sex can still be sexy and transformative.

Most scholarly, activist and educational work on sex and regulation today takes for granted the idea that the conceptual framework offered by consent – both in its legal and colloquial understandings – is, and should be, a core part of how we understand the difference between good (and therefor socially and politically desirable) sex and bad (and therefor socially and political undesirable) sex. This paper starts from the opposite posture, viewing consent with deep skepticism, especially insofar as it has come to stand in as a prerequisite for pleasurable sex, and now functions as a technology that works to cleanse sexual content to make it less threatening to the body politik. Ironically, the now commonplace ‘consent moves’ that this paper looks at through three different public poster campaigns have the effect of entrenching the structures that allow the force of male dominance to be “exercised as consent,” as Catharine MacKinnon argued nearly forty years ago.

About Assistant Professor Heidi Matthews

Assistant Professor Heidi Matthews is an Assistant Professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. She researches and teaches in the areas of international criminal law, the law of war, international legal history and political theory. Her work theorizes contemporary shifts in the practice and discourse of the global legal regulation of political violence, with particular attention to history and gender, as well as political, critical and aesthetic theory.

Prior to joining Osgoode, Assistant Professor Matthews held a British Academy Newton International Fellowship at the SOAS School of Law, University of London. She served as a law clerk to the judges of the Appeals Chamber at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and as an intern at the Immediate Office of the Prosecutor at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Her doctoral dissertation, “From Aggression to Atrocity: Interrogating the Jus in Bello Turn in International Criminal Law” was awarded Harvard Law School’s Laylin Prize. Assistant Professor Matthews has been a Fellow of the Institute for Global Law and Policy and a Clark Byse Fellow at Harvard Law School, as well as a Fellow at the Film Study Center, the Edmund J. Safra Center for Ethics, and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University.

Assistant Professor Matthews’ current projects include a critical legal evaluation of American, Canadian and British counterinsurgency policy and practice, a reevaluation of the role of international criminal law during the Cold War, and an intellectual and political history of the concept of military necessity in international law. She is also working on a research and documentary film project that examines narratives of Allied sexual violence perpetrated against German women at the end of World War II. Assistant Professor Matthews is active in several international research networks, including the Critical Approaches to International Criminal Law and Cold War International Law projects.

Replay the seminar recording



27th Jan 2022 2:05am

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