Consent and Consensuality

It is well recognized by feminist thinkers that the standard conception of consent is problematic when applied to sexual consent in a patriarchal context. Consent has a contractual feel to it, in which one person allows another to do something to them. This does not capture what goes on in the ideal sort of sex, and, in the common assumption that in heterosexual relations the woman is the one to consent, further entrenches a problematic view of gender relations. I argue that we should make a distinction between consent and consensuality. Consensuality is symmetrical, and is not contractual, but captures the element of willingness that is essential to morally permissible sexual contact.