Do you consent?It was a dark and stormy night in the south end of Halifax. The Constabulary bumbled onto a parked up taxi. It was quite a scene. Driver, Bassam Al-Rawi, his zipper down, clutching his passengers panties, her half naked passed out drunk in the back seat.
Slam dunk, right?
It seems that the Crown was incompetent. They "failed to provide evidence on whether or not the woman consented to sexual activity." Or, as Judge Gregory Lenehan so elegantly summed things up, "Clearly, a drunk can consent."
The young lady had by now recovered her wits. Seems she did not appreciate being badged a "drunk". She took to social media.
Pretty soon, the CBC had worked everyone into an outrage. Feminist opinion all over CBC was that: "An intoxicated woman cannot consent."
Al-Rawi may have avoided conviction according to the laws of the land but he was pretty much hung-drawn-and-quartered in the court of public opinion.
Not to be outdone by public lunacy, Al-Rawi's lawyer played the race card. Poor Al-Rawi was being stereotyped because he's an Arab and a Muslim. Really, It's racism! Really, as though he was like other Arabs and Muslims who subjugate women: here, there, and somewhere. Really, it's outrageous...
Of course generalizations don't always apply specifically. It's highly unusual for a statement that is broad in its scope to also be entirely accurate. Al-Rawi, according to his lawyer, isn't a here, there, and somewhere Muslim.
Activists who take umbrage at "Clearly, a drunk can consent" are making the error of confusing absolutism with absolute accuracy. Consider the issues that arise if an intoxicated person cannot consent:
- What would be the legal blood alcohol level for consent?
- A policeman with a breathalizer in every bedroom?
- Would it be legal for a drunk to consent to having sex with another drunk?
- Or would it be OK on the grounds of diminished responsibility?
Civilization makes many presumptions about "consent":
Civilization is a lot like religion. It's a way of forcing a potentially-intelligent, small-group animal to live like an unthinking termite.
- As Richard Dawkins has pointed out, many children receive religious indoctrination without first being asked for their consent and long before they could be reasonably expected to give informed consent. Indeed, some religions cut bits of the genitalia of children before they can even speak!
- As I would point out: By dint of just being born on some patch of dirt, we are all required be subjects of the laws and government of some nation that, by brute force, lays claim to that patch of dirt. Nope, they never asked for your consent to be ruled! You never had an option to say:"I like this patch of dirt but I don't like your stinking government, I don't like your lousy laws, go away and don't bother me."Your consent was presumed by your involuntary act of being born. You never will have an option to peacefully withdraw your consent.