Sunday 30 June 2013

Disclosure: Whose Business Is It Anyway?

O.K.  Your turn to be judge, jury and -- if you so wish -- executioner in some made-up-cases.

A, a "devout and committed" vegan who boasts that they would never have sex with anyone who was not also a vegan, meets B in a vegan restaurant.  A chemistry soon develops between the couple and, after several meetings either on neutral territory or A's home, they have intimate relations.  Some time later, A discovers that B is not a vegan.

Has B committed a sexual offence by failing to disclose their omnivorous diet, which -- had A known of it in advance -- would have been grounds for withdrawal of consent?
Side question, no extra marks, just something to ponder:  Would it make any difference who did what to whom?  (B was acting at all times in good faith that A was consenting and a willing participant.)
C, a supporter of Celtic Football Club, meets D; who, unbeknownst to C, is a supporter of Glasgow Rangers F.C.  Stepping into the light following a knee-tremble in the bushes outside, C spots a "Rangers FC" tattoo on D's body; which was previously covered by D's coat, and was not noticeable in the gloom before the sexual encounter proper.

Has D committed a sexual offence by failing to disclose their sporting allegiance, which -- had C known in advance -- would have been grounds for withdrawal of consent?
And another one:
E, who has a severe phobia of insects, encounters F.  A relationship eventually develops, and leads to sex.  E discovers that F is a lecturer in entomology at a local college, and subsequently claims to feel as though beetles are crawling all over their skin whenever they think of F.

Did F commit any sexual offence by not mentioning, before the event, the potentially-phobia-triggering fact that they worked with insects?
Well, analogously to this court ruling, they would have.  Well, at least they would have if the plaintiff was transphobic and the defendant was transsexual.  Because the rules are just different for us  :(

O.K., so you probably shouldn't jump into bed without first establishing that there are no potential deal-breakers lurking under the surface.  But in those sorts of cases, surely it's up to the fussy person to ask the other person if they might have some non-obvious grounds for denial of consent?  "Wait -- are you a vegan, too?  Because I could never f**k someone who gorged themself on the rotting flesh of animal corpses." is surely a lot more reasonable than "I didn't know it was rape until I saw B in McDonalds".

And if a partner was man or woman enough for you at the time, and you only later feel a sense of revulsion after discovering that they were transsexual, well, you should have asked first.  Because you are the one with the problem  (refusal to sleep with a subset of people sharing some certain non-obvious or low-obviety characteristic, and feeling icky afterwards if you discovered that you had inadvertently done so).  And if you are embarrassed at the thought of having to ask a potential partner "Have you always been like that down there?", maybe you're actually transphobic and embarrassed by that.

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