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21 Colum. J. Gender & L. 3 (2011-2012)
Sexual Consent: Some Thoughts on Psychoanalysis and Law

handle is hein.journals/coljgl21 and id is 427 raw text is: COLUMBIA JOURNAL OF GENDER AND LAW

SEXUAL CONSENT: SOME
THOUGHTS ON PSYCHOANALYSIS
AND LAW
JUDITH BUTLER*
Sexual consent is a complex issue and there are various
fields that have seized upon it to decide when it happens, what
form it takes, and who is in a position to know. I will be focusing
here on how one knows one has consented, but also on some of
the ways that psychoanalysis and law may have to work
together, despite some persistent tensions between them. Part I
of this article reflects on consent through the lens of relational
psychoanalysis. Since I am not trained as an analyst, my
approach would hardly be called clinical in any accepted way.
However, I do try from the position of a cultural critic to shed
light on some of the ways that consent functions both inside and
outside of psychoanalysis. This is a difficult task, since if one
were to consider consent clinically, one would have to start with
the clinic, that is, the fact that someone comes to an analytic
session consensually, and that the same someone may well have
abiding ambivalence or anxiety about the very fact that they are
there. They have consented, but do not like that they have. In
other words, since someone may have issues with consent that
become material within an analytic session, that person has also
set up the problem of transference by consenting to walk through
the door into the analyst's office. When they do enter the door,
they consent to psychoanalysis itself, which is not to say that
they know precisely to what they have consented in advance.
When the analyst opens the door, there is not only some
operation of consent involved as the client moves forward
through the doorway for that first meeting, but an issue of
consent may well remain at play for years to come, even if one
drags oneself there even one no longer precisely knows why one
goes. The scene is one in which law and psychoanalysis
*Maxine Elliot Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature,
University of California, Berkeley.

21.2 C

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