General Question

raum's avatar

What do you think about the right to consent?

Asked by raum (9812points) November 28th, 2018 from iPhone

Should any adult have a right to consent to sex?

What if they have an intellectual disability? Should a right to consent be based on their physical age or their mental age? Is our current system capable of accurately measuring mental age?

Where do caretakers draw the line between responsibility for an at-risk group (women with ID are twelve times more likely to be sexually-abused) and making moral judgements (ie slut-shaming)?

Would this have elicited the same response if the person in question were male?

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31 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

I am befuddled. If she actually wants sex that much then they just need to bring in male prostitutes into the house every so often. Provide a safe place for her. Being with men experienced with the needs of women would be much more satisfying for her than random sex in a taxi or in an ally with random men. What would she even get out of that?

To just turn her lose in public with no guardian or protection is neglect of the worst kind. She has the IQ of a toddler. We don’t let toddlers do whatever they want because they don’t know the risks.

The article indicates she suffered sexual abuse as a child. That would explain her fixation on it now.

I wonder if this is even true! It’s so bizarre.

Dutchess_III's avatar

For the second half of your question, if it was a male they’d probably bring in prostitutes. I can’t imagine a severely mentally retarded guy having ANY luck getting laid other wise.

I have to wonder about the kind of men who would agree to have sex with a severely mentally retarded women.

rebbel's avatar

@Dutchess_III The same persons as the female(s (sex workers)) that would be with “severely mentally retarded guys”?
Altruistic people (men and women).

Dutchess_III's avatar

I wasn’t referring to professionals who are paid to render a service. That would be the best solution for both sides.

I was asking why some random Joe on the streets would allow them selves to be picked up by a retarded woman, and to have sex with her, which is what seems to be happening?
I can’t imagine a retarded man getting a quicky in an ally or in a taxie in the same way without having to pay for it.

zenvelo's avatar

Given her intellectual disabilities, her understanding of consent is extremely limited, and unless she was seeking sex with someone she knows and is safe with, is not sufficent to have sex with a stranger.

The same would be true for a man.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I am trying to imagine who, in her life, that is not a “stranger” would that be @zenvelo? I was able to glean that she lives in a group home. Would it be a staffer or who? The article said she married a guy in 2016, but just 12 months ago she went looking for other sex, so I don’t know if they are still married.
How do they control that?

zenvelo's avatar

@Dutchess_III , I know a young woman (in her mid 20s) with developmental disabilities. She meets people and makes friends just as you or I would, through her activities, like Special Olympics. Many of the people she knows have “special friendships”.

The guardians of the woman in the posting are there to protect her, and supervise her. One way to control protect her would be to not have strange men come by and have sex with her.

Dutchess_III's avatar

There are wild ranges of developmental disabilities. At one one time an IQ of 60 was the lowest that was considered educable. Hers is 52. The standard may have changed, but 52 is of major significance.

They aren’t bringing men in to have sex with her. The woman is going out and searching for strangers to have sex with, not for friendship or mutual interests. It sounds like her caretakers are escorting her, even encouraging her, which is disturbing to me. They took her to at least one bar In the past.

As for protecting; her since she was 9 years old, she has run away from home several times. Now I take it she’s in a group home. So how do they “protect” her if she doesn’t want to be protected? Also, what is driving her to act this way? If it was just the sex I think a male sex worker would be the ticket, but I have a feeling that’s not all of it, or it it’s even any of it. I think it’s important to note that the article said she was sexually molested and raped as a child.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The women in question is not being raped @KNOWITALL. She’s actively looking for sex.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Dutchess_III Right, but you said something about the kind of men who’d have sex with a mentally retarded woman. There are plenty of sicko’s out there who take a mental disability as consent. Pigs.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The gist of it is, she IS giving consent. She doesn’t realize what the consequences could be, though. So does she have the right to give consent? And if she does, I think the next question is: Is that OK, as long as the people supervising her are making sure she is safe and protected? I mean, why not, if she likes it? Or thinks she likes it.
I still think the whole thing goes back to childhood, and the associations she made because of the abuse.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Dutchess I agree with you. Glad its not my decision to make.

zenvelo's avatar

@Dutchess_III But she is incapable of giving consent, no more than a 12 yr old girl would with a 25 year old man.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, then that answers the question @zenvelo. The answers is “No,” and she needs to be monitored closely so that she doesn’t slip out for clandestine sexual adventures.

Smashley's avatar

(You guys are terrible. Many people with intellectual disabilities can form happy relationships with so-called “normal” people without there being something wrong with the “normal” one. ID is a way to be. There are many ways to be. Each way is different, and in different ways. ID is a designation given to some people, including many on the cusp of “normal” And “normal” is a designation given to people who don’t look or act too weird)

Mental age is some outdated and ableist BS. The ability to consent should be the default, including with people with intellectual disabilities. Sure, this can make them vulnerable to abuse, but confining a human to a (legally) sexless life is also a disgusting breach of their dignity.

It is possible that this was abuse, I do not know the woman and I cannot evaluate her. I know that an IQ of 52 falls in the range of people who may be able to live independently and form normal social and romantic relationships (not a “toddler”, dutchess.) Intelligence is a deeply nuanced and evolving concept, and anytime anyone evaluates someone else as being too unintelligent to have the same rights as everyone else, you should really pause.

Ableism is everywhere, and this piece reeks of it. The woman has caregivers. The courts didn’t say these people were charged with making sexual decisions on her behalf. By law, the rights not given to a conservator are retained by the individual. A judge in fact positively stated that she should be allowed to pursue her sexual interests, given a review of the situation and various professional assessments, and yet somehow the nature of the sex she wants to have makes everyone lose their minds. Her sexual choices are so deviant (yet legal, and not at all uncommon) that our ableist society can’t deal. Her sexual preference is framed as a illness caused by trauma, and is therefore not a valid sexual expression.

We must evaluate every person on a case by case basis, and we should be VERY careful in the rights we legally deny a person “for their own good.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Smashley Did you read the article? Nothing is said about wanting to form relationships or romance or anything like that.

It’s sex. Just sex. With random men. Like a free prostitute and just about as safe. She doesn’t understand the consequences of what she’s doing. Pregnancy, STDs, violence, etc.
Read the article.

Smashley's avatar

I like how your first line asks me a question, and your last answers it for me.

You inexplicably said “toddler.” The article said iq 52, which is not “toddler” by any definition. By noting the clinical definition of a person such as she with “mild intellectual disability” I was pointing out that she is probably capable of many things, like relationships and self care, so you shouldn’t just assume her choices are somehow less valid than anyone else’s. Being a ward of the state doesn’t give the state unlimited control over her, even if it is to keep her safe. Certain rights have been denied to her, after a professional a legal evaluation, but sexual choice was not one of them. Her right to privacy was also upheld.

The article never mentioned, as you claim, that she doesn’t understand consequences, and proving that you do know about consequences isn’t a standard we hold most people to when it comes to their sexual rights.

This is a difficult situation, but you are approaching it very condescendingly. Cases like this should be carefully evaluated by professionals on an individual basis.

Though this women was granted legal protection for her right to sexual choice and non-interference from the state, her use of this choice was later determined to be bad, and it has been revoked. Are we all held to such standards when it comes to our basic autonomy?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, you are on a different page than everyone else, as usual.
No the article didn’t use the word “consequences.” It used the word “dangers.”
I was wrong using the comparison to a toddler. She has the mental capacity of a 10 year old. This isn’t about her ability to live on her own and to tie her own shoes. This is about whether she should be allowed to be sexually promiscuous with strangers without knowing what the dangers can be.

…consequences isn’t a standard we hold most people to when it comes to their sexual rights.” You mean it isn’t a standard we hold men to when it comes to their sexual “rights.” That’s because men have a neat way of escaping their consequences. Women don’t.
Speaking of consequences, is the woman in the article capable of raising a child? Should we force birth control on her if she doesn’t want it? Should we leave her on her own to care for any child she may wind up with?

Smashley's avatar

10 years old is certainly old enough to know where babies come from, and that promiscuity is a risk factor for illness. They know what good touch and bad touch is. They understand abuse. Sure they might not be mature enough to make the “best” decisions, but denying someone a basic right is a very big deal, on par with legal execution, and must only be done within a strict set of rules, not a “best thing for you” approach.

The line from the article was that she wasn’t always aware of the potential dangers. This is not corroborated or explained. It is not a quote and has no attribution. It is essentially meaningless. Can you name every STI? No? Well, you must not be aware of the potential dangers. Do you always use condoms? NO? Gasp! You must not always be aware of the potential dangers. You knew it was dangerous and did it anyway? You must not always be aware of all the potential dangers. This article is so ableist and paternalistic, it’s just ick.

This is about a person’s basic legal rights, not social consequences for behavior. Consequences take many forms: social, medical, emotional, and no one makes you list them all before you have sex, at least not for “normal” people. Whatever your statement about what men get away with was supposed to mean, in legal reality, “normal” women have no fewer rights in this regard (at least in the liberal democracies still standing). The fact that some women can become pregnant from certain sexual acts is not an example of them having fewer legal rights.

Your appeal to gender inequality does bring up an interesting point, though: that people would be more ok with this situation if the person in question were a man. There would be less assumption that he was being abused, there would be less vilification of those people interested in sex with him, and less moralizing about the nature of the sexual acts he was engaging in.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I would be just as concerned if it were a man but for different reasons. I still think using sex workers is the best solution for either gender.

Smashley's avatar

I appreciate where you’re coming from, but this solution isn’t morally consistent. It acknowledges that the woman is capable of giving consent for sexual activity, but doesn’t allow her to give it to anyone but a narrow group of the population, who are themselves at high risk for STIs. It also creates a huge cost burden she certainly cant cover herself. Should the NHS pay for her prostitutes?

zenvelo's avatar

”...10 years old is certainly old enough to know where babies come from, and that promiscuity is a risk factor for illness. They know what good touch and bad touch is. They understand abuse.

So you would say an 11 or 12 year old is capable of consent? I believe the law in all fifty states would disagree with you.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Morality has nothing to do with it @Smashley .

@zenvelo right? There are men out there who really WANT to believe that 11 and 12 year old girl children actually want to have sex with them. They’ll go to great lengths to convince themselves.
And that’s the problem. She has the decision making capability of an 11 year old, but the biological urges of an adult. Both need to be taken into consideration in order to help thewoman.

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Smashley's avatar

I’m just saying that you can’t use her “mental age,” as they put it, to assume she has no understanding of anything. You’re both really reaching. What I’m saying is that people with disabilities are routinely denied rights and agency, “for their own good” and that a high standard needs to be applied to legally withhold those things we hold to be self-evident. I’m saying that a person who has not has a legal right to sexual autonomy removed by a court should be able to consensually practice as she wishes and is able.

Your fear that she is basically unable to make these decisions is uncorroborated by the findings of the professionals, and is blinded by an ableist viewpoint. Appealing to the worse nature of men, seeking to protect this woman by legally denying her basic rights, is a classic tool of disempowerment. You see her as fundamentally unable to function in society, and is therefore disabled, and must therefore be coddled. She’s more likely to be a victim, so you try to unmake her as a person. She might see society as unable to accommodate her needs, and therefore exclusionary and unfair, all the more so when her sexual choices are made for her. Even when she wins a court battle for sexual agency, she can have that agency removed if it squicks too many people out. Justification that she is a child will inevitably be trotted out to cover the fact that this is just about sexual moralizing colliding with ableism.

Dutchess_III's avatar

We aren’t the ones saying she doesn’t understand things, @Smashley. Her family and the professionals are the ones who say she doesn’t understand things:

”...a psychiatrist warned that allowing her to continue to be exposed to such a “high level of risk” was unacceptable, unprofessional and might lead to “sexual abuse, violence, injury or death”.”

The National Autistic Society has called for “urgent lessons” to be drawn from the case, saying that while autistic people have a right to a sex life, “the responsibility to keep people safe falls on those in positions of care, like the courts, councils and support providers” and that “its essential safeguarding measures are followed meticulously”.”

And from her family: ”...relatives of the 23-year-old….have accused care authorities of approving an “experiment” that led to the “pimping out of a highly vulnerable young woman”.”

The words “pimping out” kind of make me wonder if her caretakers were taking money from people so they could have sex with her? It’s an odd choice of words if there is nothing more involved other than a young woman’s sex drive.

Smashley's avatar

Ok. Let’s unpack. Yes. I acknowledge what you have cited, you aren’t wrong about what was stated, and I am indeed choosing sides. I side with the woman, her caregivers, the judge, and the professionals who assessed her before this became a story.

“A psychiatrist”? Not “her psychiatrist”? Come on. You should know better these days to pin your good name on “a” anything. What a boilerplate statement she gives, too, perfect for copy.

This National Autistic Society here takes no side, except in stating that mistakes have been made and lessons need to be learned. I do not know the inclination or composition of this group, but in the US, not every group that claims to support people with autistim really does. One large group has no board members with autism, is committed to “ending” autism, and funds new research into prenatal screenings.

Sigh.. the family… well, I’d love to always believe them too, but we just can’t. We know nothing about them or the circumstances or the context of the quote. All we know is that we can’t know their names for legal reasons, and that she ran away a lot as a child.

So yep, I think we got to the heart of the matter. I’m with her.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Of course you are “with her,” @Smashley. She’s a mentally retarded woman, who is not really capable of making a decision that is in her best interest, but she’s sexually active. Having sex doesn’t require any intelligence, or consideration for the consequences.

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