EVENT Nov 30
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Consent Puzzles: Exploring the Ambiguities of Sexual Consent in Narratives and Media Debates

Categories: Popular Culture, Gender & Sexuality, Women's Studies, 20th & 21st Century, 20th & 21st Century, Anthropology/Sociology, Cultural Studies, Film, TV, & Media
Event Date: 2024-11-30 Abstract Due: 2024-07-31

This CFP is for essays for an edited collection.

Consent is often deemed a prerequisite to ethical interactions—particularly sexual ones. A nonconsensual act is viewed as an affront, a violation, an oppression. For an act to seem permissible, one requires what Heidi M. Hurd calls the “moral magic” of consent.

Yet the notion of consent resists both simplistic definition and straightforward interpretation. Should consent be defined as what one says/does (“performative”) or what one thinks/feels (“subjective”)? What happens when one expresses consent verbally without the sentiment, or vice versa? “Consent is a contractual notion,” Michel Foucault states in an interview in Politics, Philosophy, Culture, and, thus, he purposefully pinpoints a core problem with consent: individuals in everyday interactions regularly obtain and give consent without explicit written or verbal contracts and without even necessarily agreeing clearly on what consent means.

This compilation seeks to explore narrative representations and discursive debates that evoke the ambiguities of sexual consent to unravel the complexities beyond “no means no” and “yes means yes.” While the topic is fairly open, the compilation will focus on the current period of “consent culture” or roughly the 2010s through the present.

Topics might include:

  • media representations or discursive debates of sexual consent across a range of age, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, nationality, gender, sexual identity, and sexual preferences;
  • public discourses and related legislation policing gender diversity for youth and adults;
  • film and TV portrayals or press coverage of rape, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking;
  • discursive debates on the institutional management of nonconsent, such as universities’ compliance with Title IX regarding campus rapes and assaults;
  • representations and discourses regarding affirmative consent;
  • issues of consent related to pornographic films and technologies;
  • representations or debates regarding BDSM and other sexual practices;
  • media technologies and sexual consent;
  • representations and discourses regarding consensual and nonconsensual nonmonogamy;
  • depictions of sexual consent within specific genre films such as romantic comedies, children’s media, or horror;
  • censorship, controversies, and film ratings in relation to sexual consent or age of consent;
  • issues around “sexting” or the sharing of intimate images;
  • and any other media representations or discursive debates that speaks to ambiguous sexual consent amid consent culture.

Please submit a title, approximately 300-word abstract, 3-5 bibliographic entries, and a brief biography to Michele Meek at mm@michelemeek.com by August 31, 2024. Essay drafts will be due December 31, 2024 with subsequent revisions required after feedback. Publication is anticipated for 2025. If you have questions, contact mm@michelemeek.com.

About the Editor: Michele Meek, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. She has published several books including Consent Culture and Teen Films: Adolescent Sexuality in US Movies (Indiana University Press, 2023) and Independent Female Filmmakers: A Chronicle through Interviews, Profiles, and Manifestos (Routledge, 2019). She presented the TEDx talk “Why we’re confused about consent—rewriting our stories of seduction” and has published numerous peer-reviewed essays, book chapters, and articles in popular publications such as Ms. Magazine and Salon.com. For more information, visit michelemeek.com.


Michele Meek