George Galloway, bondage, consent and left unity screw-ups

George Galloway’s intervention on what constitutes rape has damaged himself, his party and Julian Assange as well. There has been an attempted damage limitation exercise involving all of us defending Assange’s right to a fair trial (innocent until proven guilty), and against his being removed to the USA for wikileaks ‘crimes’. But some comrades are intent on exploiting  Galloway’s intervention, to give him special status: a figure of hate who should be denied any platform on anything from here on in: persona non-grata.

Unless he offers the kind of apology that would satisfy Women against Rape and Salma Yaqoob, he is pretty much finished as part of the left. However, for many no apology will ever be enough. For the reasons spelt out by Richard Seymour’s recent article on left unity, I think this is a mistake. All fragments of the left and individuals who compose these groups fuck up from time to time. The alternative to Life of Brian caricature of socialist groups is to permit a mea culpa from time to time, provide we don’t abuse the privilege. With that in mind I want to comment on Galloway’s redefinition of rape.

What Galloway said was a disaster. But I think there is a point he came close to making but screwed up, much as he did with his notoriously ambiguous “indefatigability” speech. Galloway has no right to tell anyone when they have entered ‘the sex game’. Everyone has the right to change their minds, and refuse sex to those they have had sex with before, including before they went to sleep, just as they have the right to change their minds at any point during a sex act. However, there is a grey area. That relates to the fact that not everyone shares ‘common sense’ attitudes to sex.

If there is a consensual relationship where both partners draw up rules that seem bonkers to the rest of us, we may deem them psychologically damaging, but we cannot let the state intervene too much here. As with other forms of bondage, it is not impossible that one partner may give prior consent to the other to have sex while they are asleep. That may be an idiotic thing to consent to: I personally think it is. It may be illegal to agree to such an arrangement: I genuinely have no idea about that. But if such an agreement was entered into and both parties openly admit this (possibly having drawn up a contract with witnesses), even if it turns out to have been an illegal document, the fact that someone thought he had been given such prior consent has to count for something with a jury and or the Director of Public Prosecutions. Let me emphasise that I most definitely am not saying this has any bearing on Juliann Assange’s guilt or innocence.  Nor am I saying these ambiguities were in George Galloway’s mind when he redefined what consent means. What I am saying is that not everyone agrees with the vanilla definitions of sex. Bondage and sado-masochistic fetishists have rights too. And that fact appears to be getting lost amid the genuine outrage at what Galloway said.

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One Response to George Galloway, bondage, consent and left unity screw-ups

  1. Pingback: Richard Seymour’s ‘Recall conference’ | WORKERS UNITED

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