Consent and Coercion

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50 Ariz. St. L.J. 951 (2018). Kimberly Kessler Ferzan.

There are substantial disputes as to what sorts of behavior constitute coercion and thereby undermine consent. This disagreement was on full display during the public fray over Aziz Ansari’s behavior on a date. Whereas some commentators condemned Ansari’s behavior as nothing short of sexual assault, others believed his behavior did not rise to the level of undermining consent.

This Article claims that the way forward is to see that there are two normative functions for coercion, and each is at play with respect to consent. Sometimes coercion is about the blameworthiness of the coercer, and sometimes coercion is about the involuntariness of the consenter’s choice. To deny the latter is not to deny the former. Because these are two disparate functions, much of the debate about Ansari may be commentators talking past each other.

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