Consent and Ableism in the wider Internet Community
Having grown up in a time where sexuality and kink was all seen as okay, so long as everyone involved is consenting fully, being on the internet now is a strange diversion from that. A lot of the younger internet-dwellers of today, especially on social media like Twitter and Tiktok, are pursuing a theme of sexual puritanism that is honestly quite alarming. No longer is it a reaction of “I’m not into that, but you do you.” It’s instead a reaction of “That’s disgusting,” or “You should end your own life for feeling that way.” It’s really quite shocking, and I can only imagine what the future will be like should this mindset go unchallenged.
As an asexual, thoughts like that have never made sense to me. Why is it when something becomes sexual, suddenly the bar is different? Why is it an entirely different set of rules and regulations, simply because genitals are involved? And in some cases, the fact of it being sexual at all can vary from person to person. There can be an image with no nudity at all and you will still see people online arguing whether or not the image is a fetish picture simply because it focuses on the feet. But whether it is or it isn’t, why should that matter at all to someone who isn’t interested?
And ultimately, when it comes to rules and regulations for zoo, we face more scrutiny than most because of a perception that our partners “can’t consent.” But what is the bar for consenting? After all, consent merely means that all parties involved want to be involved. But, consider for a moment my previous question: why is the bar so different for when it’s sexual? Did you ask the animal’s consent to be taken from their parents and brought to your home? Did you ask their consent for the time you brought home their food? Did you ask their consent on the color of the collar, the methods of training, the time in which you walk them… But no, consent for these things is not important apparently. Just the sexual aspects. Why?
Let’s consider the arguments against animal consent. “Animals cannot consent because they don’t speak English to tell us.” Okay, so one has to speak English specifically? Obvious conversations about people who are not English-speaking aside (I shouldn’t have to explain THAT one), are you saying one has to be able to verbally consent? If that is the case, how is that not an ablest argument against people who are mute? Consent can be given in other ways than verbal, otherwise you are silencing the existence of nonverbal disabilities.
“Animals are not able to consent because they’re not old enough.” Well, another ablest comment, because this one assumes that “age of consent” is a consistent, magical number that reflects sexual maturity for every individual. Not that it’s a fluctuating, changing number depending on location. But lets just consider the idea, shall we? Rats, for one, become sexually mature as young as 8 weeks, and have a lifespan of under 3 years. Clearly 3 years old is too young for humans to have sex, so we should bar rats from it? Or alternatively, some dog breeds can live past 20. So its okay if the dog makes it to 18?
“I meant mental maturity.” Okay, mental age of consent. Does this mean sexually mature? Because that’s when a human hits puberty, and I doubt you’re advocating to have sex with 12 year old humans. But just in case you’re referring to the outdated concept that “dogs are mentally like 3 year old humans,” just remember that idea also bars dogs from ever having sex. Which means you’d need to apply that same logic to dogs having sex with each other, and infantilizing all species with lower intelligence than humans to just never be able to procreate.
In any case, that last argument falls flat considering “mental maturity” is a concept to explain things like an animal’s ability to do math, not their ability to decide to have sex. Its a very different standard, one that modern scientists reject anyway. Humans and animals have different standards of intelligence, and one shouldn’t have to pass a 6th grade algebra course to have sex considering how wildly different those are.
So, back to my original question: Why does any of this matter? I don’t see people advocating quite as hard against horse breeders; considering the process for that is jerking off a male horse, then injecting that male horse’s semen into a female horse of your choice. Did you ask both of those horses if they wanted to be parents? Did you ask the female horse if she was ready to be pregnant, go through childbirth, and be a mother? And what of the animals in the animal kingdom whose entire procreation is focused on rape? Male cats have barbed penises to hold a female cat down, and to prevent their escape during sex. Female ducks have adapted to have very complex, spiralling insides to avoid impregnation, and thus male ducks have adapted to have long spiralling penises to compensate.
Ultimately, I think what’s important is that you respect your animal partner and give them the best life they could have. Make them happy. Help them to live their fullest life, as their time on earth is shorter than ours (unless of course, your partner is a tortoise…). When it comes to sexuality, I hope that people can stop treating anything sexual as some wild taboo that has strict, consistent, definitive answers to every question. You know your animal partner best. If you’ve ever had a pet, you should know many animals are extremely good at telling you when they don’t consent to things (like my dog who straight up leaves the room whenever my brother, whom she does not like, walks in). Just trust yourself, trust your pet, and make them happy. Whatever that involves.
Article written by CitrusShroom (October 2022)
Find him at https://twitter.com/CitrusShroom
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