Boundaries Are Broken

On What We Get All Wrong About Abuse

Our understanding of abuse if broken. Mainly because we define it as an unconsented crossing of boundaries.

This is a vision of what's abusive and what's not deeply rooted in a mercantilistic vision of what means being human. It is understanding our integrity as a form of property over ourselves. It is viewing people as delitimed by little fences, around their bodies, their minds, their souls, similar to those around their houses, their wives, their nations and the products of their artistry. That's how capitalism see humans – self-possessing entities, the only beings in the universe who have the god-like ability to be both their own possession and their own owner.

And if we swallowed that, then we're ready to swallow that abuse starts and ends around those boundaries.

When you trespass, you're being abusive. When you don't, you're not.

Our understanding of abuse is broken. It doesn't mean it's all bad. Boundaries and consent are not bad things in themselves, and consent culture made us more careful about how we interact with one another, which is good, particularly in intimate situations. What I'm saying is that this model is flawed: it has problems who cannot be solved because they are structural.

For example, one of them is you cannot push it too far or it falls down the cliff. Every human interaction starts unconsented. You can ask for consent, and you can ask if you can ask for consent, but, at some point, you can't ask if you can ask if you can ask for consent. Art, too, is unconsented. You cannot give truly informed consent before watching a movie or reading a book. And even if you ask to know the content in advance, you cannot give consent for the ways in which it will moves you and changes you. Otherwise it's entertainment, not art. Heck, nobody even consented to their birth.

Consent in life is an exception, and using a model where it is supposed to be the rule creates cognitive dissonance in a lot of situations, weights on our psyche and leads to moral conundrums, while leaving us unprepared for navigating life. But that's only one of the flaws, and I won't go there further, because there is another problem, which I believe to be way worse.

When I was branded "an abuser",