It’s a Mad, Mad World

The latest from Bjørn Vosskriger at Social Matter

Why Thrust Agency on Those Who Neither Have Nor Want It?

Inspired by the presentation of the Vagina Monologues, a Claremont McKenna College sophomore, Jordan Bosiljevac, a self-described queer woman of color, recently unleashed a broadside targeting California’s new “Yes Means Yes” law. In it it she opines that “Consent is a privilege, and it was built for wealthy, heterosexual, cis, white, western, able-bodied masculinity.“

My favorite line in the op-ed, however, was the following: “For me, and many others like me, consent isn’t easy. Yes doesn’t always mean yes, and we misplaced ‘no’ several years ago.“ Rarely does one see so clear an admission of such low agency. If, by her own admission, her “yes” cannot be trusted in any meaningful sense, why would she be given any of the burdens and responsibilities of adulthood, such as: the ability to sign contracts for student loans, vote, purchase cigarettes, and yes, consent meaningfully for sex?

In 2003, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein published a highly influential behavioral economics paper entitled Libertarian Paternalism. The paper defends the idea that humans are often predictably irrational. They can–and should be–“nudged” into making better decisions (the paternalistic part), by changing default options, while still preserving their freedom to make sub-optimal choices (the libertarian part). Without any serious debate, most societies have adopted a default option regarding agency; rights and responsibilities are “granted” as citizens reach certain age-based milestones. Given that people mature at wildly different rates, and in the case of Jordan Bosiljevac, may never mature at all, is this not an incredibly arbitrary process?

Read the whole post here.

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