A principal cause of the disregard or demonization of women’s agency is the ‘functional fiction’ of autonomy. Whilst arguably a necessary means of attribution of causation and responsibility for human action, the concept of autonomy – sliced ‘thick’ or ‘thin’ – is characterised by a liberal individualism that eschews the complexity of women’s agency for an atomistic abstractive notion of individual volition and reason. As a result, attributions of victimhood or transgression have to be ‘inscribed’ onto women. Drawing on the example of rape and sexual consent, I will seek to argue that if we are to adequately understand and compose a notion of women’s agency that represents the choices, experiences and situatedness of women, it is necessary to recognise that an idea of ‘autonomy’ will not do. Instead, we need a notion of agency that sits dialectically between reason and affect, recognises the relationship between embodiment, discourse and the cultural, contextual and conjunctural constitution of a given space and moment of agency, and neither dilutes womanhood within a post-modern contingency nor reifies it to a defining category but recognises it as a presence that characterises how we see agency and how it is seen by the agent.
|Title of host publication||Women and Violence: The Agency of Victims and Perpetrators|
|Editors||Heather Widdows, Herjeet Marway|
|Place of Publication||London|
|Number of pages||0|
|Publication status||Published - 2015|
|Name||Genders and Sexualities in the Social Sciences|
Reynolds, P. (2015). 'Women's agency and the fallacy of autonomy: the example of rape and sexual consent'. In H. Widdows, & H. Marway (Eds.), Women and Violence: The Agency of Victims and Perpetrators (pp. 197-215). (Genders and Sexualities in the Social Sciences). Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137015129