In this novel approach to understanding consent, Jill D. Weinberg presents two case studies of activities in which participants engage in violent acts: competitive mixed martial arts (MMA) and sexual sadism and masochism (BDSM). Participants in both cases assent to injury and thereby engage in a form of social decriminalization, using the language of consent to render their actions legally and socially tolerable. Yet, these activities are treated differently under criminal battery law: sports, including MMA, are generally absolved from the charge of criminal battery, whereas BDSM often represents a violation of criminal battery law.
Using interviews and ethnographic observation, Weinberg argues that where law authorizes a person’s consent to an activity, as in MMA, consent is not meaningfully constructed or regulated by the participants themselves. In contrast, where law prohibits a person’s consent to an activity, as in BDSM, participants actively construct and regulate consent.
A synthesis of criminal law and ethnography, Consensual Violence is a fascinating account of how consent is framed among participants engaged in violent acts and lays the groundwork for a sociological understanding of the process of decriminalization.