Coercion or Consent?

One reoccurring concept that caught my attention this quarter is the building of empire through consent or coercion. Consent, allowing someone to take over you, was first introduced to us by through the Aeneid. Empire building through coercion was much more talked about during the second half of Humanities Core with concepts such as American manifest destiny. Learning about these concepts made me think about American rape culture. Rape culture is victim blaming and the encouragement of violence. Rape culture promotes the misinterpretation of consent and coercion which is also seen throughout Humanities Core where we see mistakes in what is consent and what is coercion.

There cannot be consent without a clear affirmation. In Waiting of the Barbarians by Coetzee, the Magistrate justifies his relationship with a barbarian girl by telling himself that he is helping her. However, he is taking advantage of her because she is hurt and abandoned in the Outpost. He never bothers to ask her about if she is okay with staying with him until he has let her go. This is very similar to the perception many Americans have about consent. Rape culture promotes the idea that because a victim did not say no the default answer is yes. This mindset encourages sexual violence especially with college students. This was such a problem that California recently passed a law defining consent as yes means yes, a need for clear affirmation. Additionally, the law states that “Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent,” to further clarify what true consent is, however even with clear affirmation it is possible not to have consent.

Consent through intimidation is coercion. One of this first thing we learned about was the strength of the Roman army that was the key to the success of the Roman Empire. Because the Roman Army was notorious for being ruthless, they conquered area through intimidation. Professor Zissos claimed in his lecture that the Roman Empire depended more on consent than coercion, however he misunderstands what true consent is. This is wrong because his argument is that, it was in the best interest of Non-Romans to become Roman, is based off consent through the intimidation of the Roman army. If Non-Romans chose to rebel they would lose or go bankrupt trying to fight, like rebellions before them. Therefore, making submissiveness the better option, and creating the illusion of consent when it was coercion. This misunderstanding of consent is prevalent in rape culture. University of California Irvine’s CARE office states Giving in because of fear is NOT consent. Giving in or going along with someone to gain approval or to avoid being hurt is NOT consent.” addressing the issue that consent through intimidation is coercion.

One cannot fully give consent without being aware of what he or she is giving up. This issue was presented in class through Native American Indians signing away their rights in treaties, technically giving consent however not understanding what they were giving up. Natives did not understand that by signing a treaty they were agreeing being exploited. For this very same reason each state has laws addressing statutory rape, because a young child is not able to comprehend the severity of sexual intercourse therefore cannot give consent.



“California Enacts ‘Yes Means Yes’ Law, Defining Sexual Consent”. N.p., 2016. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.

“UCI CARE | Understanding Consent”. N.p., 2016. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.


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