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October 23, 2007


Why would anyone say "no"? Are there some circumstances where oral consent would be asked for where Hawking's vocal synthesizer wouldn't do the job well enough? I wouldn't have thought so.

Also, I expected this post to end with "And if not, would sex with Steven Hawking necessarily be rape?"

Clearly 'n'. But not a meaningful 'no'. No, because he's on the wrong side of the 'oral' barrier, just by not moving air through his vocal chords in a way that produces sounds intended and received as affirmations or denials.

I don't think miming saying 'yes' or 'no' (mouth moving, no sound produced) is going to count as oral consent (or dissent) either.

But I think both Hawking and the mime get to participate in other forms of consent; and I don't think a restriction on consent to an oral form would be very valuable anyway, so they aren't losing out on much.

Oral as in the mouth: yes, since he can deliberately produce observable phenomena with his mouth and can communicate by other means a system for understanding those phenomena.

Oral consent as in the legal concept: Beats me. I suspect that synthesized speech would qualify, but would have to watch the corresponding episode of Law & Order to know for sure.

Oral as in the popular and imprecise understanding that we're talking about sound or maybe dentists: who cares, those people spell it aural half the time. Just keep your head down and refrain from correcting their speech during your annual review.

Also, I expected this post to end with "And if not, would sex with Steven Hawking necessarily be rape?"

On the one hand, he could express consent in other wise. On the other hand, we might distinguish between rape and sexual intercourse. Now, one cannot partake of intercourse—Social communication between individuals—with someone who cannot talk. Sexual intercourse would a fortiori be ruled out, forcing one to the alternative.

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