The Politics of Consent


Some (mostly male) scholars and analysts have posed the question of whether the rape of Lucretia was actually rape. They post the argument that Lucretia may have actually wanted to have sex with Tarquinius. But here’s the thing: 


That’s it. Period. The end. Here’s a fun fact: ‘no’ means no, and ‘I don’t know’ is also no. If you have a sexual partner that you are exploring using the word ‘no’ or other kinds of resistance as part of sexual or physical play - and it is discussed and agreed upon beforehand - that is absolutely fine. However, unless that’s discussed and agreed upon beforehand, no is no. And guess what!


It doesn’t matter if she may have wanted to have sex with him on some level - she expressed a boundary, and it was crossed. Violently so. Within the cultural context of this moment, I think that playing up the angle of ambiguous desire is foolish. While there are certainly situations in most lives - including my own - where consent is a little more ambiguous, given the medium that we’re working with and the audience that we are addressing, I find it especially important to emphasize this point. As a society, we don’t have the vocabulary and emotional knowledge necessary to digest this in a useful way: played in this light, the opera runs the risk of being fodder for sexual predators and the cultural machinery that perpetuates the cycles of sexual assault and abuse. Our culture of consent is broken. It is fucked up. People have not been taught how to draw or respect physical and emotional boundaries. Here is a great example of someone drawing a boundary, and it not being respected. For me, that is the most important angle here. Dialogues about what consent is and how it can be established must be held. Must. Must. Must. Theatrical situations that invite or require people to touch one another must take care to help people draw, understand, and respect their own and one another’s physical and emotional boundaries.

Text: Rachel McIntosh

Benjamin Britten: The Rape of Lucretia 


Performances: November 16th to 23rd, Helsinki Music Centre, Sonore hall 
Buy your ticket

Sibelius Academy Opera and orchestra

Markus Lehtinen, conductor
Victoria Newlyn, director
Sampo Pyhälä, set designer
Sofia Pantouvaki, costume designer
Riina Laine, make-up designer
Eero Erkamo, lighting designer

Further information: Mirka Rättyä, 050 526 2005,