Dissent-Sensitive Permissions

Document Type


Publication Date



What makes it permissible to reach out to hold someone’s hand on a first date, or to rub a friend’s back when she is crying? This paper, a contribution to the special issue on Doug Husak, argues that conventions, context, and relationships play a role in shifting normative boundaries, such that the default rule becomes that it is permissible to touch someone until she dissents (thereby creating a ‘dissent-sensitive permission’). Part I of this paper focuses on convention-type cases, contrasting dates with the intentional touchings that occur on crowded streets or while playing football. Part II then addresses the range of normative justifications that track these different cases. Part III adds a different way that dissent-sensitive permissions can arise—from relationships and common ground. Part IV unearths the underlying rights-structure that my view presupposes and returns to the question of whether the theory I have on offer is one of consent. Part V argues that this approach, that these are alterations of permissibility, is superior to the view that conventions only impact the actor’s blameworthiness by rendering his belief reasonable. Part VI raises questions of whether our understanding of consent dictates our understanding of dissent.


consent, touching, contact, dating

Publication Title

Law and Philosophy