Having spoken of a consent1, we should expect to come in due course to a consent2, consent in a different sense or register to the contractual. Suppose we shift the emphasis away from the consenting1 act, the act which establishes consent-value, and towards consensuality as the state of being in consent2. Here it is not a question of my own autonomous decision that something should be or not be, but of mutual comfort and acquiescence: we are consensual when we are in consent2 with each other. Consensuality is not monologic (a speaker speaks, acts, consents) but dialogic (consensus, fellow-feeling, is sought and found). I cannot consent2 for you, but I also cannot consent2 without you, since the destination I am seeking does not exist unless we are both there.
Consent1 is premised on individual autonomy, and materialised through a speech act in which the speaker is positioned as the bearer of a kind of ideal sovereignty: my body, my law. Consent2 is premised on the irreducible two-ness of the sexual situation: there are (at least) two bodies, (at least) two libidinal economies in play. Now, it is possible to think that the law of this situation can be derived by “adding together” two rulings: I decree thus, and you decree thus, and so consent is established as the reconciliation of two autonomies. Commercial sexual transactions are supposed to work like this: there is no “two” involved, but rather a “one” (who wants something clearly indicable) and another “one” (who agrees, with reference to a tariff of services, to provide it). Money changes hands, and the law is upheld. But it is also possible to think that there is no one law of the situation, no rapporte sexuelle in which our respective roles are given, and that autonomy and heteronomy are superposed in consensuality.
How does this work? In the first instance, we are not talking of “power exchange”, the transfer between parties of a single focus of autonomy (I let you decide). The consensual situation is one in which there is no single focus of autonomy: “power” is not concentrated in this fashion; no-one (no “one”) is fully “dominant”, even temporarily. (Too bad for the fantasists! But they are free to pretend if it pleases them). This does not mean that we are immediately in a situation of “full equality”, where no-one has any power whatsoever; rather, it means that both of our powers are entangled, in contention and combination, and that no single power emerges as the output of this engagement.
Consent2 implies reciprocity: it begins with our being in the same situation, a situation to which we are present-as-two, and is destroyed as soon as either of us wishes to put the other in their place, to manage the situation so that it is “my” situation and the other is merely a part of it (a paid performer, for example). It is meaningful here to speak (as some hopeful feminists have done) of a “consent process” (although we prefer the harsher-sounding “truth procedure”), since consent2 cannot be punctually decided but must unfold over time, testing itself point by point. The consent-value of such a situation is the modal accumulation of a series of yesses and nos, and is never complete.