Jill D. Weinberg

Jill Weinberg JillWeinberg2014@u.northwestern.edu
Advisor: Nielsen

Areas of Interest

Law and Society, Sexualities, Gender, Social Movements


Current Research

Dissertation Research: “Constructing Consent: Sex, Sports, and the Politics of Pain”

Committee: Laura Beth Nielsen(chair), Nicola Beisel, Andrew Koppelman (NU Law), Kristen Schilt (Univ. of Chicago Sociology)


Consent provides an important framework because individuals rely on the consent of another before engaging in behaviors that may ordinarily be impermissible (e.g., borrowing versus stealing).  Though we have a general consensus of what “consent” means, we rarely consider how it is constructed and who gets to define consent.  My dissertation “Constructing Consent: Sex, Sports, and the Politics of Pain,” examines the construction of consent, focusing on two activities of consensual violence: sexual sadomasochism (BDSM) and mixed martial arts (MMA).  These acts of consensual violence look the same and cause similar pain and physical damage and yet have different legal statuses and ramifications.   Drawing on case law, ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews, the research reveals a paradox.  In the illegal BDSM context (which is not monitored, regulated, or overseen by law), consent is made explicit and is highly regulated within this subculture.  Among MMA fighters, consent is less explicit and more difficult to understand; consent rarely is discussed even though the ground the rules of the game are often ambiguous, manipulated, and broken.  I also show how these communities develop different meanings of consent in which they simultaneously embrace and reject law.  Resisting formal law, both groups draw upon legal structures to regulate their actions, insulate their activities from legal liability as well as demonstrate their legitimacy as a community to a broader audience. 


2011-12, Northwestern University, Graduate Research Grant

2011, John Money Fellowship, Kinsey Institute of Sex and Gender, Indiana University

2010-2013, Contested Constructions of Discrimination, American Bar Foundation, Co-Principal Investigator

2010, MacArthur Foundation Collaborative Research Grant, Northwestern University

2010, Recipient of Earl S. and Esther Johnson Prize for Outstanding Paper, University of Chicago

2009 (declined), Palm Center Fellowship, University of California, Santa Barbara


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August 13, 2013