Author Response to Symposium: What Does it Mean to Consent?

38 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2020 Last revised: 21 Oct 2020

See all articles by Nancy S. Kim

Nancy S. Kim

Chicago-Kent College of Law - Illinois Institute of Technology

Date Written: June 10, 2020


I am grateful to the Loyola Law Review for publishing this symposium issue on my book, Consentability: Consent and Its Limits. The contributors to this issue are all prominent scholars who have wrestled with the issue of consent and autonomy in their respective fields, and this symposium is an invaluable opportunity to engage with them on these topics. I thank each of them for their insights and their helpful comments and criticisms. I also thank Danielle Kie Hart for conceiving of and thoughtfully organizing the symposium issue, Brian Bix for writing the incisive and comprehensive foreword, and the members of the Loyola Law Review for their careful work editing this symposium issue. It has truly been a pleasure and an honor.

This book project first started as a way for me to understand why the law permits individuals to consent to some activities but not others. This captures one of the two meanings of the term “consentability.” The first meaning refers to legality. Certain acts are simply not permitted and so one is not allowed to consent to them. These activities include paid sex work and selling one’s organs. But the question of legality or legal permissibility is tied to the second meaning of consentability, that of possibility. Some acts are not legal because it seems unlikely that anyone could or would actually want to consent to them. The nature of the act itself makes us question the validity of the consent. We believe that something went awry in the decision-making process—that there was some type of coercion involved, a lack of information about what the activity entailed, or some other defect in the decision- making process. We suspect, in other words, that given what the activity entails, nobody would really want to participate. This, however, raises the question—what does it mean to consent? My book proposes a framework for evaluating consentability that recognizes the integrality of consent.

Keywords: consent, consentability autonomy, individual liberty, Harm Principle

JEL Classification: K1, K10, K12, K13, K14

Suggested Citation

Kim, Nancy S., Author Response to Symposium: What Does it Mean to Consent? (June 10, 2020). Loyola Law Review, New Orleans, Vol. 66, No. 1, Spring 2020, Available at SSRN:

Nancy S. Kim (Contact Author)

Chicago-Kent College of Law - Illinois Institute of Technology ( email )

565 W. Adams St.
Chicago, IL 60661-3691
United States

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