With widely publicized accounts of date rape and sexual assault, discussions about consent are big these days.
The Thames Valley Police even made a video explaining consent in what is possibly the simplest and most comprehensive way ever. It’s just like tea party etiquette!
While this is all good (and true and important) the fact that it’s a thing at all is depressing.
Because sex is actually, really, much more important than tea.
And having sex is really, actually, a much bigger deal than having tea with someone.
If the importance of sex was a generally understood thing, if our collective time and energy and money went more to understanding virtue than it did to a billion dollar pornography industry, we wouldn’t be in a crisis of consent.
Any man or woman who understands and values chastity does not “accidentally” rape his or her date.
Any man or woman who understands and values dignity, temperance, candor, and honor will be able to both set healthy boundaries and respect the boundaries of others.
But all of those things are preachy outdated and old fashioned. I am forcing my morality on you. Who am I to say what’s right and wrong? We get to pick our own values, even if that means being so casual about sex that all the sudden we have a spawning population of people who don’t understand consent. Ok, nevermind, we have one value: Consent. Because we still understand that rape is bad.
Consent, consent, CONSENT.
CONSENT IS EVERYTHING. So if both parties are consenting, it’s OK ,right?
No. Consent is not enough to make sex OK.
Consent is not enough when an abused and insecure 18 year old signs a contract for a porn film where violent degrading things are done to her for the entertainment of millions, a video that brings her pain and shame, and regret and people who “recognize” her for years to come. Her consent is not enough to make that sex OK.
Consent is not enough when a starving mother is offering up herself as a prostitute to feed her kids. Her consent is not enough to make that sex OK.
Consent is not enough when someone in a position of authority (like, maybe, a teacher) has sex with someone subordinate to them. Or, you know, fourteen years old. Her consent does not make that sex OK. Regardless of what judges or academics say about sex with consenting minors.
Consent is not enough for any man and woman, to come together in this sacred way, and to play biological Russian Roulette*** that may create a child that they are not willing, ready, or able to care for, a child for whom they are not willing to provide a united mother and father, a child that they may literally sacrifice on the alter of their entitlement to do whatever they want–their consent is not enough to make that sex OK.
It’s not. There’s something more needed, and that something is Honor.
As a noun, Honor means “high respect, esteem, privilege.”
As a verb, honor means, “to regard with great respect.”
When we all see sex as an honor, a privilege, something that is of great value, not something you do with someone to be pleasant or sociable or because they paid for the date, guess what? Consent becomes a non-issue.
When we learn to deeply honor, or regard with great respect, sex–it becomes something that we won’t do, and won’t even feel pressured or tempted* to do, with someone who isn’t our everything. In fact, when we honor sex to the point that it’s sacred to us, we may only have sex with one person over the course of a lifetime. We may end up only having sex with a person with whom we are willing and able to partner as mother and father to all children who deliberately (or not deliberately) come our way. When we honor sex, the sex we have is honorable, and in this mutually held honor, consent becomes a non-issue. We honor one another and the act of sex enough that it’s not happening when the both of us are not happening. When the honor is really and fully there, we don’t have to have lengthy explanations about the do’s and don’ts of serving tea–the do’s and don’ts of sex, to those who have a mature honor for sex, the “nuances” of consent are patently self-evident.
So. We can sit back and point out all the hypocrisies and shortcomings of the stuffy past societies that honored sex and valued chastity–“they were a buncha hypocrites! Look at the marital rape and the rape culture and the sexist double standard and this bad thing and that other bad thing!”
Oooor….maybe, just maybe, we can look at what happens when we combine the values we forgot about in the sexual revolutions of the 20th century (chastity, temperence, honor), with the values trendy now (compassion**, free will, inclusiveness). What kind of tomorrow would we have?
It would be a beautiful tomorrow. It could even be a tomorrow in which most people not only understood consent, but bigger things. Better things. Honorable, happy making, trauma mitigating, disease-eradicating things.
*Yes, it’s possible, even in a highly sexualized world as a sexual being with sexy, sexy feelings. It’s possible.
**If we’re actually more compassionate…but that’s a discussion for another day)
***I don’t care if you were “safe,” or “fixed.” You’ve stacked the odds against conception, but you’re still gambling with the body of a possible Child. Your possible Child. If you 100% can’t handle a baby, there’s only one 100% solution, excepting in rare (1 in all of ever) cases of immaculate conception. And God gets consent before blessing the abstinent with children.