Home Emotional aspects of sexuality Consensual sex Consent is vital even within loving relationships

Consent is vital even within loving relationships

Sexuality is about the personal choices we make to explore our sexuality both alone and with a lover. The way in which we express our sexuality should show consideration towards others. Everyone has the right to make their own sexual decisions without undue coercion from another person. Anyone may decide to remain a virgin or to be celibate. We need to respect other people’s sexual decisions. Sex should be a pleasure not an obligation.

Sex education needs to talk about sexuality in a coherent and consistent way. We must explain how intercourse can equate to lovemaking on one occasion and rape on another. For example, date rape involves a more passive female role than usual and a more proactive male role. But it is essentially the same as any other intercourse. So why do women object so vehemently? And why are men so desperate that they need to drug women?

Men are typically physically stronger than women and children. So the law protects these two vulnerable groups. Most societies have laws that make it illegal for children under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity (either with an adult or another under-age person). Sexual scenarios are very different for a woman, especially if she is inexperienced or has a new lover. It is implied that a man’s attitude (abusive versus loving) transforms intercourse from a pleasurable act into rape. But our response to stimulation cannot vary according to the attitude of the person supplying it.

Consent is not about responsiveness or even mutual pleasure. Women are not aroused by sexual activity with a lover at any age. But by the time they are adult, women have gained an appreciation of what they want from men. Consent is more about a person having the social maturity and life experience to understand the consequences of engaging in sexual activity. An adult is assumed to have the experience and confidence to make their own sexual decisions and, if they are unwilling, to stand up to anyone who puts pressure on them (emotional or otherwise) to engage in sexual activity.

A woman is assumed to have the maturity to understand the significance of sexual activity and the associated risks. A woman is expected to know that intercourse may result in her becoming pregnant if she doesn’t take precautions (use a contraceptive). A woman learns how she can use sex to obtain a man’s commitment to her. Men tend to be very willing to support a woman financially as long as they are getting regular intercourse. Some men are amazingly devoted to pleasing their lovers in other ways (than sex) and we often see this devotion portrayed as a characteristic of male partners.

Even though men always initiate sex, they still convince themselves that women want it. If we want something badly enough, we can convince ourselves of anything. It’s difficult for women to understand because there’s nothing they need that badly. We all need air to breath, water and food but these things don’t depend on another person’s cooperation. A man may realise that a woman is unenthusiastic about sex because of her lack of enthusiasm or because she takes obvious steps to avoid sex. As long as this apathy goes unacknowledged, a man can continue to obtain intercourse from a woman on the basis that she does not object. Many women are far from enthusiastic about sex but they rarely object explicitly. During sex, a man can explore a woman’s body within the limits set by her tacit approval.
Men are proactive because of their arousal. One of the issues with consent is that women tend to passively accept sexual activity that men initiate.

Unhealthy relationships are where people use intimacy, sex or a show of affection to get what they want: to manipulate, to exploit or to control. Women have much less control than men have. This explains why women are less enthusiastic about casual sex than men are. A few men are violent and abusive towards women. Some men have deviant sexual behaviours.

If men who were sex pests were required to wear a sign, it would be easy. Women cannot identify men who are a danger or just a nuisance. So any man is a potential threat, regardless of whether he is likely to make an advance even if he is attracted to a woman. This is a shame for the many men who go about their business without hassling women at all. Most men engage in friendly conversation first and then look for a sign (encouraging feedback) that a woman is attracted to them before they make any advance.

Traditionally intercourse has always been a fully condoned (even encouraged sexual activity) even by the strictest of religions because of men’s need for regular sexual interaction. An implicit assumption of marriage is that a woman consents to have intercourse with her husband. Intercourse represents the easiest way to satisfy a man’s needs while at the same time requiring minimal time and effort for a woman. A wife’s refusal to consummate the marriage (by offering intercourse) may be grounds for annulment. Regardless of her relationship status, a woman retains her rights over her own body, including what she does with it and what a lover can do with it. When it comes to sexual decisions, we should only do what we are comfortable with and not what others (even a lover) tell us we should do.

In marriage the male more or less assumes that coitus is his privilege, and the law confirms him in this interpretation. (Alfred Kinsey 1953)