As a writer about sex work and sex trafficking I often state that these can be complex issues. I try to discuss related subjects which others seem to ignore. I only say this as a sort of apology for stepping into the world of feminism. The idea of “consent” seems to arise from the world of feminist academics.
The idea of consent depends on the widely held assumption that men, often all men, are uncontrollably brutal and generally aggressive in physical sexual contact. This is a natural out-growth of a hysterical period when “date rape” has been highly exaggerated.
Researchers have concluded that only a small number of men are potential date rapists, but they are often repeat offenders. Those situations and specifically those rare offenders deserve a completely different solution. Asking a woman for her “consent” is not useful for that problem. It becomes rape when consent is ignored.
The idea of “consent” has been put to use as a way to bureaucratize the basic interaction of the always awkward first steps when young people (or people of all ages) meet with potential romantic intentions. I have read that universities now provide lectures to arriving young ladies, presumed to be on the innocent side, into the school’s requirement in use of consent as they progress in meeting men.
Men have also been counseled in rules of consent. In theory the man is required to ask if he may kiss his female friend, for example. She is required to respond positively or negative. In other words, to consent or not. And he must respond accordingly. Assuming she does consent to a kiss, he may ask if he can touch her body, possibly her breasts, and again she is expected to reply. And this can go on and on. In more traditional environments this can easily seem humorous after awhile. “Sweety, do I have your permission to take it out now?”
By personal experience, some women seem quite satisfied to stop earlier than the man. Women do learn to masturbate as teenagers just as men do. It can be very satisfying and even experimental for the woman if a man uses his finger and to accomplish the same feeling of satisfaction. That could easily be the point where mutual consent take a shift. The woman is now satisfied and finished. The man is not satisfied. This is where a man may find sudden lack of consent difficult. Most men understand that. Men can look forward for more adventure later. It’s okay.
There are many women who have left virginity behind in their teens. Why is there no clear understanding that both women and men enjoy sex? Sex is fun, mutually. Here is an example in my life that leads me to that opinion.
As a young man I was in university when these issues were more traditional. I was a student at Kent State University at the time when PlayBoy Magazine ranked it as a party school. There were a couple of busy student bars with music and dancing downtown in Kent, Ohio – an easy walk from school dorms. There were many housing options downtown too.
What I learned was that if the goal of going to those bars was a relationship at the end of the night, what we next needed to learn was if the women we met had the same goal. Often they did. If not, the evening can still be fun. No problem.
I shared a large house two blocks from those bars with three other guys. One was a good looking, well to do, football player. On several occasions I would be at the communal breakfast table when a lovely young college coed would come out of his room with a smile on her face. They were never the same and never looked unhappy in any way. Maybe I would ask if she wished to share a bowl of cereal.
They were nice to me. Outgoing. I never shared a night that way, but I would have liked the experience. I was a boring ordinary guy back then – still am. But the point is that those women seemed happy. They got what they wanted, and, yes, expected. That was back in the mid-70s. Long ago for many people. But now we seem to forget both parties enjoyed sex.
The word “consent” is not a good word. It could just as easily be “comply” and many feminists might prefer that word. Comply is stronger as if a man does not just ask. He commands, she complies. The current social environment seems to be reacting to an understanding that consent is a reaction to strong behavior from men.
I think better words would be “mutual cooperation”. If either the man or woman say a simple “okay” or “is this good for you” with a gentle tone, that is recognition of mutual cooperation. It might be old fashion, but if that is not what is happening, it can be considered a potential act of rape because it exceeds mutual cooperation. The vast majority of men will know to back off when it is clear that mutual cooperation has stopped. If he does back off, he may still have had a good time to that point and he may have another chance later. Or the woman has learned she has not found a good partner. That is okay too.
I had a related experience which I will share. I worked for three years in Albania with the State Department and made a lot of friends. My wife was there with me. I was a normal guy wishing to be loyal to our relationship. But later we divorced. It was painful for me, but about a year after the divorce I visited Albania. One of those old friends, an Air Traffic Controller, introduced me to a friend also an ATC. She was nice and separated from her husband with a cute small daughter. The three of us went to the beach and restaurants. My new friend got a babysitter and we drove down the coast to a hotel. For the first time we got into bed. It was nice. But suddenly she yelled at me “Get out! Get out!” I was shocked. I guess you could say our mutual cooperation was broken.
I rushed out of the room and stood on the porch looking at the ocean. After cooling off I returned and found her crying. As it turned out we had an international-style conversational problem. As an ATC she speaks English well, but what she meant to say was “Pull out. Pull out”. She apologized for being so loud. (Albanians often seem loud.) She explained she said that because she knew I had a condom and she wanted me to use it. No problem. But the mood was broken. We tried again the next morning.
But the point is that this was an example of traditional mutual cooperation, not modern consent. Sex can have its funny moments and, as I look back, this is one. I was a lonely man deprived of sex and was with an exciting new friend.
Frankly, my experiences have taught me that, first, women are often in full accord with sexual activity. Second, men with evil intensions are rare. The entire process of sex is best conducted with mutual cooperation, even skilled teamwork. The idea of “consent” requires acceptance of a feminist concept of men being evil and women as weak complying partners. This will continue to change when sexual behavior matures into. a modern world of sexual freedom.