Friday, October 10, 2014

California Consent

There is an interesting new policy on consent in California public universities. They are demanding that people get explicit verbal consent before any progression of intimate contact. So there is a lot of potential for humor. In theory a man and a woman should have to ask each other dozens of questions during intercourse and demand clear and unambiguous answers to each one. 

It reminds me of GK Chesterton's line that if you don't obey the big laws you don't get no laws. You get a thousand little laws. Rebecca Frech has a funny post on this. 

I have said before the very concept of consent is quite problematic. You are working at the wrong level. You are assuming a superficial, short-term thing like consent is going to be adequate for something that has very deep and very long-lasting consequences. It does not work. It gets even worse when you consider the effect hormones and alcohol have on decision-making. The moment sex is about to happen is a really bad time to consider whether or not you want to do this. 

The California law does seem to make it a little less likely that people who are double-minded will consent. If it makes some people pause and ask their slightly reluctant partner if they really want to go through with it then that is a benefit. I am not sure how often that will actually happen but it has the potential to do some good.

I do worry that it will make some chaste Christian dating illegal. If you have an understanding from your shared Christian morality that sex is not happening anytime soon then you can allow for impulsive behavior. Having a man kiss a woman without asking should not be illegal. Asking changes the dynamic a lot. It makes it cold and calculating. Women want to feel like a man really desires them. That her womanhood has connected with his manhood and caused him to be overwhelmed by her beauty. A kiss says that. A question does not.

The key is the context. When you have a context that assumes chastity then you can embrace the impulsive nature of sexual expression and still keep boundaries. You don't have to worry that either party will interpret a great kiss as consent to sex. You know you are not going there. There is a freedom in that. 

Christians need to learn this. We focus on chastity. Yet chastity is only half the battle. What you should not be doing. What about what you should be doing? You should be shaping your sexual desire. You should be connecting it with love rather than lust. Yet what does that look like? It seem there are a lot of Catholic young adults who have trouble there. Men whose pursuit of women is so subdued and so polite that women simply don't respond. Logically they should be a good couple but he does not know how to spark the relationship to life. At some point you have to just kiss her.

So one problem with this law is that it equates virtuous sexual expression with rape. Kissing a girl as an honest act of erotic love in the context of Christian morality is a good thing to do. A good thing that many more conservative Christians don't realize is good. Often they are uncomfortable with anything erotic. There is a lot of confusion there. So this law might make that confusion worse by categorizing all intimate contact as sexual assault. 

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