What is “consent”? Is “consent” enough, and if it is enough, why is there so much sexual discontent in our culture — so many hurt and broken people?
What is “consent”?
The No. 2 link in a Google search gives this definition: “Consent is a voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. Consent for any sexual activity must be freely given” (SexandU, an initiative of Canada’s leading authority on sexual and reproductive health, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada).
Our Consent Culture
Not only are we constantly bombarded with sexual consent issues in the media, but young people are being “trained” in consent: On secular college campuses orientation activities for incoming students include “Consent Training” (and emphasize the absolute necessity of using a condom “correctly, and every time”). The same “consent and a condom” message is given to secondary school students and now, increasingly, at the elementary level as well. There is even a board book, C is for Consent, that teaches children who cannot yet read that they decide who can see and touch their body.
Is consent enough?
Mary Rice Hasson asked this question in her talk at Love & Fidelity’s “Sexuality, Integrity, and the University.” If consent is supposed to make everything right, she asked, why are so many women unhappy and unfulfilled? Why are there so many Harvey Weinsteins? Her answer: Because sex is not just a physical act, pleasure for a moment. Reducing sex to a transaction based on consent does something to the human heart.
How can the problem be fixed?
- We need to stop pretending, says Hasson, that as long as there’s no STD or unwanted pregnancy everything is okay. The Harvey Weinstein case exposed the lie that we can have casual sexual relationships without consequences.
- We need to recognize the inalienable dignity of the human person.
- We need to think about what sex is for. It’s so much more than a purely physical act, with one partner now, another next time. It is meant to be part of something much bigger: part of a relationship that includes love, respect, giving oneself totally to the other, permanence. This is what the human heart hungers for, the kind of relationship that is found in the commitment of marriage.
Watch the video of Hasson’s talk, “Sexual Consent and Throw-away Culture,” with your teens. Ask them the questions she asks: what their hearts hunger for, what is the meaning and purpose of sex and why it is so much more than consent. Search the Bible with them to find what God says.
“Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said,
‘This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.’
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2: 22-24).