Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Requiring Consent

Liberals have been catching some flack lately as they have sought to come up with new methods of making sure that people only have sex with each other's consent. Various commentators on the Right have questioned this, suggesting either that this takes all the spontaneity out of campus sex and turns it into something drab and legalistic, or that the this would still leave accusations that consent was not given in the realm of he-said-she-said conflicts judged by university kangaroo courts.

However, I'd like to point out that back in the good old days, we conservatives knew that it was the administration's job to stomp all the fun and spontaneity out of campus sex -- sending what scatters remnants could not be utterly defeated off to hide in Model T Fords in the woods away from all sight. However, since liberals haven't had the experience being sexual spoil sports that we conservatives have, I'd like to suggest a couple of tweaks to their proposed standards for consent.

First off, this idea of verbal consent is a good start, but let me tell you that long centuries have shown that letting that consent happen in private leads to all sorts of misunderstandings. The solution is simple. We'll just require that the parties wishing to have sex present themselves before a civil official (or perhaps in more religious climes, before a priest, rabbi or minister) and sign a document expressing their mutual consent to have sex. This arrangement seems kind of formal, so perhaps we should have a name for it. Anyone who has suggestions, do please mention them in the comments.

Next up there's the matter of enforcement. Since we'll now have a public record of who has consented and who hasn't, we can stop this silliness of selective enforcement and university committees. Enlightened souls may not realize it, but in more conservative parts of the country there are actually already laws on the books to deal with this issue of having sex without clear consent. We just need to enforce those and pass more in other parts of the country.

Of course, social pressure is a help as well. Even with all these clear bright lines people might stray a little close to violating these norms, so I'd propose we consider a custom of friends and family watching out for each other and stepping in firmly to prevent any improprieties. Remember, the best way to avoid lack of consent is to step in before consent is needed. If that fails, dueling and horsewhipping are, of course, long-tested means of gentle correction.


דניאל בנ יעקב said...


Otepoti said...

How so, Daniel?

mandamum said...

I have been thinking this for a while - thanks for putting it so humorously.

In my part of the country recently, a rape case was pled downward to a 45-day sentence (despite having 3 good witnesses to the aftermath and an apologetic text from the accused) because the victim was (*was* in the past tense - right up to the situation in question) engaged to the accused. And somehow that turned forcible rape into... domestic violence. Despite both coming from a conservative Mormon culture with plenty of evidence she had every intention of waiting until marriage. So much for "no means no" let alone "yes means yes". Apparently "I will" means something above and beyond. So you can have date rape but not engaged-and-on-a-date rape? In this case, I think there's no need for new laws, but rather a need to take the old ones more seriously. Even in a domestic situation (which theirs really... wasn't yet) there is room for rape, no?

Daniel said...

Sorry, judging by mandamum's comment, I must have mistaken the direction of the satire. How embarrassing

Darwin said...


I'd been aiming to satirize the fact that the solutions which liberals have been proposing to the sexual chaos they have created start to look a bit like re-inventing the institutions which they have tried to destroy.

Thus, re-inventing the idea of publicly declaring consent to enter into a sexual relationship -> marriage

Punishing people for having sex outside of such a public giving of consent -> laws (some still on the books) against fornication


Krisrin said...

I see what you're driving at, but what about marital rape?

Daniel said...

Hmm, so I originally took it as intended. mandamum's response had me thinking it was a modest proposal. The marital rape issue makes the main joke feel a bit off, but the part about the laws was pretty disturbing. It's hard not to take it as a suggestion to jail people for being raped or for reporting rape without unambiguous evidence (I don't think that's your actual view). If we want the penalty to apply to the maybe-rapist, it's also going to apply to the victim.

Darwin said...


I guess I'm not entirely sure how marital rape comes into it one way or another.

Entering into marriage does constitute publicly consenting to enter into a sexual relationship. That's why failure (or unwillingness) to consummate a marriage is grounds for annulment in both the religious and civil sense. (There are actually civil annulments, people just almost never bother with them anymore.) So I think the point that a publicly witnessed consent to have sex is a bit like marriage more or less works. (I'd see the breakdown as being more that marriage involves permanence, and obviously the kind of consent which cultural progressives want to assure in no way implies permanence.)

Now, the fact that marriage involves consent to a sexual relationship, and indeed that both spouses are traditionally seen as owing each other a "marital debt" of sex does not mean that it is not gravely wrong to force sex against the will of the other. As in other areas of life. For instance, if you rent an apartment from me, you may owe me money, but if you fail to pay the money that doesn't mean I can break in, beat you up and steal the money from you. The one injustice does not legitimize the other injustice.


I suppose it is a "modest proposal" in that it's satire and not meant to be implemented.

My own attitude in all this is moderately ambiguous. I think conservative critics are right that liberals basically want to ignore due process in order to make themselves feel better. On the other hand, I have no interest in providing legal protection to drunken frat boys who think they're entitled to sex (consensual or otherwise) so I don't really care a whole lot if they get punish "unfairly".

Mostly I find it ironic that cultural progressives are slowly re-inventing the wheel of cultural and moral standards for when you can have sex without getting in trouble with society and the law. Though, since their moral code is far more minimal than mine (they see consent as the only moral criteria) it's a much more minimal and incoherent set of proposed institutions.

I'm not particularly in favor of enforcing anti-fornication laws -- though I'm amused that Massachusetts sill has them on the books.

And for the record, lest anyone worry, I'm not universally in favor or dueling or horsewhipping either...

MrsDarwin said...

(Apparently Darwin and I were writing a reply at the same time, but I'll post mine anyway so there can be a husband-and-wife reply.)

What about marital rape?

I ask it honestly -- you'll need to be much more specific, because the rules of open, enthusiastic consent don't apply here. Indeed, marriage is an exclusive sexual relationship in which consent can be presumed, because it's the mutual giving of bodies. If my body belongs to my husband, and his to me, I don't have to give him a clear, enthusiastic yes every time we have sex. The idea of the marital debt may have gone out of fashion, but it is still a very real thing. Anyone who is past the honeymoon phase of marriage will know that sometimes you have to give when it hurts, because the other person not only has a need for it, but has a right to it.

So consent within marriage is a very very different thing than the concept of consent being discussed as being "sexy!" That's not to say that having marital sex without any regard for the other's feelings or interest or desire is acceptable. Indeed, it's viciously wrong, if we take seriously the idea that the two become one flesh. Violence done to the spouse is violence done to oneself. The appalling sexual selfishness that would drive someone to use sex as a weapon or that would ignore a spouse's will entirely is grounds for a separation or a civil divorce. That is an unsafe situation.