Affirmative Consent (or, OMG sex contracts!)

!?!?California is about to pass a bill that would set an affirmative consent standard for college campuses.  And reaction has been…strong.  Promoting consent always leads to the “Oh noooooooo!  What’s this world coming to!?!?!?!  Are we going to have to sign sex contracts now!?!?!” response.  You know, the kind of reactions rapists have to the idea of not forcing sex onto someone who’s not into it…I mean…

So given the torrent of concern, I was pleased to receive this article in my inbox today.  The author, Tara Culp-Ressler, explains just what “affirmative consent” means and why we shouldn’t be afraid:

Affirmative consent isn’t based on the idea that every sexual encounter is a rigid contract between two parties. No one is suggesting that college students need to run through a checklist before unbuttoning each other’s shirts. Instead, it’s more about broadly reorienting about how we approach sex in the first place.

The current societal script on sex, she says, assumes passivity and silence – Didn’t hear a no?  Well heck, keep going!  And that’s in addition to gender norms around sex.  Men = entitled to “get it.”  Women = it happens to you.  Affirmative consent, however, flips the script:

Under an affirmative consent standard, on the other hand, both partners are required to pay more attention to whether they’re feeling enthusiastic about the sexual experience they’re having. There aren’t any assumptions about where the sexual encounter is going or whether both people are already on the same page. At its very basic level, this is the opposite of killing the mood — it’s about making sure the person with whom you’re about to have sex is excited about having sex with you.

These are just a few of the key points in what is a truly interesting, concise, and clear article.  Read the rest of it here and, please, give it some thought.  If kids visiting The Gentle Barn appreciate the concept of consent, why is it so hard for adults?

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