Monday, October 21, 2013

I need consent to be normal because sex is normal

Every time I see a project like this the cockles of my heart open like a bird's voice to the sunrise.

I am thrilled overjoyed and dancing in solidarity to these messages. They are important educational messages that can and I am sure do stamp out rape culture and prevent rapes and assaults.

But in my mind it is not enough. I by no means am calling for the people doing this important work to stop, or to say that their work is insufficient to it's intended purpose. It is appropriately designed clearly worded and will probably be politically effective. What I AM saying is that the intended purpose of consent education need to be bigger and go beyond just sex.

I've written in the past about consent-positivity and even provided some models for respecting other's (potential) boundaries. But sometimes I feel like I am the only one.

I am so deeply passionate about pushing conversations about consent beyond just the sex for two basic reasons.

The first is strategic, if we teach and model respectful consent in nonsexual everyday interactions there there will already be a a common groundwork of practice and intelligence that can be easily applied to sexual interactions.

The second is conceptual: I think about sex as an everyday interaction. And not just because I masturbate/have partnered sex pretty much daily. The (im)moral and highly sensationalized lessons our culture teaches about sexual interactions are bunk. Much of the sex-positive movement has done a fabulous job of identifying this exactly what I mean:

Sex is normal*. Part of it being normal is that not everyone is into it and everyone is into it differently. Sex is normal in the way that pop music is normal. There're many variations and many ways to enjoy pop music/sex, most people are specific in their tastes and not everyone likes what you like and some people don't like pop music/sex at all.

I am sick of culture treating sex as if it's some sort of voodoo magic. As if it were so vastly different from other social phenomena**. Yes in many cases it is a highly vulnerable activity, but humans are very well suited to being vulnerable with one another. Not in all cases but in many, sex is a normal way for humans beings to be vulnerable with each other (certainly not the only or the 'right' way for everyone or every relationship!).

Simply put I want the conversations and political passion surrounding consent to be expanded to nonsexual contexts because sex is as normal as any other interaction between humans and I need consent to become the normal context for normal interactions.

*while "normal" has often been used to denote moral approval/acceptance rest assured dear readers I am NOT using "normal" in this way. As an exceptional deviant in many ways "normal" has never felt like a good word in my mouth. I am using "normal" in a sociological sense to denote trends in human behavior.

**I recognize the history and current relationships between sex and violence. Sex being tied to violence, unfortunately does not make it abnormal though the frequency with which sex is related to violence is disgustingly abnormal. Because sex is often vulnerable and we live in a world where exploitation is an unfortunate reality, it is harrowing but not all that surprising that sexual violence is so often used to exploit that vulnerability.

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