There has been a lot of talk lately about sexual consent. Educators and organisations who have an interest in the sexual violence that is occurring amongst New Zealand’s young people believe that “consent” is the answer to this side of our social woes.
It is important that young people understand what rape is. They must know that it is a grave assault on the dignity of the victim. Those who find themselves victims of a rape, should feel able to report the crime, and know that they will be heard and taken seriously.
Young people must be taught that rape is a heinous crime.
But by saying it is just an issue of consent misses the point. Consent implies that sexual relations between two people – whether it be a one night stand, an ongoing relationship, or any combination of possibilities – can never be harmful if everyone is in agreement.
When educators talk about consent what they are really saying is that young people have the right to:
Consent to mutually use each other
The opposite of love is not hate as many assume. The opposite of love is using another. We use another when we put our own desires before the good of another. When two people “consent” to sexual intercourse outside of a stable committed relationship (marriage is the only relationship that fits this bill) they are putting their own desires for momentary pleasure ahead of the good of the other. Hence, consent in this situation is really consent to mutually use one another sexually.
Consent to expose one another to sexually transmitted disease
Even if condoms are used, they are not 100% effective at preventing the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases all of the time. STDs are on the rise. Some, like chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause infertility in women if left untreated, and many don’t have symptoms. The effects of some of these diseases can be life-long and devestating.
Consent to unplanned pregnancy
Pregnancy – the conception of a new and unrepeatable human being – is a natural consequence of sexual intercourse between man and woman. When two people engage in sexual intercourse, they must realise that pregnancy may occur. So-called contraceptives fail sometimes. Almost half of all abortions carried out in New Zealand each year are because birth control failed. Abortion harms women – mentally, physically and spiritually – and it always ends the life of the preborn child.
By making “consent” the issue, young people are being fooled into believing that the consequences of sexual intercourse outside of marriage have little or no impact on their lives. The message is clear – the elation of sexual pleasure and self-gratification is yours to freely choose.
But consent does not necessarily bring with it freedom.
True freedom comes when one learns to love by giving totally of self for the good of the beloved.
This is true respect, true love and what must be taught to today’s youth.