The Age of Messed Up Consent

Even as a sometime woman of the world, I still find sex  a very messy activity, mentally speaking  It just messes with your head. It troubles you when you don’t have it and when you do. It causes you to ask yourself and others the most stupid questions. “How much should I be having?” Or worse, “So when you put in your mouth you kind of swirl it around then?” (My friend’s au pair asked me that one.)

So when I finally decided to read (yes I had to decide) about the various moves on both sides of the Atlantic to establish parameters for sexual consent, I couldn’t quite define my own feelings simply because I know we’re taking about irrational human beings in the most irrational of situations. Applying the rational to the irrational is dangerous in any situation, but especially to one in which two (or more) people are contemplating some sort of skin on skin action. Human behaviour has no parameters: it cannot successfully be predicted or contained. There is no beginning, middle or end. Consent requires a logical path. And very clear directions. The consenters say there should be consent ‘every step of the way.’ What constitutes a step? Are there half steps? Does it begin with a kiss or is the kiss part of the consent too? Am I fucking with your head? Because I’m fucking with mine and we haven’t begun.

When we were teenagers I remember a mate of mine, Bob, describing the steps as thus. “Well first you want to put your arm around her. Then if that goes well you very slowly try and put your hand inside her shirt. And then, if she’s happy you go for inside the bra.” There were ten steps in Bob’s Rules, all pleasantly innocent sounding and well-intentioned. And mindful of consent. And actually it did seem more straightforward back then. But this was another more innocent time. There was no internet, or social networking, nor were there texts and messaging apps  to be used in the heat of the horny moment when, actually, you were only ‘having a laugh.’ With so much confusion, it’s little surprise that various groups have decided formal consent is the way forward.

The big problem with formal consent is still that all you will have is the word of the participants. This is like allowing Arsenal and Chelsea to play a game without referees behind closed doors and then tell us the real result. There will be trouble. Witnesses are required. Ergo, I propose that sex become a public activity, held in Sexual Satisfaction Centres where qualified judges who have undergone strict consent training can ensure that all is above board. I have not finalised design but it might be appropriate to approximate a boxing ring. Participants step into a padded area and begin to touch. “Did you state you were going to undo her blouse?” “No.” Ah well back to the corner for you. And so they’d have to start again, going through monitored and verbalised steps until a satisfactory sexual experience was reached. Consent of course, means you stop where you wish to stop. One act does not pre-empt another which is fair enough. Remember this works both ways: thus either side is free to leave when they feel they have done enough sex. “No I don’t really want to bring her to orgasm. I wish to take my cock out now and go home.” Never mind that she wants it, he doesn’t. At the end of their sexual experience both parties would have to sign and confirm their wishes were respected. Each human being would have a sexual record, available for public viewing.  But sadly, I have spotted a flaw in my consent plan. What if, before arriving at the Sexual Satisfaction Centre, he had already said “I want to fuck your brains out.” She happily said “What a wonderful idea,” and then they arrived to do the deed and he changed his mind. Bastard.

What I find interesting about the overall idea of consent is that it presupposes the woman as passive party in all this, the one needing some sort of protection, the one who might not want sex. This doesn’t tally at all with my knowledge of the modern dating scene where often women are just as much sexually voracious as men. We may have reached a point in history where never before has so much sex been openly on offer with so few strings, to so many people who are not sure what to do with it.  It has all the ingredients for a perfect storm.

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