by Jonathan Daugherty
I have been listening to personal stories of sexual brokenness and pain for 20 years. Many such stories are filled with regret of choices the individuals consented to. This is why I am concerned with the cultural narrative that has been forming in recent years regarding consent as the only value that matters in sexual choices. I beg to differ.
The following are three reasons why I believe consent is an inadequate measurement of whether a sexual decision is right.
Consent is not always equally valued or applied
Are all "yeses" equal? The moral revolutionaries would have us believe that consent is an empirical, static metric. As long as there is "mutual consent" then any and all sexual behaviors between all parties involved is acceptable. But is there "wiggle room" within the definition of consent?
Consent is defined as "permission for something to happen or agreement to do something." What if what I think I'm agreeing to isn't the same as what the other person thinks they are agreeing to? How do you measure consent at that point? This is where the seemingly clear waters of consent get really murky.
"But she (or he) said Yes!"
This is likely to become a regular "defense" in the consent culture. Both parties initially agree to whatever the behavior is and then one party later "redefines" their yes into a maybe, or no. How are such cases to be determined? How does one prove that consent was actually established? That's the problem, because consent is subjective.
Consent doesn't eliminate regret
Another fallacy of the consent ideology is that it assumes that if one gives consent they must stand by their decision in perpetuity. But can't one consent and then later regret their decision?
I have many regrets of decisions I have consented to. One time in high school I 'consented' to eat a bowl of hot menudo just hours before an all afternoon track meet under the blazing sun. I later very much regretted having consented to eat that bowl of cow intestine soup. Imagine how much higher the stakes are for regret involving sexual choices!
How will the advocates of consent respond to people who admit they said yes to certain sexual behaviors with certain someones and then later deeply regretted that yes? Is that allowed? Are there repercussions for the "offending" party, even if consent was granted by the regretful party?
Also, decisions about sexual behavior are rarely made with one's full mental faculties. When adrenaline and dopamine start flooding the brain as a result of sexual arousal, the frontal lobe is less active (this is the part of our brain that helps us reason and be logical; like brakes on a car). So, it is conceivable that some "consent" can be borne of "in-the-heat-of-the-moment" thinking that doesn't exhibit the full use of one's own brain. (This is no excuse for poor decisions, just one more factor to consider in light of the consent fallacy.)
Consent doesn't really care about the other person
Anytime we look to man made constructs for moral or civil frameworks, we end up with systems that ultimately harm more lives than they help. Such is the current "consent construct" that is sure to leave countless broken lives in its wake of ambiguity and regret.
The Bible says that "the whole law" hinges on one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Galatians 5:14) In other words, the moral and civic framework that God established is not focused on my consent (what one allows to be done to them), but rather on the ultimate good for my neighbor. Are my actions going to help them thrive as a person? Will it lead to ultimate good in their lives?
The secular consent model of sexual choices keeps me focused on me; my consent. Even if it is framed in the vernacular "mutual consent," that is a misnomer. The focus is still on each individual's self-consent that goes something like this (although with likely more subtleties and 'romance'):
Person A: "I want to have sex with you. Do you consent?"
Person B: "Yes. I want to have sex with you, too."
Sounds mutual, right? But each individual is still focused on what they want. Person A wants to have sex with Person B. Person B wants to have sex with Person A. Neither are really thinking about the ultimate good of the other. In this case, "mutual consent" is overshadowed by "I want" thinking.
Please don't misunderstand. I'm not suggesting that God's framework of "love your neighbor" eliminates personal desire. But it does reorder the emphasis of focus from ME to YOU. Something the current consent ideology cannot do.
To Christians it should come as no surprise that God's ways are best; for us individually and as a society. Let us not be swayed by "cleverly devised myths" that lead us away from the good and loving Law of God. His guidance leads us to make choices that are truly beneficial to others and to ourselves. And God's Word applies to every choice, including sexual choices, with or without our consent...