March 10, 2009

The Case for Actively Establishing Consent

Does consent ruin the mood? My French friend says yes. And hold on, she doesn't mean that rape is sexy. What she means is that, unlike in Canada, in France men aren't supposed to take "reasonable steps to consent" (ie. ask if you wanna get it on) and she prefers it that way. Instead, if you are kissing or cuddling and the woman doesn't wanna get busy when the dude makes a move to up the ante, the onus is on her to say "Mais non!" Besides the fact that the law to create reasonable steps to consent is rooted in a logic of the gender binary that could be seen as offensive by some, it tells potential rapists that it's not enough to intimidate a girl into being too drunk or disoriented to say "no" to you for it to count as rape. You have to get her to say "yes." I think that's a really good thing. But my friend French friend (We'll call her Marie) says it spoils the mood.

"You mean they ask?" She said the first time I told her about reasonable steps to consent. "What the fuck? hahahah! In Canada, you are so weird!" In was confused about what about this was weird, and so I asked her. She replied, "That just ruins the romantic moment! You can't ask!" Then she proceeded to tell a French friend of hers about this who was sitting across the table, and this girl laughed hysterically too. I said, "What is weird! It's just called Consent!" Marie replied, "Oh, we don't have that in France."

Okay, so apparently consent in France is funny. Marie says if you don't want to have sex, the guy will find it obvious, and if he doesn't, you should take it upon yourself to say no once he's trying to get inside you. All I have to say to that is, um, isn't that needlessly traumatic for the person who doesn't want to be entered? Isn't it just easier for him to ask first to make sure you don't almost have a heart attack trying to make sure someone you don't want to fuck you doesn't start doing so?

I think establishing consent IS romantic. It doesn't ruin the mood. It shows you want the person you're with to be comfortable. That you respect them and want sex to be a mutually beneficial, mutually pleasurable experience. This is why, in grade twelve, I used to walk around with a button on my school uniform that read, "Ask. Sex is supposed to be fun." Truer words have never been spoken. Consent is both fun and romantic. Case closed. You don't want sex to turn into sexual assault, after all...

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