In one of my classes last semester, we watched a video regarding sexual consent that peaked my interest. The video featured Dr. Harry Brod, a philosophy professor of the University of Northern Iowa. In this video discussing the ethics and erotics of sexual consent, Brod argues that the only way to gain sexual consent is by a verbal “yes,” and that it is the responsibility of whomever initiates the sexual act to ensure that they obtain that verbal consent, otherwise it remains unclear if any assault, coercion or harassment took place.
Not only should one obtain consent for intercourse itself, but for every level of intimacy reached by two people, Brod says. For example, oral sex might be okay for someone but they may not desire any form of penetration. The thing is, in our society people often expect that kissing will lead to touching and touching will lead to foreplay or whatever the activity may be: the end goal is intercourse. It is flawed logic for people to expect sex, and it is flawed logic for people to feel that they have to go “all the way” even if they may not be okay with anything more than kissing. I understand that asking for verbal consent before kissing, then again before touching and so on seems a little bit ridiculous, but it’s important to know that observing body language or “feeling the moment” aren’t reliable methods to use. Saying “no” can be a hard thing to do in the moment. People may be afraid of the backlash from someone they’ve rejected or perhaps they don’t want to be known as a prude. Either way, it is important to respect your partner enough – whether a lover or a stranger – to make sure that they are okay with it if you plan to initiate sex. It’s as simple as having that decency and I’m sure you’d feel that it’s far better to pause the moment to ask rather than have someone traumatized by experiencing something they didn’t want to.
Upon reading through YouTube comments for the video, it has caught my eye that several people find themselves confused by Brod’s logic. That or they do not agree with it. Maybe you feel the same way, but just keep in mind that his argument goes for both men and women, and the bottom line is that verbal consent is the only way to affirm that sexual coercion or rape is not taking place. “No”, or the absence of “no”, does not mean yes. Rape is a harsh word, but in its simplest definition it is unwanted sexual contact or penetration, and your partner may not want sex at any given time whether you realize it or not.
Sources: Cover Photo