By guest writer Andrew Reising
So recently, there was a piece in Babe detailing how Aziz Ansari coerced his date into sex after they went back to his place. Aziz Ansari. This comedian has been a great public supporter of the Women’s March, the #metoo movement, and #TimesUp. And yet, when behind closed doors and horny, even he can be an asshole. This has led to a whole host of opinion pieces concerning whether or not consent is enough by itself, whether consent should be described as desire rather than willingness, and many other questions about consent.
Before we go any further, I do want make a distinction here. There is a HUGE difference between what Aziz Ansari did and what Harvey Weinstein did. I know it. You know it. And no one is trying to conflate the two. No one is trying to kick Aziz Ansari out of show business for this. But, as Samatha Bee says in this fantastic video, “…we know the difference between a rapist, a workplace harasser, and an Aziz Ansari. That doesn’t mean we have to be happy about any of them!” (The quote begins at 5:14 in the video, but really, the whole thing is worth watching.)
So, my fellow men, hopefully your concerns about having your career ruined because you pressured a woman into sex have calmed enough that you can hear my main point.
If you are worried about how far is too far in sex before you are considered to be an asshole like Aziz Ansari, or guilty of sexual assault like Harvey Weinstein, then your mindset towards sex is completely wrong.
And if you instead treat your partner like a person instead of a sex toy, respecting them and communicating with them, then you will never come even within range of sexual harassment or assault. This is true whether you are in a loving, long-term relationship like marriage, a new, casual relationship, or even a one-night stand.
Now, since this is posted on Patheos Catholic, I want to anticipate an objection here.
“But, Andrew, one-night stands are inherently disrespectful! Casual sex inherently undermines the dignity of the person and their sexuality!”
I want to head this off by saying that this piece is not about Catholic sexual morality. It is about respecting your sexual partner. If you only ever have sex with your spouse, then respect them and communicate with them when you have sex. If you have sex casually with multiple partners, then respect them and communicate with them whenever you have sex.Within the context of a relationship built on love and trust, respect and communication can be easy. You love the other person, so you want them to get what they want and need out of sex, and you work to make sure that happens. The whole dynamic can happen rather organically. And even if it doesn’t, the love you share provides a space where you can be vulnerable with each other, expressing what you like and want from sex and listening to the other. Additionally, you can choose sometimes to make it mostly about them, and they can choose sometimes to make it mostly about you. Since it is a relationship, the sex doesn’t need to achieve perfect balance every time, so long as there is communication and respect.
In a newer, more casual relationship, one that does not yet have a foundation of love and trust, respect and communication must be established. I know that many of you have heard the phrase, “Girls give sex to get love; boys give love to get sex.” Do everything you can to eradicate that idea from your thinking. Both men and women need both love and sex. Find out what your partner wants and likes. Find out what they don’t want or like. Respect their boundaries. If they don’t want sex at all, don’t push them. If they don’t want sex right now, don’t push them. If they don’t want a certain kind of sex, don’t push them. If you aren’t sure, ask. Respect and communication.
Finally, you have the one-night stands. Two people, hooking up with no plans of having sex or a relationship afterwards. They might not even plan to ever see each other again. This one is the trickiest. You have very little selfish motivation to do the right thing here. After all, plenty of guys are selfish assholes in one-night stands, but it is rare for them be publicly called out for it like Aziz. But this whole thing is about holding ourselves to a higher sexual standard than “not sexual assault.” So we must see our partners as people, not sex toys for our pleasure. Make their satisfaction at least as high if not a higher priority than our own. If you have sex with multiple partners, then make it your goal to leave behind a string of highly satisfied people in your wake, not a string of conquests.
So, consent is great. Consent is important. Consent is not enough. Until we make the cultural shift toward seeing our sexual partners as people with their own wants and desires that should be honored during sex and respecting them, we will continue to foster a twisted view of sex that contributes to rape culture and makes the #metoo movement necessary.
Anyway, this is how I will be teaching my son and daughter to view sex.
image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/fa/Louise_Currie-B%C3%A9la_Lugosi_in_The_Ape_Man.jpg