Is the Conversation About Consent Enough? Or Do We Need to Talk About Intimacy?

Is the Conversation About Consent Enough? Or Do We Need to Talk About Intimacy? October 15, 2015

At the Washington Post, Jonathan Zimmerman is pushing for the latter – and it makes sense. And from my perspective, the church should be setting a very high bar here (we are not) in modeling the centrality of intimacy, and covenant commitment, in Christian coupling. And this, not as a way of shaming sex or bodies or even those who engage or have engaged in casual sex, but rather as the high call to which we are graciously invited, that completely affirms the goodness of sex and bodies and is rooted in forgiveness for any failures.

Here’s Zimmerman:

University administrators take it for granted that a certain amount of sex will be “casual,” that is, devoid of intimate emotion or connection. But our rules now require the sharing of feelings, even in an encounter that is by definition divorced from them. We simply assume that virtual strangers will be having sex. But we urge them — or, even legally enjoin them — to communicate openly and explicitly about it.

Good luck with that. We might succeed in cajoling more students into some kind of verbal consent. But that’s a script, a bedroom contract between sexual vendors. Yes, it will make the whole transaction legal. But consensual? Really?  If you met somebody an hour ago, how can you tell what they want? And  since you know so little about them, aren’t you more likely to do something that they don’t want, no matter what kind of “consent” they have given?

I’d like to suggest a modest addition to our campaigns against sexual assault on campus: Instead of simply pleading with students to ask for explicit consent when having sex, we should be asking them why they are having sex in the first place.

What are your thoughts on Zimmerman’s piece?

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