*The most recent development on college campuses is folks using forms to affirm their consent to sex. Proponents of these sorts of forms argue that it will lead to many fewer cases of misunderstanding in terms of one person thinking the other was okay with sexual activity. Opponent of these sorts of forms argue that it will lead to less sex overall as it creates the most awkward situation possible.
This issue starts with the culture of sexual repression in our country. While it is true for both sexes, this culture affects women much more than men. So while everyone is encouraged to approach sex very cautiously, men are eventually valued more because of a high number of sexual partners. Contrarily women are supposed to minimize their sexual experience. This is logistically unrealistic but it also puts undue psychological pressure on men and women to fulfill certain expectations.
Because of this pressure I remember, at one point in my life, consciously changing my mindset so that I didn’t enter most interactions with women thinking of what to do so they would find me attractive enough to have sex with me. Many men have the same perspective. Secondarily women are positioned in popular culture as the prize that men get for doing something positive. Save the world, get the girl. By the time young men get to college they have been inculcated with this culture for almost two decades. So it makes sense to take advantage of a woman who is inebriated, or who is a bit hesitant but is not proclaiming her desire to stop the evening’s festivities. Men are trying to build their sexual resume at almost any cost. Hence what some describe as a “rape culture” on college campuses.
Sexual consent forms are certainly one way to combat this perspective. But sexual consent forms do not work at all toward changing the underlying culture.
A better solution would be to teach boys that they should not tie their worth to the number of people they have sex with. At the same time girls and boys should understand that the worth of women does not decrease with more partners; that girls can pursue sexual experiences without negative repercussions. Everyone should understand that sex is something that each individual can enjoy on their own terms. If everyone approached sexual encounters with these understandings it would be a lot more reasonable to assume that the person you are undressing is happy to have that happen.
Of course there would still be the possibility of sexual assault/misconduct/misunderstandings. But when men are not put in the position of having to push a situation toward sex that possibility decreases. When women are able to be sexual beings, an absence of their enthusiasm would become a red flag.
Consent forms should be a rest stop on the way to the destination of a new sexual understanding.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.