Why You Should Have Consensual Sex

Guest post by Michael Kuffel in response to my blog "How to Have Christian Sex". Michael is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, adjunct professor, clinical supervisor, and doctorate researcher in Spokane, Washington. Like his page on Facebook (he's a personal friend, so just do it).


Alex and I agree more than we disagree. But I do not wish to pin "Christian" and "consensual" against one another, as if they are mutually exclusive. Quite the opposite, I believe Christian sex is consensual sex. While our perspectives similarly begin and end with "selflessness" as a position and orientation of heart, I wish to offer another view of the journey between (the sheets).

Defining Consent

If history has taught us nothing else, it's that humans have an intimate, comfortable way of violating the domain of others. In the throes of a relentlessly evolving rape culture, we are surprisingly adept at ignoring, normalizing, or trivializing consent violations.

As a mental health therapist, I see the effects of consent violations on a daily basis and bear witness to the desperate plight of such victims:

When discussing issues like sex in committed, monogamous relationships, I immediately begin listening for the way power dynamics are represented, treated, and negotiated. With care and training, I am mostly able to discern abuse of power by listening for consent language.

Consent is the process by which partners communicate, negotiate, and establish healthy boundaries within and between couple relationships. It's not about rules or drawing lines in the sand. Consent is about fostering both autonomy and inter-dependence in an intimate relationship.

The Problem with Altruistic Giving

To be fair, I get what Alex is trying to say: sexual desire should be rooted and shaped into an orientation of selfless giving (which is contrary to and therefore corrective of nature's proclivity to consume, coerce, and control).

Again, I think my views line up with these starting and finishing points. Notice, however, that I put that last part as parenthetical, as a way of visibly representing how I read Alex's emphasis. He offers little as to how this altruistic giving is enacted in sex and in day-to-day life nor about how to guard against coercion when it's present.

We live in a world that could certainly use more giving. Indeed, it's a merry thing to advocate for considering first the needs of others. However, some people have not earned the right to our giving. There are those who would use your selflessness to harm you. And here is a sad, cold reality:

Your partner may be one of those people.

Believe me, I certainly hope that your partner is trustworthy and will reciprocate your selfless, giving spirit. But it is folly to assume this as absolute.

This is so important to understand. There is awful risk involved in trusting another human being. After all, if you are fully, selflessly giving of yourself, what basis do you have for reinforcing your boundaries if they're being violated? If you're trusting your partner carte blanche and you're being harmed, how will you know that you are worth more than how you're being treated?

Simply stated, altruistic giving ignores the implicit power dynamic present in every relationship.

Boundaries as a Roadmap

We cannot begin to understand consent if we fail to understand the importance of setting, maintaining, and enforcing boundaries. Having personal boundaries is a way of practicing self-awareness, determining what is okay and what is not, and learning to own your choices.

When we engage in intimate sexual relationships, we open up our boundaries. It is a way of honoring the people in the relationship above the relationship itself. We choose to let them know us and affect us, deeply. They touch our bodies, our minds, the very core of us. This is a rich and beautiful bonding experience to have and to share.

Which is why violations against our boundaries and consent hurt so much.

Consent is the "what and how" that is needed to both build a healthy, sustainable, and trusting relationship. It contains, restrains, and combats our tendency to abuse, dismiss, and harm others.

By committing ourselves to consensual romantic relationships, we not only accept the position of selfless giving, we gain a roadmap for navigating the here-and-now dynamics of relationships. So when our natural tendencies to consume, coerce, and control move into our relationship, we have the opportunity to slow the process down.

To acknowledge the violation as it's happening.

To validate the sense of betrayal and hurt.

To repair the damage and get back on track.

And, if necessary, to protect ourselves. And leave.


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