Anyone who knows me or has read my blog should know by now that I was raised in a very conservative religious household. If you don’t, or even if you do, let me introduce myself:
I am a 28 year old female who’s been married twice, been with two men, and am still learning about my own sexuality and the idea of “firm and enthusiastic consent” is still new to me.
A little backstory: when I was growing up, there were 3 stages of Sex Ed in the school system: Elementary, Middle, and High. When the class was pulled from the main classroom in 4th grade to learn about sex, my parents signed off that I was not permitted to go, so I sat alone in an empty classroom clueless. The rest of the class came back giggling and with all these inside jokes and terminology that I did not understand. When I went home and asked my mom what sex was and how babies were made, I was handed a kid’s biology book and told to figure it out. I still remember to this day staring at a drawn picture of a naked male and female and asking myself “but how does the sperm get in there?? I don’t get it!”
By 7th grade, I entered mandatory Sex Ed class clueless of the basics. We had an anonymous question jar, and I would almost always put questions in, to which the teacher’s answers were never quite sufficient, because I missed Sex 101. When I asked, honestly, why kids giggled at the number “69” and the question was read, the class burst into laughter and the teacher just kind of shook her head with a smirk, let the class laugh, and went on to the next question. I don’t think I figured out what it was until my 20’s.
That was my education experience.
My religious experience was simple and direct: Wait til marriage.
Period. The end. That’s it. Sex is bad unless you are married. Oh, and by the way, don’t masturbate or touch yourself because the only person who’s supposed to make you feel good is your spouse. Little fuzzy on the oral/anal line but the unspoken assumption is that that’s wrong and vile too cause that’s not how God made biological sex to occur.
By the time I found someone to marry (who was Catholic, naturally) and got to Pre-marital counseling, all I was taught about sex at that point was the radical idea that a woman can initiate sex too, and you don’t have to both climax at the same time. Kind of shows you what most Christians think sex is supposed to be if that’s something that is taught in pre-marital….
So here’s the framework: Girl isn’t taught the basics of sex whatsoever other than pictures of STDs from school and what a sketched penis and vagina look like and knows that she can do this sex thing on her wedding night.
Where’s consent? Does she sign away consent completely when she gets married? She is swearing herself in “complete devotion and servitude to her husband,” so can she say no? She’s never taught she can, so she doesn’t. Besides, her body is now her husbands wholly and completely. Divorce isn’t an option, she is now his and as long as he doesn’t strike you (and even sometimes if he does, see Focus on the Family’s sermons on this) that’s all there’s to it.
So, again, where is consent in this framework? Can you see the problem?
I try, very hard, to listen to people who say waiting til marriage is a beautiful thing, but everything in my gut tells me that there is something very wrong with it. You’re telling two people they can’t even touch each other sexually until their wedding night and that they can never leave each other. What choice do they have? Without choices, is there really any consent to be given? Without the option to say “no” and leave, is there really consent?
My experience isn’t, by far, the norm in religious upbringings, but it is neither uncommon. There are gradients for sure. But personally? I can not see how the monogamous “waiting” perspective is anything but consensual.
Without choice and options, the idea of consent is a farce.