Trust & Consent

First Posted 20-May-2015

That world exists. The one we don’t hear about because things move along unremarkable from mewling babe to ash. I know of it. My life is becoming that. That world isn’t what this site is about. You’ll never hear about it here. If that’s your thing, go away. Lots of cool stuff at Martha Stewart’s web site. Me? I’m more or I can’t do Jerry Springer. I was abused and I abused people. Jerry Springer triggers all the wrong impulses in me. And now back to what I’d started the first time I wrote this.

I’ve not been to Sunday School reliably in a year or two. The syllabus and I are not a match, usually. Deeper still, Sunday School was one of those pitched battles that ran through my childhood. It was one of the ways that I fought with my parents. For all my introspection, meditation, prayer, and therapy, you would think old business like that wouldn’t still be lurking about my day dreams. That particular conflict, minion, is old enough to be my grown-assed brother. Yet it’s there every Sunday morning and I still go back to sleep when I could get up and go to Sunday School.

So, sometime around 10am or so I get in my car and head to church for worship. My local PBS station broadcasts This American Life from 10-11am on Sunday. I heard something in the talk about sex & consent—there is no trust. There is no point in a relationship where you can trust your partner. You can never let your guard down. You must always, at every moment, check in—is this ok, can I continue this. It’s very, very hard work with no letup. Consent is held out as something to be forever refutable. At any point, for any reason, one partner or the other can say they no longer consent and things must stop.

Then I’m in worship not paying attention and I hear this, “this is why sex has to be confined to marriage between a man and a woman. The old answer, monogamous, heterosexual sex, is still the right answer.” We ran away from the church, refused the old rules, to try and find new rules, and destroyed trust in the process. Under the hidden assumptions of the NPR story, it is never possible to trust your partner. He or she is always in possession of a weapon in the relationship, “no.” If you accept the assumptions of the NPR story, that gun to the heart of the relationship cannot be disarmed. It is stronger than even marriage.

The whole point of courtship is to find out if this person is who you will marry. It is a long series of failed relationships until the last one, who becomes the one you keep. Though, these days, roughly half of all marriages end in divorce. Marriage has become a farce for some. None of this is possible if the usual paradigm between men & women is a war footing. Relationships, then, are battles, and the winners are those who defeat the other side and get what they want. There is no trust. Is there love, then? I wonder if there really is relationship?

Love, not as a noun, not as a tactic to get what you want, not as a lie you tell so s/he’ll behave in desired ways, but as a verb, as self-sacrificing surrender and service to God, kin, friends, lovers & enemies. This love requires trust. It is risky. It disrupts our lives, forces us to change and kills aspects of our lives that are out of sync with it. It takes time, it’s work, it’s 1 Cor 13:4 too.

So, IMHO, no sex outside of marriage. The go-to answer should be, “no.” This is not, however, the no of NPR, of some folk. It is not a “no” coming from a war footing between men & women where there is no trust and love is a curse word. This, “no” is a supreme act of trust, of delaying sex, to invest in the long game. It’s a 3 year calendar. Year 1 is a binary choice: yes, a keeper or, no, not a keeper. Year 2 is the homework, the prep for year 3, when you get engaged and in that year, get married. Listen, y’all know how this goes. It’s the oldest story ever. I don’t have to repeat it. Hollywood will, if not this year, soon.

I really feel like the thing that is missing is trust. We have to risk trusting each other. We have to take time learning whether our partner will be our spouse. We have to know that we’ll break up with a bunch of partners until we don’t. It bugged me that the NPR answer was to infer that trust was not ever possible. Trust has to be possible. Without it, there is no love and without love, it’s just an ugly war between men & women–not good.