In church, we simply don’t have a good working understanding of the importance of consent in sex.
I think it’s because we tend to operate with the idea that women aren’t allowed to say no to sex, and that sex is an entitlement upon marriage. As we found in our survey, and as we’ll talk about in our upcoming book The Great Sex Rescue, when women feel like sex is an obligation, orgasm rates go down, libido goes down, and rates of sexual pain go up. If we want women to have fulfilling sex lives, and marriages to feel intimate, we need to talk about sex in a healthy way–as a passionate, mutual “knowing” of each other where both people matter.
Rebecca and I talked about this in our podcast yesterday, prompted by this comment that was left after ANOTHER podcast about The Act of Marriage two weeks ago:
I find it so bizarre that the church so rarely talks about consent – in fact outside of this blog I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon or Sunday School lesson or *anything* church related that mentioned it. I grew up with the “sex before marriage = bad!” talks in church, and I’m assuming that youth leaders just assumed that teenagers would know that pressuring others into sex or sexual acts was wrong because those were wrong outside of marriage anyway? I think that the importance of sexual purity and sexual consent should be treated almost like two separate issues and that the church should begin education around consent as young as they do sexual purity.
As I think about this it saddens and baffles me that that even has to be addressed. My husband loses interest in having sex with me if I don’t seem very into it, let alone if I was crying or screaming! How exactly do the “Christian” men who do this to their wives view themselves as loving or caring for them? How do they see that as laying down their lives for their wives as Christ did for the church?
We tackled it in depth yesterday (please listen in to that podcast!), but today I thought I’d share some resources to help us talk about consent in a good way. But first, let’s talk about what NOT to do.
About a year ago, this “Sexual Refusal Commitment” made the rounds on the internet. I bookmarked it to put in our book, and this week I reopened that thread to get some additional facts. And since I brought it up again, it’s gone completely viral. You may have seen it (many have sent it to me again), but here it is:
(I believe that this was part of a handout from a Phyllis & Shane Womack marriage conference on Sex & Solomon, according to the person who originally uploaded it last year, but if anyone has more information, I’d appreciate it!)
This is an example of lack of consent. It tells women that they have no right to refuse, which is entirely different from the “do not deprive.” The verses do not say do not refuse, and do not refuse is infinitely different from do not deprive. In fact, the do not deprive passage also is warped when we think of sex as being about a man’s ejaculation, rather than an intimate, passionate, pleasurable experience for both. God doesn’t want us to be deprived of healthy sexuality in marriage; he isn’t concerned that a man gets to ejaculate as often as he wants. And yet we read it as the second.
Again, listen in to the consent podcast yesterday!
The second thing that comes to mind was some comment mining we were doing for our book, The Great Sex Rescue. I came across some comments from men with regards to sex in the postpartum phase or during her period. Several guys said that the do not deprive verses were saying that you couldn’t say no except by mutual consent. And they said nothing about a doctor’s consent. So if she’s refusing and he doesn’t want her to refuse, she’s in sin. If he doesn’t agree with the refusal, then it’s not mutual.
In his mind, you need two nos to refuse sex, but only one yes to have it.
That’s so twisted and warped, and exactly the opposite of consent and what we should be looking for.
We need two yeses to have sex, and only one no to stop it.
Here’s how I think about consent:
At essence, understanding consent is twofold: It’s understanding that you have the right to say no to something that you don’t want, and it’s understanding that you need to honour someone else’s no.
And yet I don’t think this has been taught or understood nearly enough in Christian circles, because instead we’ve had things like that “sexual refusal commitment” hanging around, along with messages that men will automatically lust depending on what a woman wears. All of this adds up to women feeling as if they have no ability or right to have their no heard.
You may also enjoy:
- What do the “Do Not Deprive” Verses Mean? (a 3-part series)
- What if the “Do Not Deprive” Verses apply more to Women than Men?
A while ago on the blog, a frequent commenter said that she had only recently understood that she had been a victim of date rape as a teen. She hadn’t wanted sex; she had said no; but because she grew up in the purity culture that told her that men couldn’t resist sex, she felt it was her fault because of what she was wearing, and because she kissed him (which then obviously led to sex). It was only now, many years later, that she realized that she wasn’t to blame because she did say no, and her no should have been listened to.
So we need to talk about this well!
I asked on Facebook the other day for some resources to help kids understand consent, and some resources that can help us start the conversation as well. Some great suggestions came in! And so I’d like to share them with you:
Preparing Kids to Understand Consent
We need to teach kids from an early age that they are allowed to say no, and also that their bodies are their own. Here are some great resources for that:
Children’s Resources on Consent
1. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus
An awesome picture book that tells kids at the very beginning–no matter what happens, don’t let the pigeon drive the bus! The rest of the book is the pigeon trying to convince the child to let him drive the bus, and the child has to keep saying no. It teaches kids how to keep their “no” even if people try to manipulate them. Plus it’s really, really funny.
3. Honour your children’s “no”–and allow them to express it.
One woman on Facebook shared this story:
The dad of the family was tickling his daughter (age 5). She started saying “stop it stop it”. He did not stop immediately and told her “I didn’t hear your nice words”. He proceeded to tickle her until she said “stop tickling me please” (you know between breaths). It burned me up! He just demonstrated that he did not respect her decisions about her body and also that she has to ask nicely for a man to quit touching her. I feel like saying “please” when you ask for something is great to teach kids, but not when someone else is acting upon them in a way they didn’t ask for to begin with. I think it’s also important for males and females alike to understand that women sometimes have a tendency to say “yes” to things they don’t really want just because they don’t want to say “no” to their man. Sometimes because they think it will hurt his feelings, because they feel they already put themselves in a compromising position, etc. so we should make sure in any interaction that we and our partner are truly comfortable and relaxed.
4. Ask Kids Permission to Touch
The organization Darkness to Light also helps parents teach kids about consent, and they have this great video to guide adults in how to talk to kids before you touch them (the stuff about coaches at the beginning is especially good):
5. Teach Kids They’re the “Boss of their Body”
And this catchy YouTube video helps kids understand that they’re the boss of their body–in all kinds of circumstances:
Preparing Teens to Understand Consent
1. Would you like a cup of tea?
A while ago, a British organization made this amazing video comparing consent to sex with a cup of tea. It’s pretty awesome! This was one I was already thinking of, but so many people recommended it, too.
2. Take the Consent Quiz!
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center has a great Consent Quiz that teens can take. Again, we may run into the same problem that we’re asking kids not to have sex until they’re married anyway, so some may think this doesn’t apply to them. But it’s important that everybody realize they can say no, and having the conversation that consent is true whether you’re married or not is also important.
3. Make these conversations easier
I know having conversations about sex and consent and dating and all of these things can be difficult with teens and preteens, but we also want to make that easier for you right now. My daughters and I created an online video course called the Whole Story: Not so Awkward Talks about Sex, Puberty, and Growing Up. My daughters do the videos for the girls explaining sex, body changes, dating, peer pressure, and more, while mother-daughter discussions and exercises help YOU continue the conversation. We’ve got it available in two groups: for girls aged 10-12, and then for girls aged 13-15. A year later we added the boy’s version, featuring TV personality Sheldon Neil from Crossroads TV, with my sons-in-law sharing stories, too.
We’ve drastically cut the price during COVID, because we think now is an awesome time to take advantage of this course while you’re stuck at home! And then you can start these conversations, and also start talking about consent. Check it out here!
You’re telling me WHAT goes WHERE?!
Talking about sex with your kids doesn’t always go smoothly.
That’s why we created The Whole Story, our online course that walks parents through the tough conversations and does the hard parts for you!
So that’s a smorgasbord of resources to start talking about consent.
I think this is an important conversation to have in Christian circles, and we don’t do it well. Let’s change that!
Do you have any other resources on consent you’d recommend? Why do you think we’re so bad at this? What did you think of the “Sexual Refusal Commitment”? Let’s talk in the comments!