WOMEN ENJOY MAKING LOVE
The use and concept of “consent” demeans women. It reduces them to passive humans who are only recipients of sexual activity rather than active participants.
At its best, making love is a physical sensual activity of communication and learning about an other. Both people affirm their unique identity, desire, style, pleasure, and fulfillment in its accomplishment. (The apogee may be mutual simultaneous orgasms). After the first time, relationships are changed permanently by the common intimate memory. When less than ideal, there may arise ambiguities, ambivalencies, and even regrets but such does not imply that what occurred was a mutual affirmation expressed physically.
On the other hand, what is considered “consent” may be acceptance of the unwanted.
Stormy Daniel’s story was that she did not want to have sex with Donald Trump, while noting his little penis with a mushroom top, but when he emerged naked from the bathroom she felt she had to accommodate him. Prostitutes agree (“consent”) to have their bodies used for male sexual satisfaction for money but that surely does not imply that they desire or personally accept it. Worst, of all, is when they women have been sold into slavery as part of “sex trade” so that what could be considered “consent”, from a quick glance, constitutes a violation approximating torture.
“‘No’ means ‘no’”. Not so. The mating dance is subtle and nuanced. An effective and clear way of rejection often is evidenced physically when a woman grabs and restrains. What is said, however, often has many meanings, sometimes simultaneously when ambivalence is involved with minds not completely made up, capable of changing at a crucial juncture. Women seem rarely to affirm their desire and enjoyment verbally (although at certain points it may be expressed audibly). There are no formulas but a real need for sensitivity to the feelings of the other.
Our focus is on affirming heterosexual adult actors in ‘normal’ intercourse. Many of the same considerations, of course, apply to most homosexual acts. Pedophilia and pederasty, however, are not included as both do not have the same ability to affirm. There are many acts which are viewed by some as “deviant” or “perverted” (including fetishes). Many of the same considerations apply with particular attention to lasting harm. Incest not only violates social taboos, but, with parents and children, also occurs without mutual affirmation and may, in general, induce lasting psychological damage. In the area of heterosexual abuse, we may distinguish rape, harassment, and discrimination.
Rape is a horrific assault. It usually leaves lasting deep trauma more than other assaults. As such a terrible assault, it carries (and should carry) more sanctions (longer sentences) than other assaults – with the connected increased need to protect women in the future by confining those who commit it. Such increased sanctions might imply a higher burden of proof than other condemnable assaults. But, it does not. Indeed a misunderstanding of the meaning of “corroboration” has lessened the proof needed. Corroboration need not be a witness but just some proof beyond individual testimony, including but not limited to such as injury incurred, clothing clearly torn by someone else than the possessor, (both demonstrated) etc. The widespread presence of TV cameras is helpful. Understandable and justifiable as the rage and desire for action may be, justice requires more than claims no matter how well expressed.
A particular problem arises when there are regrets by the woman immediately or subsequently after the end of the act. (In the rare case, of regrets arising during the act, achieving or accepting an interruption may impose quite a burden, suffusing the whole act with ambiguity and ambivalence, impossible for a third party to evaluate). Although most times, one hopes, the mutual affirmation leaves a glow, sometimes – often because the context involves the ingestion of “mind altering” substances, such as alcohol, there is real unhappiness. Yet, this does not imply a rape. But it may be claimed.
Rather the situation is be reduced to a “he says, she says.” Given the complicated nature of the interaction, and the gravity of the penal consequences, it seems that uncorroborated testimony should not be the basis of a rape conviction. No satisfactory objective evaluation of credibility is certain enough to sustain the proper “burden” of proof.
There are non-criminal evaluations of “rape” claims. A current controversy swirls around college campuses where some believe it is a prevalent outrage. A problem is protection of the innocent accused. Even if criminal process protections are not to be the standard (although expulsion is a serious and social consequence) certainly “due process” should apply as it does in most governmental administrative hearings and include not relying exclusively on one person’s testimony.
Sexual harassment is both ugly and damaging. Cat calls are humiliating. Unwanted touching (let alone caressing or kissing) is upsetting and even sometimes degrading. A gray cultural area involves “invading space”. Hugging, kissing and touching occur often in the entertainment world; they are often means of greeting in various societies (The Dutch kiss three times alternating cheeks.) What is dismaying potentially for some may be culturally or customary proximity and tactility approved for those who “invade space”. Of course, sensitivity to have affectionate and supportive gestures may be received is important but usually the acts do not arise to sexual harassment. Comments may be offensive; requirements and requests for certain physical acts, such as bending over, are often wrongly motivated. It should also be noted that in certain contexts, women in power sexually harass subordinated.
The basic response, if desirable, must be to reform the general culture and the specific contextual traditions. The particular practical questions revolve around specific acts or patterns of them. It appears that many corporations create an atmosphere encouraging rather than discouraging these degrading acts. The best abstract answer is to provide a secure secret means of complaints being lodged; a sensible investigation (recognizing spontaneity, appreciation, and affection), evaluations by “human resources” and disciplinary action, including firing resulting where there is either an egregious act or pattern of these demeaning acts. Whether “sensitivity training” does anybody any good is not yet clear but consequences would inform.
Sex discrimination is both evil and pervasive. The admirable Red Stockings as the named group, who created the slogans “Sisterhood is powerful” and “consciousness raising” have pointed out in many publications that it is part of the woop and warf of societal, class, and corporate oppression. (Disclosure: I am their General Counsel. As a group or individuals, they may not agree with some or all of the views I have expressed.) The public figures on lower pay and limited presence in leadership job is well documented.
There are relevant laws on the books. The problem has been not only in powerful decisions maker’s indifference but failure to enforce in Courts and agencies, particularly in the current Federal administration. The hope here is that the increase, visibility, and activity of legal and advocacy groups to educate, reach out to victims, and prosecute these cases will have the impact the laws should and will. (There is room for reform in the laws such as eliminating any requirements for “mitigation” which decreases damages, limits on recovery, and attorney fees, etc.)
Gender discrimination must be on the forefront of legal, political, and social movements.
Having surveyed summarily this area, we should not lose sight of what novelists have featured – the complexity of all human relations, and particularly those between members of the opposite sex.
We must recognize all the ambiguities in courtship rituals as well as the terrible acts some have committed.
Celebrating human equality, we should view proper sexual conduct as mutual affirmation, and, in particular, that women do not “consent” but enjoy and are fulfilled in and by “making love.”