I get that. I mean, at first glance, it doesn't seem to make sense to teach people how to ask for and communicate about sex if they're not supposed to be having any. Right? How can purity culture and consent culture co-exist? Or better yet, why would they ever need to?
Well, there are a bunch of answers: Consent isn't all about sex. And, regardless of what they're "supposed" to do, some Christians do have sex, for various reasons, in various situations. And, most Christians who aren't having sex, do intend on having sex someday. And there's that whole issue about sexual violence and assault that's far too prevalent in the world today, and the fact that we have survivors in our congregations who need our support in healing and fixing this problem.
That's why Christians need to talk about consent. That's why I'm here, right now, talking about consent.
Let's start with the, "Consent isn't all about sex" bit:
Consent is actually something we can do everyday with anyone we interact with. "Do you want to talk about this?" "Do you want to go to a movie?" "Can I give you a hug?" These are all questions that ask for consent. Consent is- quite simply- the acknowledgement that the person you're interacting with has volition all their own, and you care enough to ask about what they want/don't want. It's a way of seeing that you're on the same page with someone, and making sure you're not pushing anything on them. And that's really healthy. That's putting another's needs ahead of your own. That's Biblical.
1 Corinthians 13:5 (from the "love" chapter) says of love, "It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered..." It doesn't step on other people. It doesn't prioritize what it wants over what someone else wants. It doesn't get angry when it doesn't get its way. Sounds like consent to me...
Consent is, obviously, more importantly, applied to romantic/sexual situations, but that still doesn't have to include "sex." Consent can apply to hugs, hand-holding, cuddling, kissing, etc. Just ask Anna and Kristoff...
And, of course, there's the fact that sin exists. We can no longer hide from the fact that sex is happening. Sometimes, a believer may walk away from their faith and choose to no longer follow the guidelines set out in the Bible. Sometimes, a person may just fall into sin, perhaps as a one-time thing. People who may fall into these categories need to be able to communicate about consent. A person may live in complete sexual purity until their wedding night-- they still need to be able to communicate about consent. Saying 'yes' to one thing doesn't mean saying 'yes' to others. And consent is not just about yes-or-no questions either-- It's about healthy communication about wants, likes, and dislikes. And a healthy marriage would be based on the general healthy principle of-- as I said earlier-- the acknowledgement that the person you're interacting with has volition all their own, and you care enough to ask about what they want/don't want.
So, if consent is something that we can do with anyone, and it helps us demonstrate our loving care of another individual, putting their needs above our own desires... WHY are we not talking about consent more?