Yes, consent usually is talked about in relation to sex. Can we all be ok with that for a minute? Can we all put aside our discomfort- either due to embarrassment or morality or whatever- to decide that there are things more important than our embarrassment or morality or whatever? Those more important things are other people and our call to love and care for them. Especially if we're Christians.
My mom had one of the best replies to my last post. She said, "Nothing is a taboo subject with Jesus. He has heard it all." And, I might add, "and He loves us anyway." When He was on the Earth, Jesus engaged with a culture that didn't share His level of morality. Everyday. In love. While caring about not only their spiritual needs, but their physical ones. To do that- to be like Jesus in our own culture- we might need to talk about sex at times. That's ok. He knows.
And our ability to engage in topics like consent and sex can be ways He uses us to help heal a broken world. One where both men and women find themselves objectified. One where too many people are sexually harassed and assaulted. One where the idea that no one should be having sex isn't working.
Can we re-form purity culture into consent culture? Yes, we can.
What is the goal of purity culture? Well, isn't the real goal to honor God's desire of purity before marriage? To not objectify other people? To promote true respect and love for other, particularly those you're romantically involved with? To not engage in sexual activities (or thoughts) outside of marriage.
Let's not confuse that with a mandate to ignore sex as a topic. In my experience (and many others), purity-culture-gone-wrong did not accomplish its goals. Instead, it did things like this:
1) Made women, especially young women, ashamed of their bodies. Especially, and often, at a time when those bodies were changing and maturing.
2) Objectify people (particularly women), even more.
3) Produced shame in response to natural sexual desires.
4) Created a community of people who felt it was sinful to think about or discuss anything related to sex. (Consider the consequences of this in terms of pregnancies, abortions, health, and STDs/STIs.)
5) Created a community of people who do not know how to handle survivors of sexual abuse-- who have experienced sexual activity, but are yet innocent. (And, simultaneously, created a community of survivors who are doubly-shamed, and doubtful of their worth.)
Now-- let's consider a culture of consent. Consent culture is about communicating needs and desires to others. Period.
Here's a more eloquent version from OnlyWithConsent.org:
Consent culture is a culture in which asking for consent is normalized and condoned in popular culture. It is respecting the person’s response even if it isn’t the response you had hoped for. We will live in a consent culture when we no longer objectify people and we value them as human beings. Consent culture is believing that you and your partner(s) have the right over your own bodily autonomies and understanding that each of you know what is best for yourselves.
Consent culture is doing what purity culture always should have been doing: Teaching people how to say yes and no, based on their unique combination of needs, wants, likes, dislikes, and values.