Why Consent Isn’t All There is to It

Consent doesn't mean someone hasn't been victimized.

By Beth Moore Published on December 17, 2017

As demoralizing as it has been to see the continual surfacing of one public figure after another accused of sexual misconduct, harassment, abuse, assault and, in various cases, rape, it also comes with a sigh of relief to many exhaling the words, “It’s about time.”

Most women and, tragically, even many teenage girls were already well acquainted with the depth and breadth of a problem that desperately needed to be publicly exposed. I do not claim in this article to speak for every woman or girl who has been abused, assaulted or harassed but I’d like, if I could, to speak from what I have experienced, seen, heard and learned, not only as a victim but also as a servant to women for 35 years.

Consent Doesn’t Mean Not Victimized

I wish to make only one primary point in hopes that it will stick and to make it succinct enough for this article to be read in full. As solutions are being sought and these vital matters are being discussed, the word “consent” is, understandably and appropriately, the word in the forefront. The line to be drawn in the sand. While determining whether or not there has been consent may be enough for settling legalities and forming policies, it is unfortunately not enough to insure that an individual has not been victimized.

Countless women and girls (and boys) consent to sexual advances they do not welcome or want and that scar them for a lifetime. Or sometimes they consent to one thing and get something completely and disturbingly different. They do so for the same reason I did. They feel enormously pressured, extremely unprotected, overpowered and, at times, utterly powerless.

My Experience

I well remember feeling something akin to paralysis. The word “no” was not even in my vocabulary. The boundaries around my life were bulldozed early and by a bully, I might add, because, while not all bullies are sexual predators, all sexual predators are, in one way or another, bullies. There was no manual within my reach about how to rebuild those crumbled boundaries.

I did, however, learn as God raised me up in strength and dignity and restored me. He accomplished these works through making me a student of His Word and of His gracious ways and through godly counsel and by making me a woman of fiery faith and ferocious prayer and confidence in Christ. All of these are unabashed graces of God and to His glory alone. Part of my work has been to help facilitate that process for others and it remains one of the greatest privileges of my life.

The Right to Say No

And here is one of the most important concepts I can teach them: YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY NO TO UNWANTED SEXUAL ADVANCES. EXERCISE IT. Not a meek little whispery wispy “uh uh” but a full volume, confident, steel-strong “NO.” It’s not too late, no matter how old you are.

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Parents, your part here is titanic. As you raise your children and teach them about the boundaries they get to draw around their lives, train them up with the confidence to use one of the most vital words in their entire vocabulary. And also teach them about how we can feel so pressured and overpowered, we feel like we can’t say no and how we can muster up the courage to get that reluctant term to bounce out of our mouths.

Create a Safe Environment

This part is really really important: if and when you learn that harmful sexual advances were made on your child or loved one then come to find out there was “consent,” do not automatically assume consent is synonymous with welcome. Whatever you do, do not shame them. Help them. There won’t be a do-over on your initial reactions to their detrimental sexual experience.

It will be hard for them to talk about so try to read what they are telling you by their behaviors and create a safe environment for them to communicate. Believe them as they slowly open up to you about what happened and show compassion and strength and facilitate whatever further help they may need. If there was legitimate welcome and consent, for crying out loud, still love your child and work through the complications. Don’t withhold physical affection from them like they’ve become a pariah unless they, for a while, don’t want you to touch them. Assure them over and over how loved and valued they are and teach them the life-giving concept of grace. You’re the adult. Don’t make your child parent you.

I wish tools like understanding (and expecting) pressures to give consent and like learning how to exercise the right to say no would solve everything. While these tools can have a strong impact in situations of harassment and less forceful unwanted sexual advances, they are often little to no help in a rape or assault.

Healing in Christ

If you or someone you love suffer (or have suffered) such a torrential crime, please know there is help out there. There is healing to be had in Christ and much esteem, dignity and strength to be regained in Him. Boundaries can indeed be rebuilt around your life healthily that do not become a prison to your heart, perpetuating your pain and isolation.

I’ll conclude with this. Five minutes of stunningly selfish sexual pleasure can cost a victim a lifetime of suffering. Little can be more demoralizing and infuriating than the shoulder shrugging of victimizers and their sympathizers. “It wasn’t that bad.” Sometimes all we who have been victimized have left to say are the words of Christ from the cross. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

And sometimes that can be enough because, make no mistake. Nothing is more empowering than calling wrongdoing wrong, calling yourself loved of God and valued and, by the power invested in you as His child, forgiving those who don’t have a clue how much they hurt you.

Let’s keep this truth ever before us in these days of ever-surfacing evil: God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. God has no dark side.

 

Originally published on Living Proof Ministries. Republished with permission.

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  • tz1

    Way back in my grandparent’s time, the question wasn’t asked, and there were clear reputations that would be ruined, so “No” was easy. The default or at least ideal for both men and women was virginity until marriage.

    Now you have “sex education” where they give out condoms and do the wink, nod, everyone does it, if you are still a virgin at 16 something is wrong with you.

    We have a toxic environment, but unlike poisons or even carbon, no one wants to clean up the environment. We are expected to live where there is pressure.

    Even Weinstein. The women could have run screaming – and never worked again. Consent? When there is a quid pro quo?

    You can’t have safety where we have an environment where it is about “consent”, outside of that consent being saying “I do” publically, in front of man and God in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Going back to my grandparents, we had chaperones and other rules like curfews and single sex residences because this welcome/consent problem was a problem from ancient times. Your neocortext might want to say “no”, your amygdala and limbic system has other ideas. Because passion too often ruled reason, they were corralled, repressed and constrained.

    The sexual revolution – including the pill pushers – changed all that. Read Humanae Vitae where the Pope prophecized that women would become sex objects. Sex is no longer about marriage, families, babies. It is about pleasure. The one drug where there is a war to make it easier. Sandra Fluke will die without birth control. She can’t say “No”?

    You can’t have a Christian subculture in a pagan or multi-culture. The reverse is possible, it is called tolerance, but things default to Christian prudery. When things default to pagan debauchery?

    • Sylvain_A

      Tz,

      You are living on a very weird planet.

      Sex education classes lead to less sexual relations, less STD’s and less abortion. Education is a good thing not a bad thing.

      Teenager don’t need parental consent to have their first sexual relation. In fact, denying a teenager sex only guaranty that they will have it sooner.

      My friend went to Morroco last year and she discovered that the reconstruction of the Hymen is the most frequent aesthetic surgery over there. She went out there with her friend and she never saw so many people sleeping around than what she witnessed.

      In the USA the most religious state are those that bring the most money to the porn industries

      • Dean Bruckner

        You lie.

        • Sylvain_A

          Wow truth hurt

      • Andrew Mason

        Actually it depends on the Sex Ed. Classes that teach avoidance before marriage, that unsafe sex leads to STDs and ruined lives, will reduce the odds of folk straying – people can make bad decisions but at least they’ll be making informed choices. By contrast classes which teach students that it is natural and normal to screw around, that STDs are just part and parcel of life, how to source abortions etc will of course result in far more (pre) teen intercourse, STDs, and abortions. Educating students about the risks is a good thing, teaching them to screw up their lives is not.

        Encouraging teens to delay having sex doesn’t guarantee they will have it sooner – it is only in modern society where sex is promoted that teen sex has become such a problem.

        I’m highly skeptical about your claims regarding religious states providing the greatest profits to the porn industry. My suspicion is that it is the more populated states – California and New York for instance, and especially folk in cities, who provide most of the revenue. Of course cities, and those states, both lean left politically. Could there not be a connection? I’ll also point out that the public expression of religion is not the same as having a genuine faith.

        Oh and side note regarding tz1’s point about still being a virgin at 16 considered proof of there being something wrong with you, that depends on the society you mix with. There are social groups that consider virginity at 30, 40, even 90 or 100 quite reasonable – sex comes after marriage, and many people will never marry. As society becomes less tolerant, and Christianity more marginalised, that may change.

      • Nunyadambizness

        Sylvain, I’m sorry but you are flat out wrong, and your leftist-paid-for studies that say “sex education classes lead to less…[whatever]” is simply a lie. I do agree that education is a good thing; however, education needs moral clarity and guidance, as well as a commonsense approach. Teaching a 3rd grader how to put on a condom does nothing but stoke the imagination of a child that has no concept of sex, (and has) and will lead to experimentation and questioning–it’s human nature, and those who push for such things KNOW THIS.

        Think of it this way–75 years ago was there sex outside of marriage? Did teenagers sneak somewhere so they could have sex? Of course! Were there then unplanned pregnancies? Absolutely. Here’s the difference from today–There were moral teachings which guided those who did such things, who knew that what they were doing was wrong, and IF the sex outside marriage resulted in pregnancy, typically the answer was marriage (the old “shotgun wedding”). Was it the best system? Maybe not, but it was far better than murdering 50+ MILLION babies as we have done since the “sexual revolution”. SELF RESPONSIBILITY and MORALITY is no longer taught, and so this is the result.

        As to your comment about the “most religious state [sic] are those that bring the most money to the porn industries [sic]” I call BS, this is a fabrication–either yours, or someone else’s.

        • Sylvain_A

          1) 75 years ago we were in the middle of WW2, which killed 70 millions people in 6-7 years.
          2) Where is your outrage to the 1,5-2 million peoples, who were actually alive but have been kill by gun since the sexual liberation.
          3) Abortion is not murder. Life begin when the baby is actually alive, which occurs at first breath. The Bible actually state in genesis that life began with the first breath.

          ”English Standard Version
          then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

          The claim that life begin at conception is a lie formulated by men to take control over women.

          • Nunyadambizness

            Sylvain,

            Your response is disjointed and a red herring. WWII had nothing to do with abortion, though there WAS a moral objection to the murderous regime. As to your other, again it’s a red herring and not worth a response.

            Your use of a Bible quote taken out of context to maintain your standard is disappointing and wrong. How about :”Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” ?? (Jeremiah 1:5) Abortion is murder, plain and simple. The claim that life begins at conception is no such lie formulated to control women–every woman I know controls her own actions, including her sexual proclivities. If it’s only a “bunch of tissue” leave it alone and see what happens. If it’s not “alive” then why kill it?

            ADD TO THIS: Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood was a RACIST eugenicist who wanted blacks to be removed from the planet, this FACT IS IRREFUTABLE. She purposely placed clinics in black neighborhoods to help eliminate the race. Therefore, if you support abortion you also support RASCISM, albeit indirectly.

            Have a nice day.

          • Sylvain_A

            My quote taken out of the bible is not out of context. Life begun this way and the cycle has been repeating this way for millions of years (maybe 6000 years for you). We grow form dust and go back to dust after our death.

            Human are a little different since we are in-souled at our first breath. No need to provide a soul to a vessel that in 85% of time wont make it to birth even if there were no abortion.

            On the other hand, your bible quote only demonstrate that our soul/spirit are eternal and does reincarnate. Jesus was not different than us we are able to do the same thing he did as long as we apply Gods law which has nothing to do with any religious law which are man-made. The true teaching of Jesus have been corrupted by thousands of year of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Buddhism and Hinduism did not do much better either.

            As for Margaret Sanger, even if it is or was true, racism and eugenicist was of her time. You elected a racist president just last year. By your logic if your are a proud American than you support slavery because most of the founder had slaves.

      • tz1

        We had less sexual relations, STDs (100 million Americans today, that is 1 in 3), and all but no abortion in 1950’s USA and we didn’t have the Planned Parenthood how-to get infected and pregnant education in schools back then.
        Teenagers don’t need parental consent to shoot or stab people to death either. Should they be denied guns or knives?
        I give Teenagers more moral agency than you do. If they are merely rutting animals then they should have NO rights, and be locked up in some kind of zoo to prevent them from harming themselves because they can’t reason through the most basic consequences of their actions.
        Porn is addictive, and the only reason I would not ban it like heroin or crack is the general evils caused by the drug war. But I think the consequences are worse.

  • David MacKenzie

    While I can appreciate the therapeutic attempt of this article, and its charity, one also needs to be terribly concerned about Christians adopting the language of the secularized pagan, with zero analysis and self-criticism.
    The question of “is it fornication?” or “is it adultery?”, etc., should never be off the table. Secularized culture has abandoned the moral narrative, as it has abandoned God. It barely even asks the moral question anymore, as those questions are grounded in an objective worldview that presupposes God. To allow mere “consent” to become uppermost in the public conversation is, therefore, to abandon theistic principles, altogether. I wouldn’t even entertain the idea.

  • Linda

    Thanks Beth. You are absolutely right, yes doesn’t mean yes when a young person is involved, and there is a power imbalance.

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