- - Tuesday, October 28, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION

California Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed the “affirmative consent” law for colleges and universities in the state. The so-called “yes means yes” law — the first of its kind in the U.S. — lays out guidelines for sexual consent between students:

An affirmative consent standard in the determination of whether consent was given by both parties to sexual activity. “Affirmative consent” means affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is the responsibility of each person involved in the sexual activity to ensure that he or she has the affirmative consent of the other or others to engage in the sexual activity. Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time. The existence of a dating relationship between the persons involved, or the fact of past sexual relations between them, should never by itself be assumed to be an indicator of consent.

Supporters of the law hail it as a victory in the prevention of campus sex assaults. Critics say it opens the door for overreach. After all, how will campus authorities keep track of consent?

Some of the language in the law is troubling, specifically the requirement that affirmative consent “must be ongoing throughout the sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.” Does this mean students must be continually asking each other during sex if they are consenting? This seems slightly unrealistic, considering that sexual activity isn’t exactly the best time to be thinking clearly and rationally.

There are many arguments both for and against this law, but the discussion falls woefully short of what is the real problem, namely the mainstreaming of the “hookup” culture and the death of courting.

There, I said it. Does that make me a curmudgeonly old grandma stuck in 1950s America? No, it makes me a realist. In my mother’s generation — the baby boomers — the message was “free love” (and it can be argued that this is when the terms “love” and “sex” became widely interchangeable). With the rise of HIV/AIDS and other STDs in the 1980s and ‘90s the message became “safe love.” As long as you were “protecting” yourself, the consequences would be negligible.

In the 2000s the message morphed into “shame-free love” — meaning whatever choices we make with our sexuality should be free of any kind of judgment from others. Even pointing out the health risks of sexual promiscuity was and is considered narrow-minded to many people.

Whereas in the ‘60s “women’s lib” focused primarily on economic equality — the expansion of job opportunities for women and equal pay for equal work — by the 2000s women were equating female empowerment with no-strings sexual promiscuity. If men can sleep around without shame or consequences, why can’t women? If men can be casual about sex, why can’t women? Suddenly, the idea of an empowered woman became the picture of a woman able to use her sexuality in the same way men do.

Gone now, as a result, are the days when a man had to pursue a woman in order to win the privilege of sexual contact. “Friends with Benefits” isn’t just a movie title; it’s now a generational sexual norm. The 2011 romantic comedy starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis was just one in a string of movies about young millennials who, clueless about how to establish and maintain romantic relationships, agree to engage in casual sex, no strings attached (the title of another 2011 movie in this genre).

Of course, the lies perpetuated by such films are that women are the ones with commitment issues and it’s the men who get emotionally attached. Nothing could be further from the truth. Women are emotional nurturers. We are receivers. Men are physically stimulated. They are givers. Women are exponentially more likely to attach emotional value to sex — which is exactly why we have an innate need to be pursued. The “casual sex for all” message serves to perpetuate the idea for young women that if we can’t engage in casual relations we’re doing something wrong — we aren’t “empowered.”

Young college women are feeling a lot of pressure to “perform.” If a girl doesn’t want to have a one-night stand or engage in other sexual acts with her horny college acquaintance, he can easily find another more “empowered” woman who will. On the flip side, men aren’t required to earn these privileges anymore and are thus more likely to move on once they have sampled the wares, so to speak.

My mother-in-law always says, “A man needs to hunt.” Well, expectations change. While men used to be expected to wait for sex, women are now expected to provide sex up front before a relationship can go further — and men can abandon the hunt. These days the erstwhile hunters are more likely to be like captive zoo animals. Their survival skills have been dulled as they lazily wait to be fed by young women who have been sold a bill of goods: Sex is only a physical act, and the only way for young women to prove they are strong and in control is to have as much of it as possible.

If you think I’m being old-fashioned and alarmist, please observe every relationship between men and women in every movie you watch for the next few months. I tell the truth.

I say all this to illustrate that the hookup culture leads to confusion with ripple effects throughout our society. Suddenly, all kinds of mixed messages are being sent regarding an act that is meant to nurture relationships and facilitate the building of families. Those mixed messages end up leading to less freedom, not more.

No longer are men and women free to fulfill their natural gender roles, or delight in the unique relationship each individual has to those roles. Now we are expected to deny those roles. Free love, safe love, shame-free love have led to no love — just sex. Just sex has led to a culture that now has an embedded disrespect for what is meant to be an edifying act. That embedded disrespect has now led to the need for actual laws to be put in place to “protect” those engaging in sexual activity.

It used to be sex wasn’t an automatic expectation between dating partners. There was no need for “consent laws,” because consent was marriage, or at least an engagement. Respect — for oneself, for each other, for the natures of men and women — was all the protection that was needed.

Funny how all this “free sex” has led to nothing but more laws and more government intrusion. Not to mention the personal and physical consequences of having multiple sexual partners in a short amount of time. Doesn’t sound so free to me.

My notions of sex, love and marriage may seem quite antiquated in today’s America, but at least my husband and I don’t need a phone app or a written contract every time we want to make love. We are free to enjoy all the benefits of sexual relations without the stresses of STDs, unwanted pregnancies or future rape allegations.

Sounds like true sexual freedom to me. And we didn’t even need a lawyer.

Kira Davis is a blogger, stay-at-home mom and scotch enthusiast. Twitter: @KiraAynDavis

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