Monday, April 25, 2016

Sexual Consent - Right or Privilege?

It's always gratifying when you have that moment of epiphany in which you're able to pinpoint precisely the way in which your personal philosophy differs from so many others'. It's one thing to go about the world suffering frustration at every turn by people expressing beliefs that contradict your intuitive understanding of an issue. But being able to actually articulate where and why that difference arises - well, it brings a certain level of peace of mind, and it's also the first step in being able to explain your own position in the hope that maybe some more people will come over to your side.

Being a sexual progressive, it's incredibly frustrating for me to find frequent fault with the platform of mainstream sexual progress, because I feel that it's not progressive enough. It's one thing to be able to ally with other progressives against the common enemy of sexual repression and moral conservatism, but when your fight for sexual liberation places you at odds with even those who should be on your side, it's a very isolating and discouraging feeling. Now, it may be true that there are many out there, even among the progressive camps, who cling to the belief that sexual consent ought to indeed be considered a privilege instead of a right (rather than this simply being a semantic misunderstanding), but stating the difference is enough to create awareness of there being two different ways to approach the issue, so that in the future, progressives can dictate their stance, and other progressives who disagree with that stance can know that there is other ground to occupy, on which there may be others already standing, ready to stand with them.

(As a disclaimer, I'm not claiming to be the first person to ever consider the question of whether sexual consent should be considered a privilege or a right - although I have come to this point by independent channels of thought and reason - but I see so little support for the belief that sexual consent should be considered a right - a belief that I hold - and so much support for the other view, that I feel warranted in constructing my position rather than joining one that, as far as I can see in any direction, either does not exist, or is not visible enough to be easily found. And if the latter be the case, I hope that by adding my voice, it may become all the more visible, if even by just a little bit).

Now, to state my position:

Sexual Consent - Right or Privilege?

The freedom to give consent - and, by extension, its opposite: the freedom to deny consent - to [give and/or receive, among mutually consenting parties] sexual stimulation is not a legal privilege to be granted to select populations with certain limitations. It is a fundamental human right.

Sexual progressives these days almost unanimously voice the opinion that consent is the cornerstone of positive sexuality. But while this is certainly true, they fail to make the distinction between true consent, and consent as a privilege granted by the state. To support the legal construct of sexual consent - as these "progressives" mostly do - is, in fact, a regressive approach. It is an acquiescence to the day's moral taboos. Fifty years ago, homosexuals were not permitted the privilege to consent to sexual acts with each other. Does this mean that they did not deserve the right to engage in such behaviors? Certainly not! That the law has changed since then is a victory for sexual progress, but do you think this ever would have happened without people challenging the notion that the law is the final arbiter of the validity of people's desires?

You might believe that, since the law has been more or less "corrected" for its previous glaring omission(s), we can now afford to fall back on the view that the law is sovereign. But nothing about the law's fallibility has changed. Including a disenfranchised minority under the law's protection does not change the fact (or my opinion, if you wish) that sexual consent ought to be considered a human right, and not a legal privilege. Is our work done now, or is progress a never-ending pursuit? Should we not stay vigilant against the forces of regression, lest public sentiment take another turn, and we find ourselves sliding back into old ways? Then, all our support for the new law will be easily switched over to support the newer, more regressive laws, because by putting our faith in the law, we've demonstrated that while public sentiment may change, in the end, the law has the final say.

Rather, I think it is more righteous to acknowledge an adherence to the law only insofar as doing so contributes to the social order, and not to the extent of letting the law dictate our personal philosophies. For if laws may change through time (as they most assuredly do), then there must be a greater purpose guiding them, and I believe that purpose is human conscience. And rather than a legal privilege - like operating a motor vehicle - it is my belief that the ability to grant or deny consent to engage in sexually stimulating activities is one of those inalienable rights upon the recognition of which the dignity of human life depends. Furthermore, I consider this a fundamental tenet of true sex-positivity.

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