Consensual sex contracts vs. consexual creed

There’s a lot of discussion in the feminist blogs about this T-shirt:
NO means have aNOther drink

This is timely, as currently most of the search engine hits bringing visitors to this blog are people googling on “consensual sex contracts“. But they’re not leaving comments. Why not?

Seeing as how my view is that the various “consensual sex contracts” on the market are legally invalid, do nothing to protect against coercion, and reek of a perceived male entitlement to “complete the agreed sexual act” no matter what (literally attempting to contract against withdrawal of consent), perhaps the searchers simply don’t like what they read. Perhaps the people googling on “consensual sex contracts” find my conclusions disturbing because they wish that consensual sex contracts really were some simple answer to having the sex they want, without fear of being accused of rape, that simply involved two people signing a piece of legally-binding paper.

You want to know the way to have the sex you want without fear of being accused of rape? Actually make a proper effort to understand the deeper issues surrounding consent to sex and consensual sexual relations. It’s not just “let’s fuck – yes or no?” because consensual sex is an ongoing negotiation between two (or more) people about pleasure, autonomy and safety, not an irrevocable commitment to your orgasm.

Genuinely looking to learn more about true consensual sexual relations? Here’s two sites to check out The Consexual Creed at Ending the Violence:

“Consexuality” is a combination of the words “consensual” and “sexuality.” It refers to a standard of conduct that prioritizes sexual safety and autonomy over sexual access and satisfaction. This “First-do-no-harm” standard means that any sexual contact without (fully informed) consent is sexual violence.

and Contracts, Condoms, and Consensual Sex at Men Can Stop Rape.

While it may be argued that this product helps to raise the issue of consent and is therefore a positive development, it may also be argued that a signed legal contract does nothing to change the chances that coercion and violence were used to obtain sex.

The Consexuality Creed folks still want you to sign a piece of paper, but it’s a promise to yourself to hold yourself to an ethical standard, not some legal boilerplate that means you don’t have to think about consent any more. Sorry, you have to think about consent whenever preparing for or engaging in sexual contact, because that’s the right thing to do.

Prioritise sexual safety/autonomy over sexual access/satisfaction. Nobody’s pleasure outweighs the safety and autonomy of others. Sexual contact is a privilege, not a right.

In the case of the T-shirt above, let’s unpack the problems (beyond merely the obvious that finding rape jokes unfunny is not a sign of being humourless):

* Someone not saying “No” is not tantamount to them consenting to sex.
* Rendering a person incapable of saying “No” either through fear, force or incapacity is not tantamount to them consenting to sex.
* Pretending to accept a “No” to sex, then deliberately incapacitating a person with alcohol to knock them out so that they can’t repeat their “No” to sex, is fundamentally no different from hitting them over the head to knock them out and raping them.

Consent is not merely the lack of “No”. Proper consent is not even a grudging, fearful or otherwise manipulated “Yes” to another’s sexual access and another’s sexual satisfaction. Consent, truly consensual assent, is an enthusiastic “Yes” to mutual, autonomous, safe pleasure.

Addendum: The enthusiastic assent doesn’t have to be explicitly verbal, especially in ongoing relationships, despite my emphatic “Yes” above. It really is obvious if a partner is enthusiastically participating in sex or not, and as the Consexual Creed says, “if in doubt, pull it out” and start talking.

(And yes, I am googlebombing myself on the earlier consexual sex contract posts. If people want to read about consensual sex contracts, I want them to read this sort of stuff, not the stuff from the scamming shysters selling the things)

Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, law & order

Tags: ,

8 replies

  1. People are actually searching for concensual sex contracts?! Whatever happened to getting to know them a little bit first?

    Kids today are insane.

  2. Hi. I’m actually one of those people who found your blog via a web search for consensual sex contracts. In my defense, to counter Jenna’s claim that kids are crazy, I am writing a paper for a sociology class based in the Time Magazine article you mentioned in your blog and I was attempting to find an example of such a contract to hand in with my paper. People have got to realize that those contracts are BS…they are not witnessed, legally binding, or even a definate yes. I mean, what if I was crazy enough to sign some form saying “yay sex” but then changed my mind (for whatever reason)…are they trying to say that I have given up my right to say no? Don’t think so! We live in a sick society.

  3. Hi Kel!

    I agree totally on the legally BS nature of the contracts. I especially find the way a few are worded as indicating deep-seated dominance/control fantasies as well.

    Feel free to cite my blog-posts in your paper: we gotta get these crufty academics hip to the new media, right? The library should have guidelines about how to acceptably cite web-based sources.

  4. Consensual sex is increasing in Bangladesh; it would become vulnerable of HIV/AIDS.
    Mohammad Khairul Alam
    Executive Director
    Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation
    24/3 M. C. Roy Lane
    Dhaka-1211, Bangladesh
    Tel: 880-2-8628908
    Mobile: 01711344997
    HIV/AIDS constitute a significant public health threat around the world. By the end of 2006, about 39.5 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS, unfortunately 90% of them in developing countries. During 2006 alone, a total of 4.3 million adults and children were found to be newly infected with HIV, and in the same year, 2.9 million people died from HIV/AIDS – 80% of them Africans. In two decades, AIDS has killed almost 30 million people and orphaned over 14 million children.
    HIV/AIDS epidemic spreads out depend on several social custom or norm prejudicial practice, such as gender discrimination, sexual violence, early marriage, trafficking, unsafe sex or exploitation of sex workers, transmission of other STDs, intravenous/injection drug uses. Socio-economic position and illiteracy also can makes vulnerable for HIV/AIDS.
    An increase in affluence also has resulted in a rise in the number of men who visit commercial sex workers. HIV/AIDS in Bangladesh, therefore depends on the conditions in the commercial sex industry, including the frequency of the incidents of men visiting commercial sex workers. While, everyone buying sex in Bangladesh is having unprotected sex some of the time, and a large majority don’t use condoms regularly. The fourth national surveillance also found a high prevalence of syphilis among female sex workers. The same floating sex workers in central Bangladesh who had a 0.5 percent prevalence of HIV, for example, had a 42.7 percent prevalence of syphilis.
    Bangladesh is still considered as a low HIV/AIDS prevalent country; by the way Bangladesh is passing at a critical moment, the majority of AIDS cases in here are the result of needle sharing. Of 500 injection drug users questioned in central Bangladesh during the fourth national surveillance, 93.4 percent said they had shared needles in last week. Providing clean needles is also considered important because it decreases the spread of HIV from injection drug-users. It is also important to bring a behavioural change among commercial sex workers (CSWs) by promoting the use of condom.
    After several investigate on sex industries have identified more then 1,00,000 various category commercial and non-commercial sex workers in Bangladesh who are most of them illiterate. Some female brothel sex workers have an average of 20-25 clients per week, Female hotel sex worker meet an average of 44 clients in a week, the highest number of clients in commercial sex than any other counties in South-East Asian region. Moreover the residence sex workers and floating sex workers are present in large number though the precise distribution and prevalence is still unknown. By a study “Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation’ also found that a substantial proportion of some young and single textile, garment workers, tea garden female workers, house key-per supplement their low wages by occasional prostitution. Consensual sex or non-commercial sex exists in rural societies, particularly when husbands are absent for a long time.
    Sex before marriage, or sex after marriage without spouse, is still taboo for most people in our society. Most would also prefer their partners to be virgins. Sex has become much more accepted in our society today. The fact that sex has become very common among adolescents today is irrefutable.
    Sex is consent is more common in the upper classes and the poorer classes of society; it seems they have both social and religious approval to engage in consensual sex and can have it anywhere. Some private sector, high official persons are engaged consensual sex with their subordinate female colleagues. It happens to avoid official harassment or money or any other material compensation is involved. Lower female workers like as garment workers sometimes has a boyfriend for the sake of protection from harassment by other men. Some low wages female workers engage to consensual sex to fulfill their families’ burden.
    Women in Bangladesh are largely getting sexual experience through marriage and for the most part, sex is consent is mostly confined to their future husband or lovers. “Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation” found, sexual behaviour among Bangladeshi women is changing. Young girls may not remain in the traditional sexual confinement of the previous generations and consensual sex among them is on the rise. It may encourage AIDS to acquire alarming proportions in Bangladesh.
    Media, jobs security and natural devastation always play a vital role to change human behaviour. This social change would happen gradually or rapidly. By the way, the cause of changing of human behaviour in our society is to the mixed effect of urbanization and modernization has brought frustration in the man. For these two things people are forgetting traditional social norms, family sexual behaviour is changing, attitude of peoples towards sex is changing very fast. Besides migration for jobs, an increasing number of women taking up jobs outside the home, a decline in the traditional joint family system, and conflict to global culture were considered to have contributed to this phenomenon.
    References: Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation, World Bank

  5. Mohammad Khairul Alam, we may have a language issue here. Your information is very interesting, but not entirely relevant except as an illustration of confusion about consensuality.
    Generally, sex that takes place between women and bosses is not viewed as consensual, as the authority of the boss over the female employee always implies a level of coercion.
    Prostitution is commercial sex i.e. contractual rather than consensual, and anyway is often coerced by pimps rather than genuinely consensual.
    In most countries, HIV in the heterosexual population is spread through IV-drug-use-infected men using sex workers who then infect other clients, who then infect wives/lovers (the IV-drug addictions used to coerce women into sex work also drive up the HIV infection rate).
    It is men paying for sex with women coerced into sex work without regard to the women’s safety that drives the HIV infection rate up, not women choosing freely to have non-commercial sexual relations outside marriage.

  6. Hi Kel, et al:
    I’m one of the afore mentioned folks who’ve searched for “consexuality” and found your page. I’m a member of a college campus task force focused on the prevention of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. Many of us also serve as topical facilitators for first-year students on the above topics and specifically “consent.”
    We’d recently been discussing the You-tube video linked below and considering it’s inclusion in our discussions about consent; to be certain, we definitely find the “consexuality creed” more attractive. Anywho .. that’s how i discovered you.
    In response to your query, “why aren’t visitors leaving comments”, notably, i would have been one of the many who _didn’t_ leave a comment if not for your question. I wasn’t looking for a discussion or a community; just polling for good solid information. Might i suggest that others might not disagree with your point of view, but that their intent is simply different, that their understanding is less developed, that their comfortable level of participation is merely supportive or interested.

  7. iggy, thanks for taking the time to comment. Everything you say makes sense, and particularly I would expect people searching on “consexuality creed” rather than “sex contract” to be pretty much just like you.
    At the time I wrote this post it was a bit quiet around here and it seemed that every second visitor in the stats was googling on “sex contract” and then not commenting. I think I may even have been trolling for a flamewar.

  8. Hi Tigtog
    I googled “Sexual contracts” and came across your website through one of the links.
    My partner & I have decided to explore the option of an open relationship and were trying to find some sort of contract that we could potentially use to help us set the boundaries to this relationship in terms of safety & what are definitely ‘No Go Zones’.
    It is quite interesting that no-one searching on “Sexual Contracts” are leaving any comments. As this is fairly new territory for both of us, we are interested in finding out what other people feel or have experienced through having an open relationship.
    I doubt very much that we are the only people who have wanted to set out boundaries & limitations prior to embarking on this kind of relationship, but there seems to be a distinct lack of information out there.

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