I recently read an article by a feminism-supporting writer, called “consent is everything.” It was, as you would expect, on the importance of consent in relationships. Here is how I responded:
I agree with almost everything in your article, except – and I say this from a Christian Radical Feminist perspective – consent is not “everything.”
You see, “consent is everything” implies that if you get a “yes”, nothing else matter. Here is how that harms many girls and women:
The church, society, and parents teach girls to be kind, to compromise, to put others before herself. Then, her partner tells her – very common in a pornified world – that he wants to choke her/ call her degrading names/ do a painful act with her. She consents, as is expected.
The world’s opinion of that is:” Hey, you can’t complain about the pain, degradation, and violence you experience! You consented!” and in general: “There is nothing wrong with a man choking a woman (an act that could easily kill or cause permanent damage) if he got her to consent!”
“Consent is everything” means, in the simplest form, that it is hardly necessary to go on to enthusiastic consent (if she screams from pain but is not refusing everything is OK), or uncoerced consent, or the influence of power differences on consent, or ongoing consent (her consent could be construed as “you said it is okay last time, and that consent you gave was everything, so you can’t refuse now!”), etc.
This is not paranoia: I often talk to young women who experienced violence, who experienced pressure to say “yes”, but who are angry if anyone tries to say a thing against their partners. The partners did, as far as these young women understand, nothing wrong because they, in their own words, “consented”.
My opinion: Consent is not everything, but an important aspect of mutual kindness and respect. Kindness and respect make getting consent important. But for example, a sadist treating a partner like an object and calling her sexually degrading terms, and later getting her to allow even worse things as she starts to think less and less of herself, does not become okay because he got her consent.