A good friend of mine was telling me about when she was attending the University of Adelaide with a friend whom we'll call "Carrie". Carrie was a "nice girl," modest, "pious", and my friend said she "didn't even sleep with her boyfriend."
One morning, Carrie went to the dorm showers, and she may have been a little hung over, not had her morning coffee, didn't have her contact lenses in, or wasn't a morning person, my friend didn't say, and the point I will make is that it didn't matter, and heck, she may even have done what she did on purpose, who knows?
Again, it doesn't matter.
So, Carrie was lathering herself up, hot water coming down, steam all around, and then she realized that she was surrounded by a bunch of wet, naked, burly Australian men who were all doing the same thing she was.
"GET OUT!!!" Carrie immediately yelled.
All of the young men immediately scampered out, falling over themselves, and a chap named Simon even forgot to grab his towel on the way out and ended up standing out in the hallway completely naked with the others.
It may surprise some to learn that a small, naked young woman yelling orders is a compelling and fearsome thing to men of all ages, even Australian rugby players, and men tend not to think but just do what they're told in such cases, and as quickly as possible.
Carrie was alone in the shower. She was faced with the unsavory prospect of having to put on her robe and step out into the hallway and face all of the cold, wet, naked men whom she had sent there, maybe making some of them late for classes, and the crowd of gawkers who had gathered.
But that was all.
It's a good bet that a lot of the young men noticed her when she came into the shower and did nothing until she yelled for them all to leave. She might have been able to have finished her shower and left.
Maybe she could've told them all to line up single file and no shoving and let's get this done properly, and many of them would've complied.
She might have gone into the men's shower by sincere accident. She might have unconsciously wanted to do it, who knows? Maybe she did it on purpose, wanting to see naked men, or a particular naked man, or wanted the thrill of being naked herself in the midst of all of them. Again, who knows? It's even possible that she knew that they would all run out if she yelled for them to do so and she wanted to try it, or she lost her nerve once she got into the thick of it. Again, who knows?
You could say that she "consented" to being in the shower with all those naked young men. Even if it was somehow "a mistake", she still went in there on her own power and free will, and it certainly seems to have taken her a long time and a long way to finally cotton on to the fact that all of the other university-age young people in there with her in various states of undress were all of the wrong gender.
I think we can all agree that the young men behaved rightly in response to what Carrie did.
They didn't think.
We don't want men to think at times like that.
Nobody should be thinking about whether there's "consent" present or not. It's dead simple: it's obviously a sexually-charged situation, the woman is uncomfortable, and she happens to be making a simple request, e.g., "Get OUT", "STOP", "Let GO" etc., so there's no thinking required.
In a "consent-based" model, there's room to think about whether the woman "consented" to what's happening, even if this "consent" is only for the next minute or the next "action" or whatever, and whether, therefore, she "really wants it" or other such digressions.
I reject that.
I say that it's a woman's right to change her mind. As Simone de Beauvoir points out in Le Deuxième Sexe, "coyness" is everywhere in the animal kingdom, and yet we blame human women for it, calling them fickle or irresponsible or such.
I say that's nonsense.
I say a woman never has to give consent. She should never give consent. She always retains the right to call a halt at any moment, regardless of what she said or did in the previous moment. Even if she says "No" she can say "Yes" the next moment and then turn around and say "No" again. It's good for women, obviously, but it's really good for men, too, because it saves a lot of unnecessary thinking and the guilt and fear of getting it wrong.
Even if you wind up dripping wet out in a cold hallway in a crowd of people with your schlong hanging out, all the world sees you as a good guy because you did right by some woman when she needed you to do or not do something.
Even if everything has gone swimmingly up to the point that her gentleman suitor has penetrated her and is a moment from inseminating her, a woman still has the right to call a halt. She has that right from the very start to the kiss goodbye after breakfast, every step of the way.
A woman who is in flagrante should never have to go through the calculus of trying to work out whether she's given "consent" to her sexual partner or partners for what they are doing or are about to do and whether she would be going back on some "agreement" based upon that, and said partner(s) should not base their decisions on any similar calculus, either. Whether she's happy with what is happening right now should be the only factor.
Yes, either side should be able to call a halt. Men should have that right as well, but men have other problems, and those problems will probably never even be addressed unless women succeed in resolving their own.
There are many, many other problems with the concept of "consent" as applied to intimate congress. If we take as a definition of rape as being someone having sex when they don't want to, then there is a real problem with "consenting" to anything, since it's necessarily in the future, whether it's five seconds, five minutes, five hours or five years in the future, it's no guarantee whatsoever that it's going to be a good experience when the time arrives.
If a woman knows that no matter what is happening to her at any given moment that she can call a halt and it will go no further, and that is always respected by all men at all times, I think that puts the focus where it needs to be for men and for women, and rapists have no ambiguïty to hide behind. A man can feel safe once again as well because his job is simple and no matter what's going on between him and a woman he knows that she knows she can stop everything and up until the moment she does that everything he does is fine.
I think that is men's normal disposition. Anything else is conditioned in. We need to return to that. Don't confuse men. Women can be friends and coworkers, but when it comes to sex, there are different rules, which men inherently understand, and unless a woman stops you, you can keep going, and when she does stop you, that's it, but it's also a great thing because it proves that she understands the rules, too. Other cultures, such as Japan and France, seem to be better at switching between the two sets of rules than Americans. The two are not connected, and they can even run at the same time. A consent to have a cup of coffee with you is not a "little bit" or a "little step" towards having sex with you -- they are two different things. Women must be careful not to go overboard, too -- being able to say "no" anytime in sex should not translate into permission to flake out on other responsibilities. By the same token, "consent" is a contractual concept trying to be applied to a deeply intimate, personal, and mercurial thing, i.e., sex. Contracts have their place, and being able to say "Y'know, I just don't feel the same now, it doesn't feel right," has it's place, too. If you want to turn every woman into a prostitute all of the time, and that's precisely what making people agree to sex according to a pre-ordained contract means, then I can kind of get the logic that got you there, but I think a lot of people might disagree with you.
The other thing is that coyness does not extend into other areas of life. It's as if, these days, that women being responsible in business life somehow might mean that they can't be coy in intimate matters. If women can't be coy, then it seems to me that we can't have a concept of "rape", at least not in many or most of the senses it is used in these days. They seem to be mutually exclusive. I don't like the idea of a woman having to prove or disprove some kind of contractual agreement, tacit or otherwise, and California is heading towards it being along the lines of a notarized contract, in court. I don't think anybody should feel it's all right to have sex with a woman based solely upon some previous "consent", even if it's backed up by a strong and clear understanding that she could say "no" at any time. The former undermines the latter, and so we don't need it.