Why Radical Consent Makes Me a Better Man

feminist menFeminism is not here to make you feel guilty for being a man. And radical consent – the idea that one should get affirmative and enthusiastic consent from their lovers – is a critical step toward ending sexual violence.

So men, listen up: you need to care about radical consent. It boils down to mutual respect for everyone’s autonomy and how to interact with other peoples’ bodies.

Feminism addresses the reality that women are systematically treated worse than men. That doesn’t mean the lives of men are perfect; we have financial struggles and health issues, and we also survive violence and other challenges. Part of respecting women, however, is acknowledging and supporting them in the misogyny they face, not turning it into a competition of incomparable problems.

One of the greatest misconceptions spread by anti-feminists is that feminism is about women versus men. Recognizing that I have male privilege isn’t an attack on my character, it’s just a sociological fact. If you’re reading this article right now, you have the privilege of having access to the internet. It’s not as pervasive or powerful as being a man in a sexist world, but it’s just as true.

So why radical consent? Consent is mostly thought about in terms of sex. While it is important for all people to have true consent (which includes honesty and communication) as the primary function of our sexual relationships, consent alone does not address the cultural factors leading to the epidemic of abuse, violence, and harassment towards women from men.

Radical consent is the idea that everyone should have total control over our own bodies in all our relationships: personally, socially, sexually, medically, mentally, politically, and more. As a man, and even more so as a cisgender, white, heterosexual man, I have been taught more than most people that I am entitled to things. This entitlement is inherently undemocratic, bigoted, and unboundaried.

The equation is simple. Consent:sexual violence :: radical consent:rape culture. Radical consent addresses the larger culture that allows, encourages, and rewards the subjugation of women.

For my entire life, on a daily basis, I have unwillingly absorbed messages that women are property, that I’m entitled to their bodies, minds, and lives. Conscientious people believe in respect and autonomy, even if we’ve received messages since birth that are at direct odds with this belief. This is why I must be active in my battle against the ingrained misogyny in my mind.

Oppressive structures breed passivity and hierarchy. If we are active in our defiance, we can use radical consent as a weapon against rape culture, a tool to dismantle our own negative socialization and the patriarchy around us.

So how can I go beyond just basic consent? What actions can I take, personally, to improve myself as a person and as a feminist who is a man? How do I enact radical consent by recognizing and supporting the liberty of all women with respect to their bodies, their minds, and their communities?

Here are just a few ways to improve yourself as a male feminist and as a person practicing radical consent:

  1. Communicate and discuss all developments in romantic relationships, not just sex. Never assume anything. Expect the same in return.
  1. Call out sexist language and jokes when they are heard.
  1. If a woman is being harassed, attempt to refocus the harasser away from her, not via escalation, which only serves anger, but by distraction and redirection, such as asking the person the time or for directions.
  1. Listen to women if you have offended them and be self-critical and thoughtful.
  1. Support political policies that recognize women’s autonomy such as reproductive freedom, health care, affordable housing, welfare, quality sex education, etc.
  1. Do not discuss, stare at, joke about, or in any way mock or critique women’s bodies.
  1. Respect personal boundaries always.

Many men see lists, like the one above, as limiting our independence, but this is a perversion of the true meaning of freedom. Women consistently face personal invasions they do not consent to: street harassment, inappropriate humor, abuse from loved ones, employment discrimination, and a thousand more examples. Our culture violates the freedom of women on a fundamental, omnipresent level.

True freedom is being the person you want to be without fear of violence. It is being supported and loved by yourself and those around you. It is not the freedom to insult, degrade, and abuse others. Treating others well makes me love and respect myself.

Women have borne the brunt of violence and subjugation for far too long. One of our greatest freedoms as men is to change and move past the misogynistic identity the patriarchy demands we adopt. Radical consent is a guide from feminism that I’m grateful for; it will lead us to more healthy, loving, supportive and respectful relationships with women.

jesseAbout the author: Jesse Lehrer was born and raised in New York City and works as a social worker with LGBTQ young adults. He is always up for serious political discussions, board games, and being ridiculous.

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10 replies

  1. Jesse, thank you for a well written and informative article; I shall share it on my Edward Fagan Blog.
    Caring for humanity must include caring for our women. How could they mother seven billion of us and not be important to us?
    Men started out with an advantage over women, then we created mechanisms (occupational, domestic, social, legal, economic and political) to regulate and maximize abuse of that advantage.
    There needs to be a greater degree of objective fairness in our dealings with our women. Since we started the abuse and misuse, then we should take the lead in correcting the situation: in the home, at work, in society, in the courts and through the legislative process.

  2. You’re a useful idiot in a larger political agenda.

    The president, the universities, the feminists, the liberal media and the liberals in general are well aware that the stats used by the president are all false. Not just false – but way, way over the top false. Even WAPO discredited the president’s numbers. This isn’t about truth in numbers. It’s about advancing the liberal agenda, demonizing men, divide and conquer and making sure women and minorities stay in the liberal camp. Without a constant stream of false victims, liberals become irrelevant and lose power on the hill. No matter how damaging it is to the country as a whole – liberal leadership will tell any manner of lies to prevent their loss of power and control over women and minorities.

    What the democrats need most is boys like you, focusing on affirmative consent and missing the fact that this is all about money, power and control.

    Welcome the the real world, naive white knight.

    • Tim, you are a grim reminder of the crazies who now populate the party that during the 19th century could be associated with the great and noble President Abraham Lincoln.
      Do you remember when in August, 2012 Republican Congressman, Tod Akin said during his famous “legitimate rape”exchange that a woman could not become pregnant during rape because her body had a built in mechanism to prevent pregnancy during rape? He was also a crazy, pro life, anti abortion extremist who liked big government in the bedroom, clinic, hospital, wash room and elsewhere telling women, from Washington DC and state capitals, what they were and were not allowed to do with their bodies, even after rape.

    • You need political stats to justify being a decent human being in all of the ways described in the article?

  3. When making claims of objective truth (asserting ‘facts’) it is customary to provide evidence to back up those claims. Demanding other people just accept your claims of objective truth at face value is only something a domineering person would do. As a feminist man I’m sure you want to be seen as fair and non-domineering.

    > Feminism addresses the reality that women are systematically treated worse than men.

    Here you have made an objective claim about reality – that women are systematically treated worse than men (by whom you do not say). Can you clarify your assertion so that it makes sense? And what evidence can you provide to back up this assertion, or are you demanding we all simply accept you as an authority? If so one what basis…… surely not because you are a man?

    > Recognizing that I have male privilege isn’t an attack on my character, it’s just a sociological fact.

    It makes perfect sense that as a man you get to enjoy privileges associated with being a man. But what point are you making here? Women also get to enjoy the privileges associated with being a woman. Cats get to enjoy the privileges associated with being cats (and so on).

    Are you claiming men have MORE privileges than women? If so can you give some examples of some of the male privileges you enjoy which are not balanced out by corresponding female privileges?

    Or are we just supposed to take you at your word? (again)

    > As a man, and even more so as a cisgender, white, heterosexual man, I have been taught more than most people that I am entitled to things.

    This is another claim of objective truth without any evidence to back it up. Can you give some examples of some of entitlements you have been conditioned to accept which do not have a corresponding female equivalent?

    If being allowed to assert facts without needing to provide any evidence or arguments to back them up is an entitlement reserved for men, now it your chance to shed that entitlement by providing some facts and reasoned arguments to support the numerous unfounded claims you are making.

    > For my entire life, on a daily basis, I have unwillingly absorbed messages that women are property, that I’m entitled to their bodies, minds, and lives.

    If this claim is indeed true then that defines you as an imbecile with a severely lacking moral and intellectual capacity. To be clear, this is NOT because you were susceptible to propaganda, it is because millions of men living in the exact same cultural environment as you (therefore subjected to all the same propaganda as you) have NOT end up viewing women as property, or believing they were entitled to women’s bodies, minds or lives. So clearly there is some deficiency in you specifically which made you turn out the way you claim you did.

    What you are basically saying is that you could not (until recently) differentiate between good and bad, moral and immoral, civilised attitudes and hateful attitudes. This cannot be because of culture or because you are a man, because most men do not end up viewing women in such a negative way. So it must be because of something specifically wrong with you, or your personal upbringing.

    Were you raised in a single mother household by any chance? I ask because studies show the presence of a father in early development is key to the development of empathy. Empathy is necessary to view others (such as the opposite sex) as people in their own rights, and not as objects or property for your own gratification. So a lack of a father (or father figure) in early childhood (0-6 years) would be one logical reason why you might have ended up unable to view women as people in their own right. Of course there could be plenty of other reasons why you turned out that way.

    > Women have borne the brunt of violence and subjugation for far too long.

    This is another claim of objective truth without any evidence to back it up. Can you give some examples of some of the violence and subjugation endured by women over, say, the last hundred years? How do your examples compare to, say, the millions of men forced to go to war and die on the battlefield, or else get shot for desertion if they refuse to ‘go over the top’?

    Do you have any examples of women being forced at gunpoint to walk into a hail of oncoming machine gun fire…. or something that is equivalent in brutality to that?

    95% of workplace deaths are men because men are still expected to do the most dangerous jobs in society. Do you have any examples of women being expected to do things in society which result in a 95% female death rate?

    > One of our greatest freedoms as men is to change and move past the misogynistic identity the patriarchy demands we adopt.

    This is another claim of objective truth without any evidence to back it up. In what way is/ was the patriarchy misogynistic? Do you have any actual examples you can give, or is this just another case where we should accept what you say just because you are a man?

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