Simcha on what Catholic girls need to know about consent

Here’s a very good piece by Simcha Fisher, entitled “16 things Catholic girls should know about consent”:

The whole thing is worth reading, but I’ll pull out some quotes:

“But too often, Catholic parents dig in, just telling kids to save sex for marriage, period. Perhaps they teach their kids to avoid the occasions of sin like the saints, but they’ve never taught them how. They’ve never taught their kids what to do if they have, like billions of teenagers before them, gotten carried away by desire, or what to do if they themselves have good intentions but their boyfriends do not. They’ve never taught them how to navigate that minefield of conscience, desire, and external pressure. They send their daughters out entirely unequipped.”

“And so girls who want to be good are left to piece together some kind of dreadful “least bad” course of action with almost no information about what they can and should do in actual relationships.”

This is a very good point. Just saying don’t-have-sex-before-marriage does not explain how one goes about doing that.

“5. Listen to your gut. If a situation feels weird or fishy, trust that God-given instinct and get the hell out. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.”

“15. If something bad happens, whether it was consensual or not, you’re not alone. The people who truly love you will not love you less just because you did something you shouldn’t do, and they certainly won’t love you less if something happened to you that shouldn’t have happened. If you have someone who truly loves you, that person will talk to you, or find you someone to talk to, or take you to the doctor, or take you to confession, or take you to a therapist, or do whatever you need so you can be in a better place than you are right now.”

“16. You’re not ruined, no matter what you’ve done or what others have done to you. You cannot be “damaged goods,” because you are not goods. You are a person. Even if you feel worthless right now, and even if other people say you are worthless, you do not and existentially cannot exist for the consumption of any other human being. Not your future husband, not anybody. You are a child of the living God.”

I have some more thoughts on consent that I’ll share in a bit.

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I’d add that it’s not that hard to apply standard rules of politeness to dating.

Let’s imagine you have a guest and you offer the guest wine or some food delicacy and the guest says no. It’s just not polite to keep offering and offering the same thing, even if it’s really good stuff and you know they’d love it if they just gave it a try. Or let’s say you have a fun outing idea and the person you want to take on your fun outing doesn’t seem in a big hurry to make arrangements with you and is making unenthusiastic noises and trying to change the subject. Maybe find somebody else to take on your fun outing who would appreciate it?

I’d also add that it’s dangerous to be romantically involved with somebody who doesn’t want the same sort of relationship you want, and it’s imprudent to think that you can make somebody who wants X want Y instead. If you want Y, find somebody who wants Y, too.

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It isn’t focused on consent, but I recommend single dating Catholics read Perrault and Salkeld’s book, “How Far Can We Go?” It’s very good on the practicalities of chaste dating as a single Catholic at different ages, with a good treatment of how different life stages call for different approaches.

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Stuff like this is why I love Simcha. Now she needs to write another one for boys.

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  1. There’s no such thing as being tricked into consenting. If you consent, you do it on purpose, consciously. If you didn’t realize you consented, or didn’t mean to consent, then you did not consent, and whoever tricked or coerced you is assaulting you, by definition.

No offense, but this is the sort of thinking that leads to young males having their lives ruined over mistakes (and by mistakes I mean simple fornication, or at least what the guy understood to be simple fornication).

If a person wasn’t drugged, threatened, or subjected to violence, then they weren’t raped. Trying to make criminal law about the subjective mental state of the victim is a guaranteed recipe for grave injustice.

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Did anybody say anything about criminal law? I’m mostly advancing this as some suggestions for social rules–namely that one shouldn’t assume the existence of a default “yes” for activities involving somebody else’s body.

Also, given that the article is for Catholic girls, it’s helpful to the audience to be able to figure out if they consented to a mortal sin.

“In Roman Catholic moral theology, a mortal sin requires that all of the following conditions are met:
Its subject matter must be grave.
It must be committed with full knowledge (and awareness) of the sinful action and the gravity of the offense.
It must be committed with deliberate and complete consent.”

Your list (“drugged, threatened, or subjected to violence”) is incomplete. You didn’t mention statutory rape, sleep, unconsciousness, fraud (a Biblical example would be Genesis 29, where Jacob believes he is marrying Rachel, but it’s her sister Leah and there’s an occasional modern case), or surprise. Note also, that your list would not cover the gymnasts who were molested by their team doctor, Larry Nassar, under the pretense of medical treatment.

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Thanks for sharing this.
I like how she is trying to strengthen rather than undermine teaching teens about, as you Catholics call it, chastity. It’s extremely refreshing in light of how some ‘Christians’ ridicule and shame in the most personal and hurtful ways the need to teach teens to treat sexuality and each other with respect. They’re practically advancing atheism of the Christopher Hitchens variety.
I’m all for reform but reforming doesn’t mean discarding the Bible and God’s ways. Kudos to Ms. Fisher.

The word “assault” inherently carries criminal connotations.

That’s a pretty good social rule, but generally social rules are directed toward the subjects of the rule.

Whether or not one subjectively committed a mortal sin is not a valid basis to judge the actions of the other person. If the paragraph I quoted was intended to serve as a guide for examinations of conscience, then it’s really badly written.

Jumping to tangential side issues is not a good way of reasoning. I (and hopefully the author of the article) was addressing sexual encounters that are actually likely to occur between young men and women. I wasn’t speaking about doctors disguising sexual acts as medical treatment, people disguising as their siblings, or some other bizarre scenario that isn’t relevant to 99.9% of the fornication that occurs between young people today.

As do a lot of other words used in common conversation.

It’s also useful for others to be able to evaluate: Is this person behaving appropriately? Is this a person who is trustwothy? Are they safe to be around or be in a romantic relationship with? Can they be safely left in charge of children?

I don’t think it said anything about the other person committing a mortal sin–it’s about how the person who has not consented has not consented.

The title of the article is “16 things Catholic girls should know about consent,” not 16 things Catholic girls should know about consent in dating.

So the article isn’t written to exclude non-dating situations or to exclude molestation.

And yes, deception in sex crimes is probably common, especially when the victim is very young.

Estimates of how common child sex abuse is vary, but 20% of girls and 8% of boys are numbers I’ve seen for the US and Canada, and globally, the range is something like 11%-21.5% for girls and 4%-19% for boys. Stats here:

With that large minority of children being sexually abused, there is a substantial group of sexual abuse victims in the audience who do need to be told that consent involves consenting.

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