The Smartest Thing I've Ever Read About Consent

Cathy Young's recent piece in the Washington Post, "Feminists want us to define these ugly sexual encounters as rape. Don't let them," is the most important piece to appear in the minefield of modern discourse on "affirmative consent."

As a sex educator, my work is all about supporting people to be able to have important sexual health conversations, and to be empowered in their bodies and what they choose to do with them. There is a new sexual shame that is going unchecked, one that says to make any "mistakes" or have "regrettable sexual experiences" is always wrong, when in fact, it is how we often learn.

Shame is actually far more problematic than anything else assumed to be a sex problem. This emerging sexual perfectionism is just a repackaging of the old idea that sex is dirty, something to fear, something that is bad. To give the message that sex should always be a certain way is troubling. We instead need to focus on the principles of sexual health, which each of us can interpret in different ways based on the unique people all of us.

You, the person reading this, you are only reading this because at least one of your parents had an orgasm while having sex with another parent many years ago, and it's quite likely that both of them had an orgasm -- one so powerful that it created you.

Sex is wonderful, but violence isn't. Sex isn't the problem. Violence is the problem. But even more than violence, our inability to communicate is the problem.

Most adults don't communicate with young people about sex in a reasonable way, if at all. Until we all take responsibility for elevating our communities to be ones where sex education has real depth, and until we can all speak openly about sex in a positive way... Young people will encounter porn, and a great many will study it.

I'm not anti-porn, but I understand the struggle parents are facing today. Even very sex-positive parents have concerns about certain porn immediately accessible on the internet that their children might view. Porn often reflects the sexual issues of our culture, read: shame, violence, consent violation. But having grown up with many other young people who had access to internet pornography, it's obvious to me that porn wasn't the problem in my sexual development. The problem was that I received virtually no sex education and no one talked about sex in a mature and honest way that that fit with the glimpses into adult sexuality that I -- and most young people -- accumulate growing up (including seeing pornography).

Why is it ok to lie to youth about sex? It's this dishonesty, intended to be protective, that is actually so harmful.

I hope you'll read Cathy's piece, because it's brilliant, and has nothing to do with porn: here.

Read more from Buster Ross here.