A consensual culture includes people who are giving permission for things to move in a particular direction. I live in a country where many people can vote, so that would seem to nod in the direction of a consent-based culture. Consent requires a level of active participation from all parties in a situation.
A compliant culture includes people who are inclined to agree with others (without knowing self, perhaps) and obey rules, or try to meet standards. Compliance is relatively one-sided. The person or entity with power and agency sets the rules or standards, and every one else complies.
I think there are a lot of people who are compliant with their life energy, rather than consensual. There are what appear to be good reasons for this. You will please others if you do what they want (This might be a myth, or only work to a limited degree, but it’s out there!). I lived in this kind of life energy for a long time! I was so eager to please. I thought that being accepted would save me from suffering because that would mean that I was loved! Another reason to comply is that it might seem to legitimize existence because you can see yourself reflected in the system that others are also seeing themselves against. Also, a kind of success will likely appear more accessible if you go by the rules.
Consent is coming up as an important part of sexuality (recently evidenced by FORCE: upsetting rape culture sneaking ‘consent panties’ into stores), and I think that it might be hard for us to be truly consensual when so many of us are more used to complying with standards and norms which allow us to think less and get a sense that we are doing okay as long as we can convince ourselves or others that we fit a norm.
As far as I can see, consent means everything in sexuality. It’s the difference between actively engaging in a situation, and ignoring ones self and becoming an object by default (or a victim). I didn’t understand anything outside compliance for a long time because I only saw value in pleasing the other person. I don’t think I saw how getting my needs met might improve a situation. I did have partners at times who would attempt to please me or meet my needs (or manipulate me), but I don’t think I was able to be fully present to even appreciate that. Or if I did, it was in an infantile way. I say that because I think a part of maturity should be to have a sense of what you want (even though it might change), and not to always look to the other person to lead the way. I think someone could say, “maybe you’re just submissive,” (read normative femininity concept here) but I don’t think that’s it. I was just trying to be normal, or do what I was “supposed to do.” I was ignorant. I didn’t know how to trust my expression, and was overly sensitive to what the other person was saying and doing. What they were doing was always able to crush me, or my expression. I wasn’t holding my own in the bedroom.
Creating a consensual culture means that we have to wake up to our own sense of agency, and learn to really express ourselves: nobody else can do this for us. I’m now wondering if the lack of consent in bedrooms could be related to a lack of consent in much of the rest of our lives. We tend to be ready to go along with a good advertisement if it convinces us that what is being sold will make us more highly regarded in our communities, or sexier…
Some might say that we need to teach children to be consensual people to help make the world and future a better place for people, and a safer and more respectful place for everybody.
My mind was blown wide open by a recent talk by Heather Corinna, founder of Scarleteen, at Early to Bed in Chicago. The talk was on developmental sexuality for humans, and if you ever have a chance to attend a talk with Heather I recommend doing it! One intellectual tidbit I took from the talk was the importance of teaching children consent by giving them opportunities to consent even from a young age! An example is asking a young child if you may pick them up/hug or kiss them. And the child is allowed to choose. If this is the first time a child has been given that kind of choice then they might say “no” just to try that option! They might want to hug you later!
It made sense to me that teenagers might have difficulty wrapping their minds around the concept of consent if they have never known it in their lives before. Children often have to go to school/church/treat parents in a certain way/obey… They need opportunities to experience the benefits of living consensually, to help them understand why it’s important.
The same is true for adults. Adults might have trouble getting the concept of consent if they’ve gotten along (what seems to be) okay up to now without really dealing with it.
Consider living consensually. Consent is respectful and self-esteem supporting. Consent is against abuse of self or others. If someone is consenting they know what they want and are saying it even if what they want might change later. A consenting situation includes listening to what someone else wants and needs, and respecting that, too.