Ralph Hancock: Consent alone will never provide an adequate sexual or political foundation

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  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    Sept. 10, 2018 8:43 a.m.


    As the taking of human life, abortion is a moral wrong unless medically necessary to save the mother's life. In cases of rape, responsibility for that wrong lies with the rapist, not the woman or the abortionist. If the mother was not raped, she bears some responsibility.

    Hancock isn't dismissing the concept of consent; he's saying it's inadequate to do all the heavy lifting of sexual ethics. Despite difficulties, it can be used to distinguish rape and non-rape, cases where abortion should be permitted and cases where it should be discouraged or prevented.

    However, if you say 'isn't the woman's share of responsibility diminished when consent was manipulated &c?' then pro-lifers should have no problem saying YES. Manipulation and consequent responsibility can reach beyond the father too. Everyone who contributes to objectifying women, cheapening sex, and demeaning motherhood bears some responsibility for the fetus's death.

    The impossibility of determining just how much responsibility lies with the mother is part of why most pro-life groups oppose jail time &c for women who abort. Instead they support restrictions on abortionists and measures to discourage abortions.

  • Dmorgan Herriman, UT
    Aug. 9, 2018 9:38 a.m.

    Mr. Hancock, as a political science professor, may have some expertise regarding consent as it applies in politics. The problem with his opinion piece is that he attempts to conflate the definition of “consent” to a totally disparate area of which he has no expertise. The commentary is a word salad that is too shallow to address meaningfully the role of consent in government, and totally fails to understand the meaning of consent in relationships. The final result is ramblings from the male, Christian privileged point of view.

  • Open Minded Mormon Everett, WA
    Aug. 8, 2018 2:12 p.m.

    If we're going to discuss sexual consent and politics -

    Donald Trump didn't ask for consent...

  • Irony Guy Bountiful, Utah
    Aug. 8, 2018 1:57 p.m.

    I wonder if Ralph realizes that he has just opened a door to elective abortion.

    He argues that "consent" is rarely a simple "yes" but usually involves ambiguity, social pressures, and manipulation. Agreed.

    Yet conservatives have consistently argued that a woman who has "consented" to sex has no right to an abortion. If consent is the messy issue Hancock says it is, then what is she to do? Is she to bear a child she never actually consented to?

  • Vermonter Plymouth, MI
    Aug. 8, 2018 1:41 p.m.

    @Thomas Thompson.
    Re: “...men tend to feel very little connection between love and sex; while women feel that connection very deeply.”

    Actually if you do some research in this area, I think you will find many studies that show exactly the opposite—that in general, women can feel love, or an intimate connection without sex, whereas generally men do not feel the love or intimate connection without sex.

    This is why we have so many women who say that all their partner or spouse can think about is sex. That is because the man generally does not feel the connection or “love” without the sex.

  • Open Minded Mormon Everett, WA
    Aug. 8, 2018 1:22 p.m.

    Ralph Hancock: Consent alone will never provide an adequate sexual or political foundation


    ...meanwhile, for Donald Trump -- consent was not even provided...

  • Thomas Thompson Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 8, 2018 1:03 p.m.

    "Consent" is the sine qua non of what the law requires for sexual relations. I'm not sure what else the author feels should be considered. There are perhaps differing expectations between men and women over whether the having of sex does, or does not, involve love (or only passion, which may be a different thing entirely). I can't prove it, but I think a defensible generality is that men tend to feel very little connection between love and sex; while women feel that connection very deeply. This differing perspective perhaps contributes to a good many misunderstandings between them.

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    Aug. 8, 2018 10:40 a.m.

    I think there are some encouraging signs that people on the left are finally rediscovering the depth of sexual ethics after 50+ years. Having dismantled fences as inconveniences then, they are now beginning to see why those fences were built.

    For instance, the short story "Cat Person," published in the New Yorker late last year, paints a stark picture of how women in today's culture are persuaded by social expectations to consent to sex that they find degrading and soon deeply regret. Some of the viral discussion around the story is the kind of noise we've come to expect lately ("this author is too privileged to be worth listening to!" "she's fat-shaming!" &c). But much of the discussion is recognizing that this kind of unhealthy experience is far too common and can't be dealt with under the simplistic rubric of consent.

    It's unfortunate that, just as this is happening, so many people in the 'party of family values' seem to have lost the plot, and are acting as though MeToo &c are the enemy. There are some problematic trends, sure, but the primary direction is right and is profoundly important. It's a vital opportunity to work together to rebuild moral norms.

  • Vermonter Plymouth, MI
    Aug. 8, 2018 9:37 a.m.

    @HS Tucker.
    And outside the Mormon bubble that actually lives its law of chastity, how does American society deal with serial sex with different people? This is a not an uncommon lifestyle outside of Utah and on many American college campuses.

    In trying to solve this concern, we can’t call consent to sex “marriage” because polygamy is still illegal in America (thank you Justice Kennedy).

  • Vermonter Plymouth, MI
    Aug. 8, 2018 9:25 a.m.

    @Sank you, Doctor.
    And if a marriage license is not consent to sex, then the additional consent might need to be memorialized in an additional document, specifying time, place, any other conditions, and terms of revocation of consent. In addition to financial concerns, this could also be included in a pre-nuptual agreement.

    Of course there is such a thing as marital rape. But how far does American society want to swing this pendulum back in the other direction? A growing number of men and women have already decided to give up on intimate relationships with the opposite sex.

    I don’t have the answer. Just posing the question.

  • Utah Girl Chronicles Eagle Mountain, UT
    Aug. 8, 2018 9:12 a.m.

    "But what to say if the alleged aggressor himself claims that inebriation exempts him from being a rational actor?"

    Then it seems likely an intoxicated person will feel he/she has license to commit any crime and the Ralph Hancocks of the world will wrestle with the societal implications.

    Maybe a wrong is just a wrong, ever think of that?

  • Sank You, Doctor Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 8, 2018 9:00 a.m.

    "Consent for sex is so important that it should perhaps be commemorated legally, with witnesses, and perhaps even celebrated with family members and friends. Let us call it "marriage.""
    Except marriage is NOT giving consent to sex. There is such a thing as marital rape. Consent is always needed.

  • HSTucker Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 8, 2018 8:24 a.m.

    "When is consent reasonable, informed, deliberate and therefore authoritative?"

    Not to mention provable?

    Consent for sex is so important that it should perhaps be commemorated legally, with witnesses, and perhaps even celebrated with family members and friends. Let us call it "marriage."

  • Orson Woods Cross, UT
    Aug. 8, 2018 7:41 a.m.

    How strikingly coincidental that a few stories posted on DN right after this one, is one containing this very issue of consent, of an actress feeling pressured to get naked as part of a role.

    This can only occur in a world of hypocrisy, which is exactly what we live in.

  • Brent T. Aurora CO Aurora, CO
    Aug. 7, 2018 7:14 p.m.

    Great article. Was thinking about something read (BYU?) recently suggesting one ask permission to kiss the other. It's pretty simple. Guy gets nerve to kiss girl, goes for it... cheek turned, she backs away, it happens and she slaps him, it happens and she smiles, or best yet it happens and all the signs are she's floating out of her shoes. Guy is chicken or oblivious to the signs, and girl kisses guy where he fails to evade that (slapping her is not okay) and...

    The ONLY way I would have ever wanted to live my dating years. And what never happened, which seems to be regularly portrayed by Hollywood, is the automatic, immediate connection between kissing and sexual intimacy. It was a better world (by far) when the consent for sexual intimacy was marriage. All of this worked out perfectly for my spouse and I with no regrets.

  • I M LDS 2 Provo, UT
    Aug. 7, 2018 6:42 p.m.

    As usual, Dr Hancock multiplies words to say the simplest things: the consent principle works well but in nuanced situations, needs some additional principle (about which Hancock keeps us guessing).