Home Living Today Commentary The Quantum State of Consent: Only Free People Consent by Daniel Greenfield

The Quantum State of Consent: Only Free People Consent by Daniel Greenfield

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56% of younger millennials identify as Christian. 2% as Jewish or Muslim. 1% as Buddhist. And 36% as nothing. That’s double the number that made up the “nones” among baby boomers. Being a “none” often means having no sense of purpose, except to seek personal happiness and make the world a better place by recycling, opposing Trump and calling out racism. It also means a moral code based on academic analysis of power relationships between races, genders and sexual orientations.

An editor at The Atlantic writes of girls educated by the mores of the fifties being “strong in a way that so many modern girls are weak”. They were taught “over and over again that if a man tried to push you into anything you didn’t want, even just a kiss, you told him flat out you weren’t doing it. If he kept going, you got away from him… They told you to do whatever it took to stop him from using your body in any way you didn’t want, and under no circumstances to go down without a fight.”

The conclusion appends the modern metric of consent to another era. But the girls of that era weren’t taught to fight hard over consent. It’s not that they didn’t believe in consent. The great consent controversies of today were taken for granted then. But they also believed in something higher than mere consent. They weren’t just fighting because of consent, but because of a moral purpose.

Resisting was more than a defense of their bodies. It was a defense of the meaning in their lives. They fought because they had something more to fight for than the exact definition of consent.

Consent is a legal formality, not a moral purpose. We consent to things we don’t want to do all the time. Often it’s because we make bad decisions. Consent is not a permanent state of being. It’s a quantum state. The decision I made yesterday looks much worse when I see its consequences today. I’m not a finished being today. And I won’t be one tomorrow. Legal agreements can bind me to the car I bought on a whim yesterday, and agonize over today, but no legal agreement binds sexual consent.

The retroactive withdrawal of consent is one of the more ambiguous topics of the consent debate. Can consent be withdrawn retroactively? What if new information emerges? Is consent formalized over an extended period or is it a momentary event? How do power relationships negate consent? That’s not how the law works, but it is often how the human mind operates. And we hold people accountable to the law, not to psychological complexities.

Consent is legally significant, but psychologically meaningless. I know that I will regret tomorrow the beers that I drink today. I did buy 300 lottery tickets, but that was only because I thought I would win. Modern secular ethics treats consent as a defining moment, but the true opposite of consent isn’t refusal, it’s apathy. We don’t make that many conscious decisions. Mostly we go with the flow…

A moral society is a place of purpose where those particle states of emotion are ordered by higher moral laws. It asks us to treat people, not based on what we want them to consent to, what we want or even what they want, but as the principles of a higher being would want us to.

“We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion,” John Adams warned. There is only one such government. Tyranny.

“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom,” Benjamin Franklin cautioned more simply.
These aren’t abstractions. Nor are they measured on some vast scale of civilizations. They define how we live our ordinary lives. They are why this debate is taking place.
Free people consent. But freedom comes from virtue. Freedom without virtue is anarchy…

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