By now we have no doubt all heard about the consent condom. An Argentinian company has designed a condom in a box that requires four hands to simultaneous press a button to unlock the condom in the box.
While the company says the condom is meant to raise awareness of consent, not eradicate sexual assault, it’s almost hilarious how shortsighted the consent condom is. It’s clear that the makers of the condom only thought about the PR this would give them, not about what message they are sending. Plenty of people have already given their thoughts on the issue, but I wanted to add my voice to the chorus. So here is why I think the consent condom is a bad idea.
Consent is a conversation
Raising awareness of consent is never a bad idea, but you have to be careful what message you are sending. This company is not the first to try and make a product to secure consent. There is also a consent app that requires the woman to consent before sex can take place. But consent isn’t a box, it’s a conversation. And sex isn’t one act, it a series of different acts. You want to sit down and talk about each other’s needs and wants, likes and dislikes, which cannot be done by just pressing four buttons on a condom box.
Consent is continuous
Consent is also continuous. Both parties should be able to change their mind at any point in time during the sexual encounter. Women, in particular, are often persuaded to continue having sex, because they said “yes” to kissing. And kissing led to oral sex, which led to penetration. If you fix consent at one particular point in time, that really misses the point. If consent is a conversation, it’s a conversation that you need to keep having. It’s not just one question: “Can we have sex?” It’s multiple check-ins at every step of the way. “Is is okay that I kiss you?” “Does it feel good if I slide my hand between your legs?” “Would you like me to eat you out?”
Penetration isn’t the only sexual act that requires consent
So a consent condom is really shortsighted. It basically says that the only time a man has to ask for consent is when penetration is involved. As if that is the only act that can violate a woman’s consent. If you wait to ask a woman for her consent until you whip out the consent condom to have penetrative sex with her, you are far too late. So many boundaries will have been crossed to get to the point of penetration – if you got there without asking for consent at all – that opening the consent condom box is pretty meaningless. By this point you have already robbed the woman of her agency, so whether or not you ask her to push two buttons on a box is academic.
Consent can’t be packaged
It is a sign of how patriarchal our society is that, rather than sitting down and talking to women, making them an equal partner in a sexual encounter, men design products to obtain a woman’s consent. This absolves men of actually treating women like human beings with their own emotions and desires and reduces them – once again – to an object to be won for sexual gain. It is also a sign of how capitalist our society is that we want to make money off the simple request of women to be treated like human beings. Is it really that difficult to take another person’s needs into consideration?
Men don’t have to buy products that secure a woman’s consent. Men just need to learn to listen to women, and respect their decisions. It costs nothing and it will be far more effective than any product you can buy. But, sadly, in a world where toxic masculinity is still rife, and in a society where rape culture is the norm, men are discouraged from respecting a woman. Men are taught to think of sex as something they “get”. A woman is a “score” rather than a partner. But sex is not an individual act. Well, it can be, but then it’s masturbation. Having sex with a woman is a partnered act, and when two parties are involved, both parties should have a say in the proceedings. Until we teach boys that the needs of women are just as important as the needs of men, no “consent product” will be effective.