It was pointed out to me yesterday that my “Safe Sex” post really does not go far enough.

My initial “Safe Sex” post was described to me as being ethnocentric.

It is true, I wrote yesterday from a western, twenty-first century perspective that ignored vast parts of the world and of history which were never touched by the radical free-love atmosphere of the 1960’s.

My critic suggests that, in fact, if you look at the history of male female relations, it is almost universally the case that, across the board, women who have had inadequate male protection have been “fair game” for unwanted male attention. I am not nearly enough of an anthropologist to know if there are cultures in which women have been routinely treated by men with respect and deference. But, I imagine it is generally true that regardless of social structures, cultural practices, or historical realities, men have generally used their physical strength to take advantage of women.

I was also told that we in the twenty-first century western world have embarked upon a bold new experiment. The idea that sex should only be practiced with the express consent, approval, and enthusiasm of all parties involved is, according to my critic, an experiment in human sexual relations that has never before been tried.

What does it say for the way we do sexual relations if it is in fact true that men have universally abused women and that mutual consent is a modern innovation?

At the very least, it says that the problem is much bigger than we have imagined and it is about time we begin to address this enormous challenge. It’s about time that men faced up to the imperative to curb our sexual appetites and urges. It’s about time men learned that, we bear equal responsibility for “No.”

We are responsible, no matter how far down the road we may be in thrall to the force of testosterone, for saying “No” to any attitude, word, or action that fails to fully respect the right of another person to feel safe, respected, and valued fully as an autonomous human being. We are responsible for insuring that whatever power we may have is never used for our own advantage, but is always put at the service of others, particularly others who may be in a vulnerable position.

If we are going to move towards being a community in which women are not forced to live under constant threat, we must find ways to make sure that women are never rendered powerless, that they never need to feel threatened, intimidated, diminished, or violated by any male. This means men must check their own attitudes towards women as well as being vigilant to actively oppose any attitudes they may witness that demonstrate anything other than the fullest respect all women deserve.

But, this shift will only begin as men look deep within and face the dark shadow side of that torrential force of sexuality to which we have so often surrendered our own autonomy. In the  heat of the moment, we must be willing to stop and ask ourselves some serious questions:

  • Are my attitudes, words, and actions deeply respectful towards the wholeness and beauty of the person with whom I am interacting?
  • Is this engagement something we both equally want?
  • Is this action a behaviour that we can both share in freely and enthusiastically?

Simply asking these questions and being willing honestly to hear the answers will go a long way towards building the kind of human relationships which have the potential to enable men and women to live together in ways that are life-giving for all people.