When I was 21 I chose to have sex with my coercive landlord rather than be homeless. I have said ‘no’ very quietly in a wood once whilst being raped, because I wasn’t quite sure whether he would hit me again if I screamed (and besides going for walk was my idea in the first place). My body sometimes screamed NO and I’ve violated it anyway with a partner; fearing more to be alone (through withholding sex) than about whether I was really ‘in the mood’ or not.
Where choice is restricted and the consequences are a matter of what the mind considers to be survival, it is not consensual.
Consent, when it comes to sex, is talked about a great deal; by feminists, by law courts and (should be) by your parents. It’s not a simple matter, nor can it ever be since our journey through life is as complex as our experiences and conceptions. But its consequences are far reaching. If I disguise my age on my online dating profile, if I hide my true sexual inclination, or that I have a wife/husband or anything that might affect someone’s desire to date or go to bed with me, it takes away their power of consent. However, consent is usually considered as a matter between two parties specifically regarding sex. Person A gives their consent for Person B to do something. But actually consent – in terms of your life and the way you lead it – has very little to do others.
If consent cannot happen without the ability to make a free and informed choice, then chances are we do not give our consent freely about anything at all. You may think you make free and active choices about your life, but because you are unaware of the fact your mind has created it’s own reality, you have very restricted consent and can choose only within a limited set of parametres in a narrow universe. You do not make an informed choice and you live a non-consensual life. You are a slave to your mind.
That might be okay if ignorance was really bliss. But the mind doesn’t work that way…
The mind is a collection of mental models which emerges out of both our interactions with others (which shapes our neural connections) and our genetic responses to our biological needs. It is the mind’s job to ensure that we survive and it does a very good job… most of the time.
It does this by remembering what happened and what could have happened in the past to threaten or promote survival. It defines those things that worked or could have worked as ‘right’ and those things that don’t as ‘wrong’. But – and herein lies a major flaw – because the mind is programmed to survive, it will fight against anything it has defined as ‘wrong’ because for the mind, this means certain death. And yet, being wrong does not mean certain death. Doing the ‘wrong’ thing might even be great.
Sometimes then, the mind will believe that being right is the better path to survival than actual survival. It will cling to those things it believes to be right. The mind therefore is a collection of ‘stuff’ that it has defined as right which it uses to survive. Concretely, it is a set of
And as the mind collects more and more of them, your world and reality becomes narrower. You live according to what you believe (usually passed on from your parents, your society or your religion), what is good or bad, what is right and what is wrong, who is better and who is worse. Our mind structures are embedded in society and our laws which often manifests itself as privilege. Lose those beliefs, judgements and opinions and you…are still you.
You are not your mind. You have a mind and you can be the master of it. It is by truly understanding this that you may begin to make choices which will empower you. And that’s when you begin to live a consensual life.
The constructs of the mind are like a tapestry. If you tug at enough threads it will all come crashing down around you. I think this is a good thing. But letting go of your survival mechanisms and/or being right is horribly frightening so more often than not, we don’t do it (or we replace one thread with another equally restrictive one). Because, the mind thinks, if we let go we might die…
It occurs to children like me, who have grown up with no genetic resemblance to their parents, that their life – like their adopted families – is not the SAME real as other people’s. That what we define as reality, is subjective.
From a very early age I found it to be a charade. Until I realised that adopted or not, everyone’s family was playing the same charade but pretending – without knowing – that it was real. Sometimes the reality created made people happy and sometimes not. And yet those who were unhappy still continued in the charade because they believed that it was the way it SHOULD be. They didn’t know they had a choice. And often society said they didn’t.
Likewise I tugged at the thread of monogamy and found it to be a thread I didn’t want. It didn’t help me survive, in fact it made me unhappy. So I changed it (much to the chagrin of those people who wanted to be right about monogamy). And then I fell into the trap of believing that polyamory as an ideology was ‘right’ (it’s not) …until I questioned that as well.
I tugged at the belief that I should have a ‘proper’ job and found that actually I was happier out of the corporate 9-5. I tugged at the belief that my sexuality should be something shameful, that there were words I shouldn’t say in front of my parents or my children and set up a website dedicated to Vagina. I questioned consumerism and ended up on an isolated island off the coast of Sweden living without cars and without shops. Happier than I’d ever been. I tugged at religion and found a huge can of worms. I continue tug at patriarchal values which destroy women’s self esteem and oppress our creativity. All that questioning gave birth eventually to my calling. Writing.
I’ve tugged at – and discarded – so many mind structures that my life appears totally bizarre and often unacceptable to those who believe their stuff. Just by being me, I threaten their survival and what they believe is right . I don’t believe I am right, but neither are they (because right is an invention of the mind).
What I do know is that in my case living a consensual life, is far more blissful than ignorance. And if you are unhappy with your life, I can highly recommend it.