I’m finding it kind of hard to keep up with all the rules about sex. On the one hand, it seems like we’re all supposed to be free to have sex with whomever we want, whenever we want, however we want (regardless of whether either party is married, knows one another, or intends to call in the morning). On the other hand, in order to actually have sex, we’re apparently required to obtain written consent — witnessed by a lawyer and signed in triplicate — or else it’s rape. So, are we having all the sex? Or aren’t we?
It occurs to me that all this carrying on about written consent and microaggressions and whatnot actually stems from the idea that having sex with people you don’t know very well is not only allowed, but desirable and liberating. If your sexual partners are total strangers then you have no idea whether or not they are going to treat you with respect, so you’ve got to express, in writing, what is, and isn’t, okay with you just in case your random hookup turns out to be a total perv. If, on the other hand, you’re going to have sex with someone you know well, feel comfortable with, and want to be intimate with, then the idea that you’d need to document your consent seems ridiculous.
Here’s a perfect (if laughable) example of this disconnect: a Japanese professor named Kazue Muta thinks the princes from Snow White and Sleeping Beauty are sexual predators. This sounds ridiculous (because it is) but it actually gets to the heart of this whole sex conundrum.
Muta sent out a tweet last month which translates, “When you think rationally about ‘Snow White’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ that tell of a ‘princess being woken up by the kiss of a prince,’ they are describing sexual assault on an unconscious person. You might think I’m ruining the fantasy of it all, but these stories are promoting sexual violence and I would like everyone to be aware of it.” So basically, because the princes kissed their princesses while the princesses were sleeping (and therefore couldn’t give verbal consent that a kiss was acceptable to them) the princes are guilty of sexual assault.
This may sound like an absurd, spotlight-grabbing statement, but Muta is by no means alone in this sentiment, and it perfectly illustrates the problem I’ve been talking about. Muta asks us to “think rationally,” so if you’ll allow a Disney Princess Addict (yours truly) a moment, I think we can use this example to get at the truth about our current culture’s problems with sex.
Muta’s statement is only true if the princes and the princesses are strangers and don’t know each other well enough to decide whether or not a kiss would be welcome. Both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty have fallen under a spell which puts them to sleep until they receive true love’s kiss. This tells us two things: first, even though they are unable to give verbal or written consent (because of the whole curse thing), they are absolutely desirous of being kissed (since we can assume they’d rather not spend the rest of their lives asleep). And, second, the only person who can actually kiss them and break the spell is someone they love, who loves them back.
In this instance (rationally speaking), not kissing Snow White or Sleeping Beauty (if you happen to be her corresponding prince) would pretty much be murder. And kissing someone you love, even when they’re asleep, is actually okay. I mean, if I told you that a husband kissed his sleeping wife in order to wake her up in the morning, you’d think that was sweet (I’m assuming), not perverted. The only scenario where this becomes, as Muta puts it, sexual assault is if the kisser and the kissee are total strangers.
And, look, I could go on and on at great length about how, even though lots of feminist critics would like to convince you otherwise, Disney princesses and their princes are not total strangers to one another, let’s just leave it at this: only true love breaks the sleeping curse. Both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty wake up when their princes kiss them. So they must have loved each other. How’s that for a rational argument?
Here’s the thing: context matters. If two strangers decide not to get to know one another, not to fall in love, not to be emotionally intimate with each other, and skip straight to the sex, then maybe they should have some kind of written consent before they do it. (I mean, who can say what some people might be into if you don’t even know them.) But if you’re choosing to have sex with someone you love, or at least like a lot, and know well, then chances are your advances are welcome (or, if they’re not, that you can talk openly and respectfully about that in the moment).
I’m not saying no one should have one-night stands (who am I to judge what people do behind closed doors?). I’m only saying this: what do we want to uphold as the epitome of sexual encounters? Random hookups? Or true love? I’d tell you to go ask Sleeping Beauty, but she’s not really available for comment. Prince Phillip was just arrested for sex crimes.