It was this line that got me. In a shocking article in The Sydney Morning Herald today, sexual safety educator, Maree Crabbe made this statement:
“Young people speak about ‘choking’, external pressure to the throat, being so incredibly mainstream that its almost vanilla now, that it’s considered to be a normal part of a sexual interaction. But it’s very gendered: it’s largely men doing it to women.”
“It’s almost vanilla now“. You know, vanilla, the icecream tub that nobody really goes for if there’s a choice.
And who wants their life to be vanilla, right? I mean there’s nothing worse than being vanilla. You have to keep the variety up. And what better way to do so than by almost strangling the life out of your sexual conquest.
Choking your partner is now so de rigueur that it barely musters mention. The article says that in a survey of almost five thousand US college students, a full 58 per cent said that they had experienced it. That would be 58 per cent primarily women. And for a quarter of that cohort, it first occurred by the time they were 17. Hey welcome to your sex life for the rest of your years. I’m pretty sure Australia’s not that much different.
Of course this is about porn. The sex manual for young people apparently. No amount of consent classes, or education tools put out by government pass muster when it comes to cut-through. Porn is the available, affordable and anonymous scholastic tool of the day. (though for many the shame factor has gone altogether so anonymous may drop off the list).
And it’s largely gendered. Louise Perry’s book, The Case Against the Sexual Revolution, argued that men were the big winners when it came to the movement that kicked off back in the sixties. If by winners you mean porn-addled, sexually dysfunctional, emotional vacant blokes who wouldn’t know a real relationship if they tripped over it.
In the Herald article, Crabbe goes on to say:
“In my interviews with medical experts, they’ve confirmed there is no safe way to do it and even with their level of expertise they could not [perform it and] determine whether there’s going to be long-standing damage or death. There’s a huge chasm between what young people are doing and what medical experts are saying.”
Which simply tells you that consent and education isn’t going to resolve this. The cultural frame is all about consent. That’s monochrome thinking in a technicoloured world. Though you’d have to admire the efforts of groups such as teachusconsent.com
Yet as I say, the teaching’s already been done. If the culture has no vision of sexuality beyond self satisfaction as long as there’s consent, then it will always be late to the game when it comes to schooling people about what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. There’s always going to be a “Will this be in the exam?” dreariness about it.
When The Times of London reviewed Perry’s book, the journalist in question Susie Goldsbrough – who is self-confessedly liberal about the sexual revolution and exhibits a sniffy London sophistication against Perry’s main premise, – expresses shock about the choking stats, she acknowledges her own ignorance:
Perry takes aim at “kink culture”. She is alarmed by the huge increase in choking. More than half of 18-to-24-year-old women report having been strangled by their partners during sex, compared with 23 per cent of women aged 35 to 39. The idea is that both parties consent to it because they find it sexy, but given the alarming range of injuries even a few seconds of strangulation can cause (“I cannot see a way of safely holding a neck so that you wouldn’t be pressing on fragile structures,” wrote the author of one 2020 study), it does not seem at all clear that such consent is truly informed. I did not know that until I read this book.
Oh, so strangling someone during sex is both dangerous, and the line of consent is blurred? You mean in the throes of passion, people do want they want, and get done to them what they don’t want? Yet Goldsbrough can’t quite bring herself to see that the revolution has actually strangled the life out of sex in the West. I mean, how’s this for a sad conclusion?:
But I’m not willing to give up on the sexual revolution just yet (and certainly not until sex education has gone from woeful to sufficient). Like a few of my more sexually anxious — and, now I come to think about it, probably porn-addled — ex-boyfriends, it just needs a little more time.
Ah, the old “a little more time” trick. A bit like: ” Real communism has never truly been tried.”
So we’ve had sixty years of the revolution and the traffic is clearly headed in one direction. Fact: consent has been thrown at us for most of the those sixty years (I did go to primary school in the 70s and it was already on the agenda back then), but somehow there’s this magic moment when people will go “Hey I get it now!” The problem with consent is that it’s always chasing the problem, never solving it.
And all of that is happening at the same time that the extreme porn culture is ramping up. I mean, let’s face it, the industry isn’t sitting around waiting around until the educators get their consent material through the bureaucrats: “Oh sorry, we hadn’t realised you didn’t have a module about consent around strangulation before we starting promoting it on our site. Our bad!”
Theologian Stanley Hauerwas mad the wry observation that if in one hundred years time, Christians are simply known as the community of people that does not kill its old people or its young people, it will have done well. Perhaps to that we might add not strangling its sexual partners to death for the sake of a supposed liberty won for us some century and a half earlier.