Pulse Opinion: A viral condom, a difficult legal battle, and renewed conversations on sexual consent

Lessons on sexual consent gleaned from a new Argentinian condom and a British legal battle.

You need consent to have sex with anyone [Credit: Project Know No]

In England, a judge is being asked to ban a man from sleeping with his wife of 20 years.

As reported in early April by various local media outlets, people caring for the wife say the unnamed couple should no longer be having sex, because according to them, the woman can no longer grant consent to the act.

The woman has learning difficulties, and they say there’s evidence that her mental health has reached a stage where she no longer has the capacity to consent.

The ability for a man to have sex with his wife without her consent was explicitly banned in UK as far back as 1991. Sleeping with a spouse without their consent has since become the same as any other act of rape and is punished as such.

The judge, Mr. Justice Hayden, who is being asked to rule on the matter, has said: “I cannot think of any more obviously fundamental human right than the right of a man to have sex with his wife - and the right of the State to monitor that,” in what is a reiteration of the stance of British law on the subject of marital rape.

Let’s bring this home

To quickly bring this to a local context; there is no such thing as marital rape here in Nigeria. The laws do not include this in its purview and although consent, rape and sexual assault is now such a constant topic of conversation on a global stage, nothing is being done around here to elevate our laws to satisfy the social necessities of this modern day.

Kaine Agari, for Punch Nigeria, backed-up by an exhaustive list of Nigerian statutes says in a 2017 opinion piece that;

“For now, under Nigerian criminal law, a man may be charged with assault, depending on the circumstances under which he has sexual intercourse with his wife, but he cannot be charged with raping his wife.”

While it is typical of Nigeria to dally on things that every sane society has already put paid to, this does not take away from the relevance of the constantly-propagated message of consent which is basically encapsulated in this simple message – no is no.

Whether it is with a girlfriend or a wife, sex without consent is wrong and criminal. Bride price or not, dowry or not, once consent is absent it is sexual assault.

Other simple rules that need reiterating are that - sleeping people cannot grant consent, drunk people cannot, mentally challenged people, like the British woman in the legal battle above, cannot grant consent either.

And like this viral, educative video below shows, consent is actually not as difficult as people make it seem. It is just a matter of everyone being responsible and reining in their [depraved] appetites. Those who can’t should always be brought to justice as a deterrent to others.

We’re not quite there yet, either as a nation or even on a global stage. But we need to keep trying, to keep having these conversations, to keep educating each other. We need naming and shaming, a sex offenders record and pretty much taking every necessary step to ensure that sex is enjoyed consensually and not at the expense or to the detriment of other people – whether or not they are partners or random people.

Could this Argentine condom company be doing too much on this consent matter?

So an Argentinian company, Tulipán, has created a limited edition ‘consent condom’ which requires four hands to be opened. Of course, they are playing their own little part in raising awareness about consent in the bedroom.

The box can only be opened if four hands simultaneously press buttons on each side of the box, unlocking the condom inside.  

"If they don't say yes, it means no," the tagline on a video demonstration says. "Consent is the most important thing in sex." 

While it is admirable for this company to be as modern and in-tune with the issues of these times as their new condom projects, do we really need four hands to open a condom? Like, really, do we?

I mean, apart from the fact that some amputees are immediately cut off from this campaign for obvious reasons, does anyone really have time to chill and do all that ritual just to open a condom in the searing heat of passion?

Also, as Cosmopolitan's Julia Pugachevsky wrote on Cosmopolitan;

"The thing is...the assumption behind this new condom completely misses the mark. It presents a fantasy in which sex is always clear cut and naturally egalitarian; where the simple act of two able-bodied individuals opening a box together assures an equally straightforward sexual experience. It believes that people (including rapists and sexual predators or abusers) always wear condoms in the first place and importantly, that once a condom is on, consent cannot be revoked."

But of course, we all know that consent can be revoked at any time, and that acquiescence to one thing is not an agreement to do all acts.

Regardless of their shortcomings, though, shout out to Tagline for being thoughtful and joining in this campaign against sexual assault and for doing their bit to promote a culture of enjoyable, consensual sex for everyone involved.


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