I stood on a stage in the church I’d grown up in. I can only vaguely remember my wedding, but I’ll never forget seeing Allison emerge from the hallway at the back of the sanctuary. Beautiful.
Looking up at me through her veil, she smiled. She has always been a shy person, so she should have been intimidated by all of those people looking at her. But this wasn’t her shy smile – the tight-lipped, head-hung, eyebrows-raised smile that meant she was embarrassed. No, this was a “nothing-else-in-the-world-matters-right-now” smile.
We all stared at her, a couple hundred people in a full sanctuary. But she stared down the aisle at me as if we were the only two people in the room. I’ll never forget that moment.
Her hair was special. I’d never seen it like that before. She was wearing make-up, a small thing, but it stands out in my mind because she wears it so rarely. I remember the veil. I remember the dress.
We stood before the pastor, and we went through the motions of the service. It feels sacrilege to says this, but they were just words at that point. The promises had already been made.
Finally: “You may kiss your bride.”
We kissed. A real kiss…nothing obscene…but not a peck either. My wife is so shy about showing affection in public, that even to this day we don’t really kiss when we’re out and about. But we kissed right then and there, with no shyness at all.
And in that moment, on that stage, when we were married, my wife – Allison Lynne Osborne – said, “Yes,” to me.
Before that moment, the answer had always been, “No,” – “no” in my heart and “no” in hers. “No” in parked cars, in movie theatres, in empty living rooms – “no” to all of those emotions and desires that threaten to sweep away young people in love. The answer had always been, “No.”
Not anymore. On, July 28th, 2001, the answer we gave each other before God and everyone was: “Yes.” “Yes,” until the day that we die.
Yes, I could kiss her. Yes, I could sleep with her. Yes, I could steal glances of her in the shower because I think she looks great even after 5 kids. She said, “Yes,” to me, forever.
I wasn’t asking for a one night stand or permission to touch her after a party. I was asking for forever, and that’s what she gave me. That’s what I gave her.
She has never had to say it again. She said “yes” only once. She meant it to last. I meant it to last. It has lasted fourteen years. It will remain in effect until death parts us.
Last October, the New York Times published an article describing what sex education is like for tenth graders now in San Francisco. A new law requires that teachers give lessons on something called “affirmative consent”. These children are taught to ask for consent at every point in a sexual encounter.
Do you want to kiss her? Ask for consent. Do you want to touch her breasts? Ask for consent again. Do you want to take her clothes off? Ask for consent again. Do you want to penetrate? Ask for consent again.
If that’s too graphic for you, just remember, this is 10th grade material. If it makes you uncomfortable, then just imagine being one of the 15 year-old kids in that classroom who are hearing those words (and many that are far more graphic) with other boys and girls their own age…the same boys and girls they used to finger-paint with in kindergarten.
One student, upon hearing that he needed to check with a girl before touching her in certain places or doing certain things, asked, “What does that mean – you have to say ‘yes’ every 10 minutes?”
“Pretty much,” the teacher answered.
Somehow that seemed extraordinarily out of place to this young man, that one would have to pause the progression of an intimate encounter to ask, over and over again, “May I do this now?”
Those aren’t exactly words of passion and romance, are they?
So the teacher gave the kids an assignment. Come up with better ways of asking for consent, ways that won’t seem so awkward and weird. The fifteen year-olds put their heads together and brainstormed. They spent their class time trying to invent less awkward ways of asking each other for permission to have sexual experiences.
They wanted to come up with a way of asking, “Can I do this to you now?” without actually sounding like an alien from another planet. Many of their suggestions were too vague or nonspecific, but finally they settled on one that they could all agree on.
Two simple words: “You good?”
A boy is about to take the top off a girl: “You good?”
He touches her underwear: “You good?”
Before kissing her body: “You good?”
Before taking her virginity…before losing his own, he asks: “You good?”
The answer is no. I’m not good. You’re not good. None of this is good. This is not what sex is for. This is not what love is for. We’ve ruined it.
Sex has become so detached from anything meaningful, personal, and private, that Playboy is no longer even bothering to print nude pictures anymore. People won’t pay for them because every sexual act imaginable can be freely viewed on the internet at any moment. Our most popular TV shows, from Game of Thrones to Two and a Half Men, are full of sex, either explicit or implied.