‘I cannot think of any more obviously fundamental human right than the right of a man to have sex with his wife … ‘I think he is entitled to have it properly argued.’
A judge in an English court of law made this statement this week, regarding a case in which a wife was no longer deemed to have the mental capacity to make decisions about consent, due to severe mental detriment. The husband offered to give a legal undertaking not to have sex with his wife, and the judge thus vowed to look further into the case for him, due to the importance he put upon a man’s ‘right’ to have sex with his wife.
This husband’s ‘offer’ came as he was medically advised that his wife could not consent, and thus any sexual acts between them could be classed as rape. Naturally, nobody should want to have sex at their partner’s expense, with the knowledge that they may not want to participate, because there is nothing to be enjoyed when there is uncertainty surrounding consent.
No judge, anywhere, should be looking for loopholes to enable anyone to be potentially raped. Law exists to protect people, not to assert harmful privileges. There is nothing ‘obvious’ about the suggestion that it is a ‘fundamental human right’ for “a man to have sex with his wife”. What is an obvious fundamental human right, is the right to consent; the right to not be raped. Having this backwards, and frankly disturbing, view brought to light in a case led to protect a disabled woman, foregrounds how widely these views are held – much more so than we would like to believe.
In my cosy little echo chamber, I was under the impression that people had gotten over the idea that marriage, private property, or love, equalled eternal consent. I thought that, by now, people realised that sex is a privilege equally weighting the choices of two individuals. There should especially be absolutely no question whether anyone is entitled to sex with someone who does not possess the mental capacity to consent, whatever promises were made on paper. Sex is about intimacy and pleasure, so if both participants are not getting pleasure, then there should be no question whether it should happen, and there is no need for a court order to prevent rape.
When people try to pit feminists against each other by trying to assert that western feminism is no longer needed while women are having their genitals mutilated, and being forced to marry at the age of nine, they are missing the point. I completely accept that my ability to get my nipples out without Instagram fuzzing them over is absolutely not an issue, when compared to FGM. However, when people in positions of power in the west are making sweeping statements about a man’s right to have sex with his wife who is not mentally able to provide consent, we cannot ignore the mentality that pervades the world, convinced that men have the absolute right, above all else, to have sex, no matter who is suffering because of it. Whether that be sex workers working in dangerous conditions, porn featuring people who are not of age, or have not consented to being filmed, nobody has the right to get pleasure from anything that hurts others.