Counseling Notes: On Consent

Counseling Notes are a series of short posts that are often taken from Twitter threads that I’ve done on various topics. The goal of Counseling Notes is to take the short snippets (tweets) I make about Soul Care issues and compile them into one place.

1. Consent is ALWAYS ambiguous when there is a power dynamic between two parties. Can a secretary, out of their own volition, choose to sleep w/ their boss? Yes. But the role power plays in such a relationship is never clear enough for such an action not to be an abuse of power.

2. Same principle applies to churches, pastors and congregants. A person who has authority & power over another can never know for sure whether or not their power is a mechanism that forces a form of superficial consent through pressure. Therefore, an authority figure pursuing a sexual relationship with a subordinate always requires skating the line of consent/force and the ambiguity is impossible to fully escape.

3. Let me try & spell this out with a skittle more clarity: A person with power over another can never know for sure what role their power plays in a sexual relationship. This cannot be clearly known because it is instinctive for a person to submit to whatever power & authority structure is established over them. To pursue a sexual relationship with someone you have power over is to exercise a willingness to rape them.

4. This is why it is universally recognized, even among the world, that affairs between a boss & employee is an abuse of power and said boss must be fired from their position of authority. This is why a pastor who has an affair with a congregant is disqualified from ministry.

5. What if person under them is fine with it? Doesn’t that verify the motive? No, It does not. Power dynamics create a relational instinct where people naturally move in respect to said power structure. You don’t have to tell a kid to obey a teacher or employee to obey a boss. Obeying authority is an instinctive response from those under said authority.

6. This is crucial to understanding abuse dynamics across the entire spectrum. For example, a person wrought with guilt over being assaulted by a parent as a child must understand the perversion of power & assault of innocence that occurred; their submission to authority was natural; the authority figure using that submission for evil is not.

7. Per example above, the point is this: Humans are naturally inclined towards honoring authority & with that, authority always requires a form of sacred stewardship regarding its power. The person with authority over another must guard the sacredness of authority; never abuse it.

8. Therefore, regardless of whether or not someone under authority agrees to give themselves to a person w/ authority over them; it’s the duty of the one with authority to guide the relational dynamic away from ambiguity & steward the relational authority in such a way that it avoids over-stepping at all cost.