File this story under “Sacrilegious Studies”

Perhaps English professors shouldn’t be venturing into theology, but Liberty University’s Karen Swallows Prior makes a valiant attempt to convince us that the Virgin Mary would have approved of today’s bureaucratic attempts to regulate campus sex.

Writing in The Atlantic, Prior pairs Luke’s Gospel with Antioch College’s ludicrous “each stage of intimacy” sexual-consent policy from the 1990s:

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. …

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Then Antioch’s policy:

  • If sexual contact and/or conduct is not mutually and simultaneously initiated, then the person who initiates sexual contact/conduct is responsible for getting the verbal consent of the other individual(s) involved.
  • The person with whom sexual contact/conduct is initiated is responsible to express verbally and/or physically her/his willingness or lack of willingness when reasonably possible.

Prior concludes:

These steps are followed quite neatly in the narration of the Annunciation in Luke’s gospel. God initiates, and Mary gives her verbal consent: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” …

So with Mary’s words of “let it be,” we have what just might be the first recorded instance of verbal consent in human history. And considering the times—ancient Middle Eastern cultures were not known for their justice toward women—this verbal consent to being the bearer of the Christ child is quite remarkable indeed.

Well, that’s one way to read it.

It’s not that we can’t appreciate “enlightenment” in ancient societies: The Mosaic law was certainly progressive for its time, and Jesus’s relationships with women broke the mold.

But dropping Mary into the polarizing legal maze that is affirmative consent – whose application “will have a randomness, an arbitrariness, and an occasional absurdity that will encourage a mix of resentment and resistance” – is probably not the best idea, much less for an English professor.