It is because of an evangelical culture awash in this kind of teaching that Kavanaugh’s series of assaults can be excused as youthful indiscretions. Men are expected to slip up and violate their purity, and it’s all okay as long as their penis didn’t actually enter a vagina. It is his future wife’s duty to forgive, and no one else should pass judgment on sins that are in the past.
The language of consent is not a language that evangelicals or their heroes speak.
It is the evangelical MO to ignore the testimony of women.
Much of my thinking here has been informed by sex positivity, and how it can be applied to fictional worlds. There are two key principles to the movement: first, active, informed consent in all aspects of sexuality, and second, anything that happens between consenting adults is natural. I particularly like how principle the first flows into principle the second: if you have active, informed consent, then anything consenting adults do afterwards is natural.
And yes, it means consent for everything. Recognising the heroine’s bodily autonomy, her right to decide what happens to it at every point is crucial to these discussions. We need to divorce the idea of sexy from the idea of surprise. Your heroine can be pursued, but she must not be prey.
It means empowering your heroine’s choices—write that contraception scene. This is the genre where it should become so ingrained that women engage only in safe sex—protecting themselves and their partners—that it becomes cliche. Empower your heroines to demand safety, and empower your heroes to deliver it without being asked.