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Consent is permission for something to happen, usually used when engaging in sexual behavior. Sexual assault is prominent in many colleges across the country, and it can happen to anyone regardless of demographics. These issues began earlier than college, colleges staff say they take sexual assault seriously which is why schools adopt title IX, however they are unprepared when they must deal with real life situations. Which is why colleges usually sweep the incidents under the rug, which creates the culture of excusing inappropriate behavior.
In the article, Charlene L. Muchlenhard, professor at University of Kansas in department of gender and sexuality studies, article for sex research stresses that the “Association of American Universities in 2015 found that 21.2 percent of seniors from 27 colleges were victims of nonconsensual sexual contact either physical force, threat of physical force, incapacitation, coercion, or absence of affirmative consent “(Muchlenhard 1).More recently, however, sexual assault has increased by ¼ on college campuses. These increasing numbers show that it is important that colleges implement more consent policies to enlighten students about unwanted sexual encounters.
These policies should have clear standards on the definition of consent so sexual violence can be prevented.
While consent on college campus has been debated for a long time, the crisis has been relatively recent. In her article, “The History of Sexual Assault” by Anya Kamenetz confirms that “The first form of sexual assault was in 1957 when Eugene Kanin posited a model where men used stigma and secrecy to pressure and exploit women “(Kamenetz 1). Today, College assaults are very predictable.
Sexual assaults are still happening and too much of it is. The difference of sexual assault on campus originally and what we see now:” the assaults in 1900s were ignored; they created the excuse to inappropriate behavior. Not recently, colleges are more involved to protect students” (22). More involvement has created a step toward battling sexual assault creating an emphasis on the issue.
The famous “Yes means Yes” law is the aspect of consent that has contributed to the explosion of controversy. Schools like University of California, Yale University and Stanford University have enacted affirmative consent policies. Their policies are a groundbreaking effort to hold predators responsible for assaulting a victim that was unconscious or sleep. In the article on the yes means yes website they describe the law as ” The law established that consent is a voluntary, affirmative, conscious, agreement to engage in sexual activity, that it can be revoked at any time, that a previous relationship does not constitute consent, and that coercion or threat of force can also not be used to establish consent. Affirmative consent can be given either verbally or nonverbally. Additionally, the law clarified that a person who is incapacitated by drugs or alcohol, or is either not awake or fully awake, is also incapable of giving consent” (EROC 2014). That quote alone is enough to create a spark of debate. The website has a mission to end campus sexual violence by policy reform at all levels of government. Clearly, policies are a way to envision an educational experience from violence, but policy can also create problems in consensual sexual encounters. It is hard to deny that policy is beneficial at some points, but also sometimes a conflict.
One way that consent policies can be beneficial is justifying the importance of consensual sex. Majority of students on campus should understand the concept of consent because by the time you are getting higher education your brain should know right from wrong. However, many college students still do not know the appropriate behavior because they were never taught it. In Clarifying Consent: “Primary Prevention of Sexual Assault on a College Campus” Angela Borges mentions a study that was conducted to teach students about consent which involved studies to help raise awareness to prevention because students have never been taught ahead of time. She states in the article that “Policies are only effective as people’s understanding and use of them” (Borges 22). Borges gives this evidence to show how policies are only effective if the people are willing to use them. If the students are not willing to use consent, then the repercussions such as jail or expulsion from school become inevitable. By enacting a clear policy for consent students will have corrected misconceptions about sex and rape.
Not enacting consent policies to teach students importance of healthier sexual behavior puts students in risk for vulnerability. Vulnerability usually comes from being unaware of the dangers that can happen. While vulnerability does not always mean you will be attacked, it’s the key factor that results in sexual violence. Students and parents should be aware of this danger. While parents should be enlightening their kids on appropriate sexual behavior, there should be a line where schools discuss the topic because it can also make the topic easier for discussion.
The famous consent policy of Antioch College played a major role in changing how students think of consent. In 1990, the college formulated a document called Sexual Offense Prevention Policy. Comedians around the world mocked the policy using it as a parody. Students from Antioch started to ask to be interviewed to defend the policy because most of them believed the policy set clear standards. Many students still stood against the policy because it was not nature for them to ask. Regardless, colleges worldwide started to adopt the same policies. Education about consent is part of college life. Although along the line colleges became lazy with enforcing their policies, the fact of the matter is, Consent polices are about how you well enforce and implement them. Antioch College addressed a real problem that gathered the point of national concern.
Consent policies are also beneficial because it is the best way to prevent sexual assault. Some states have required their universities and institutions to use affirmative consent. Adopting consent policies are supported, but also not supported. Law policies regarding affirmative consent will do a lot to help prevent sexual assault. These laws will not dictate sexual encounters, but they will be there to help students think about what they are doing. In her article , “ Are you ok with this, an argument for affirmative consent” Van Duyne believes that “with more laws being enacted they can lead the students to think before they act” (Van Duyne 1) so both parties can be protected. If the two people about to engage in sexual intercourse check in with one another then there can be no doubt about who wanted to do what. This strategy can eliminate the chances of shame and confusion preventing a cry of sexual violence. All college students are aware of consent from “no means no” mindset but understanding the importance of consent is a necessity. At least 800 schools have policies in place because of heightened awareness by the government which are “effective” like Vanderbilt University, Wesleyan University and Whitman College. Affirmative consent policies shift the burden of proof to the accused students to prove his or her innocence, they hold the victim and predator to the same level. The policies present that sex can be weird, but it should not be weird with the one person you are having sex with. Implementing policies are not only aimed to reform the adjudicative process on campus, but to also prevent sexual assault from occurring in the first place. They also hold colleges to a higher standard to make sure all their students are safe. Affirmative consent policies present the attitude of future perpetrators and their peers can change because they realized the knowledge, they received about consent is applicable and practical.
With all the apparent consequences without consent policies, one must ask oneself, “What is consent?” or “What should count as consent? “Some people advocate that consent policies are not needed. They say policies do not prevent sexual assault, they influence sexual behavior Author Cathy Young wrote an article entitled “Campus Rape: The Problem with ‘Yes Means yes’ from the viewpoint of a student using consent policies. She shared views against policy because According to Young’s article, “Campus Rape: The Problem with ‘Yes Means yes” she believes “consent can be established in different ways other than becoming problematic” (Young 2). Also, this law that some colleges are implementing is tricky because it puts an unfair burden on accused. According to Jennifer Medina, in “Yes means Yes” but its tricky”, she stresses that “there is actually no clear standard all there is misconceptions because this is not an logical idea”(Medina 2) the problem with trying to implement this is confusing students even more. With the students not actually knowing what to do, that means they are not yet convinced on using the idea which means they will not use it in their everyday lives, so the policy is implemented ineffective. Colleges are rushing to amend codes and “redefine” consent because Obama’s Administration threatened to withhold funding from institutions who are not “addressing problems”. Some colleges do not care about their student’s safety, they are only implementing these laws for funding purposes. But even with these arguments, one has got to continue wondering if not knowing is worth the inevitable consequences. It’s possible to still have control over your sexual life even if policies are enacted. These policies will help serve as an eyeopener changing harmful attitudes and increasing knowledge of consent for students. The difference is with enactment of policies it encourages students to make smart decisions sexually making assault and rape apart of the curriculum which cuts down sexual violence on campus.
In order to solve the problem of consent on campus society needs to see sexual violence for what it is and make it unacceptable in their current forms. Although there are arguably some benefits to not having policies, they do not outweigh the cons, and these benefits can be achieved in more intellectual ways. Instead of relying on a consent policy to teach you how to have appropriate sex, parents should teach their kids as young children. They should teach their children that its okay to say no in an uncomfortable situation. Though campus sexual violence cannot be stopped altogether, regulations that forbids the “boy will be boys” concept, and if students want to have sexual encounters, they can easily do it, but safely like they know it should be done.
Sexual Violence victims worldwide have started a movement called #METOO to help demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault. Creators of the movement Tarana Burke said this movement is because she could not find the right words for a 13-year-old who confided in her after being sexually assaulted. She simply wishes she told the girl “me too”. The movement visions that all survivors will no longer feel alone and to get these laws and policies changed. While many people argue that affirmative consent policies are not effective, it is arguable that they do work, but its hard because the policies leave a loophole. With loopholes in the policies it leaves room to avoid the purpose that is implied or stated. Consent is a frequently visited issue in college sexual assault and misconduct cases. Colleges and universities have started to implement affirmative consent policies to control sexual assault on campuses. Raising awareness can also lead to helping others journey with these challenges. Some victims do not speak up because of the way society blames victims of sexual assault and normalizes male sexual violence. Rape culture is not just about the importance of rape it is about “how we let men’s sexual desire override a woman’s safety” its like saying the victim has asked for it. It is important to call it out because women have been blamed for sending out the wrong message. Rape culture is dangerous, we need to stand up and fight it no matter how hard it will be to let the victims know that we stand with them. Sexual abuse is a significant social problem that has unquestionable impacts for different genders that experience it. The mental health of the community has made the path to recovery very long. We made rape an acceptance of society since we generally never speak on it because we haven’t experienced it personally. Sexual abuse is an unwanted contact that brings trauma for both genders help by educating yourself and people that surround you even if it is not personally affecting you. Not having consent cannot be justified. It is the responsibility of adults in society to make sure their students are safe. The drugs and alcohol of parties that appeal to students should not be worth the consequences they will face if they do not adopt a healthy sexual encounter. Students should be taught the same respect as individuals, and that is what society should be endorsing. It is time to call for an end to sexual violence for students and find healthier ways to have sex.
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