Recently, I stumbled upon an article about a new proposed bill that would require “Students who want to have sex would have to reach a mutual agreement, either verbally or on paper, first. The bill says affirmative consent cannot be given by anyone who’s incapacitated by alcohol, drugs or a mental or physical condition. Once given, consent can be revoked at any time.” for specifically students on college/university campuses. The bill is working to towards establishing an affirmative consent policy to make it clear that only ‘yes’ means ‘yes.’ The article brings up a very important statistic, “One out of five young women on a college campus will be sexually assaulted,” It’s defined as “an affirmative unambiguous and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed upon sexual activity…Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent. Nor does silence mean consent.
Seeing this article, I immediately, being a sexual health intern, started to analyze the bill, its importance, and its flaws, of there were any. I think this is a really good attempt to bring attention to sex positivity. It’s a bill that provokes thinking about safer sexual experiences and allows individuals to make sure that there is communication in all sexual experiences; essentially if would force partners to communicate, which is always good. I believe that it will start conversation with these kinds of unstated do’s and don’ts in sexual health world. From my experiences in working in the Sexual Health Education, a lot of people in general never really think to ask for consent, they just assume that they already have it! I think this will being to start conversation with individuals and their partners so that there is a clear idea of what is to happen and what is not to happen throughout each sexual experience, and hopefully avoid and power struggles that lead to sexual assault.
My hope is that with this bill, is that it will raise awareness that consent is a must and allow victims of sexual assault cases to realize, like the bill states, that “Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent. Nor does silence mean consent”, and encourage individuals of sexual assault cases to step up and report incidents.
I think that this bill will definitely raise awareness of the need to have consent, however, a bigger issue at hand in regards to college campuses is that there has been a trend where sexual assault on college campuses is covered up or not reported to the police. A law that more strictly enforces colleges’ proper treatment of sexual assault reports (collecting evidence & acting in a timely manner, protecting the victim, etc) might be a more effective use of government resources. This is not to say that the bill won’t have it’s effectiveness, but that if the target of the bill is to help put a damper on all of the uproar surrounding Sexual Assault on College campus’ there could be a better attempt.
As much as it seems like you’re being ” babysat” it’s just not common knowledge that you need to get consent every time you have a sexual encounter; more importantly, what even is sex. Everyone has a different definition of “having sex”. Sex is so subjective; To some, oral could be considered having sex, to some sex is just penetrative. So if there is not this communication where you say to your partner, “Hey, can I perform oral on you”, you could be performing some activity on someone that is unwanted, and that is not okay to them. It’s not a matter of “babysitting adult sexual behavior”, it’s a matter of knowing what you’re getting yourself into and knowing what you are agreeing to and vocalizing what you are not agreeing to or comfortable doing!
Just from my experiences working on campus to talk about sexual health, people don’t really think they need to get consent for a lot of things. But how many times have we had a friend who was upset at a party because some guy touched her butt, or tried to grab her hand? Though some may think that it is not as violating or intense as being force to have sexual intercourse with someone, it is still a form of sexual harassment, and it’s not okay. By making it a law, I would hope, and I believe that these are the intention of if those that propose the bill, it will allow, young individuals the opportunity to think about their action before they are made. By having it stated in law, and in writing, it is a preventative measure to insure that students at the university think about asking to grab someones hand, or ass, or any other part of their body that is unwanted in an attempt to stop these issues before they become a larger issue of sexual assault. Though that is something smaller scale in terms of Sexual harassment, it still has the same ramifications for sexual assault issues as well.
I teach workshops on campus and one of the main things that I like to emphasize is that just because you consent to say, holding someones hand, doesn’t necessarily mean that you consent to give a hand job as well. and just because you consent to have penetrative sex, doesn’t mean that you consent to having anal sex. And even bigger, just because you consent in the beginning of a sexual encounter, doesn’t mean that that consent hold throughout the whole entire experience if you are no longer liking the way the experience is going. And not everyone knows that, I personally didn’t until I got to be more involve in the sexual health education world,and certainly a lot of my students don’t know this either. I think that being aware of your own body and your rights to your body is really important, and this bill will begin to raise that awareness about that!
The bill states that anyone “incapacitated due to drugs or alcohol” cannot give consent, I think adding this part brings up a grey area for a lot of people; throughout several conversations, I’ve encountered people who say, that they feel as though they have been able to give consent while “incapacitated”/ “Under the influence”/”Intoxicated”. But the issue here is, though you may think that you are self aware able to understand the ramifications of any given situation, while under the influence of any types of drugs or alcohol you are, by scientific research, in an altered state of being. I think that it’s important to realize that this part of the proposed bill is there for ones safety, and there to make sure that you are fully aware and conscious before consenting to anything. By adding this part to the bill, protect individuals from situations where date rape drugs are use, when you may have drank a little more than you should, when you are using a prescription drug for say, a bad back, for the first time. By adding in the bill that one can not consent while “incapacitated” or whatever you want to call it, forces you to be in the most clear and unaltered mind state possible.
~ SEXPERT Jasmine