On June 3, 2016, I found myself outraged and ready to throw my phone at the wall. After reading the Buzzfeed News article that featured a heart-wrenching letter penned to Brock Turner in the Stanford rape case, I was in a state of sheer disbelief.
Scrolling through the letter on my iPhone and shedding tears of both anger and sadness, I started thinking about how "Emily Doe" was in no state to give any form of consent. Unfortunately, her inebriation did not stop her attacker.
In the year 2016, college students around the nation still fail to grasp the fact that there is a hard line of consent. I would think common sense dictates that if a person does not actively say yes, then that person has not given consent. However, time and time again, I have been proven wrong.
More recently on Sept. 16, Allen Artis, a linebacker at the University of North Carolina, turned himself into a magistrate court this past Wednesday after Delaney Robinson, a fellow student, claimed he raped her.
The lack of education and exposure to sex education leaves college students to attend school with mixed ideas of what consent actually means. To clarify the line, we need to encourage conversations about sex, healthy relationships and consent.
In a poll conducted in 2015 by the Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation, American college students were given three different scenarios: someone undressing, someone getting a condom and someone nodding in agreement. Then, they were asked if these actions established consent.
The results show, specifically among women, 38 percent said it establishes consent for more sexual activity if someone gets a condom; 44 percent said the same is true if someone takes off his or her own clothes; and 51 percent said a nod of agreement signals consent.
If I were ever to find myself in a risqué situation, I would want my partner to understand that me changing clothes is not a cue to start putting the moves on me. Unfortunately, the numbers show that the idea of consent is not universal.
It is rare that any idea can be considered completely collective, but not establishing what qualifies as “agreement” leaves college students in a grey area that could mean the difference between an enjoyable night or a criminal offense.
What is more mortifying than the nonexistent definition of "agreement," is the blatant misogyny that surrounds from the blurred lines of consent.
In 2011, Yale University banned the fraternity group Delta Kappa Epsilon from recruiting and conducting activities on campus for five years after members went around chanting the phrase “No means yes! Yes means anal!”
Needless to say, Delta Kappa Epsilon's actions created a hostile environment toward women. To me it's very clear: If someone has not said that he or she wants any kind of intercourse, it does not give his or her partner permission to proceed. Yet, the members of this fraternity believe it does or find the blurred consent line humorous, to say the least.
Clearing up the misconceptions around consent is not easy, but not impossible. According to Susan Estby, a Barrett, the Honors College staff member who works with multiple women’s advocacy groups — including Kaity’s Way, Sojourner, and Break the Silence Campaign — consent starts in elementary school.
“We should be teaching sex at an early age right when we introduce things like digestive system, we should be calling various sexual organs by their terms, we need to remove religion and family beliefs and treat it as what it is and that is education," Estby said. “During welcome week and during floor meetings there should be mandatory sex-ed on college campuses.
"Talking openly at the university, including more stuff in curriculum about sex and healthy relationships and really critically analyzing the stories that we are told (about sex) can go a very long way.”
When practiced safely, sex can help improve and foster relationships. However, we must set firm boundaries and talk more openly about sex and consent. It is time we not only establish that only a verbal, sober “yes” means consent, but implement it onto campuses and start a dialogue to tear down the delusions surrounding that idea.
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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