You would think that for most college students the idea about consent would be simply yes means yes and no means no. However, a recent poll done by The Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation found different results.
According to the poll, 40 percent of current and recent college students said that action established consent for sexual activity, and at least 40 percent said it did not. This means that actions such as undressing, getting a condom, or even nodding one’s head could be signals for consent. Now, college students are trying to determine what consent is in order to prevent being in situations of sexual assault.
For the most part, the situation tends to be that when it comes to sex, men are more likely to think women want to, when they don’t. The lines blur even more when either or both parties are intoxicated. However, the Washington Post notes that “ninety-five percent of current and recent male students said sexual activity when one person is incapacitated or passed out is tantamount to sexual assault.”
Although simply saying yes or no seems like the most appropriate method for having or not having sex, that conversation tends to not happen for college students. Instead words like “sure,” “okay,”or “fine” are used for someone who maybe isn’t sure about having sex, but is uncomfortable or scared to say no. In the article, a 22-year-old student at a public university in the Midwest described being coerced into having sex. “It wasn’t rape, but it was kind of similar,” she said. “I technically did consent. I said ‘okay”. . . I was scared to say no. He was bigger, we were alone, he wouldn’t stop.”
Due to situations like this, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed a landmark law last fall that established “affirmative consent” for sexual conduct in college. “Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent,” the law says, “nor does silence mean consent.” During sex people can choose to withdraw their consent and sex can’t be implied even if two people have had sex before. The Obama administration stated in their campaign “It’s on Us” that “if someone does not or cannot consent to sex, it’s rape.”
“Yes means yes” is becoming more popular for schools nationwide to practice because it’s a clear issue of consent. As shown in the poll, seventy-five percent said it does not indicate consent when the other person has not said no. And 66 percent said that sexual foreplay, such as kissing or touching, does not indicate consent.
What college students need to remember is to allow for discussion with whoever you’re having or wanting to have sex with and also maintaining respect for that person. Choose to listen and respect how they’re feeling about the situation, instead of assuming an answer or not taking no for an answer. As Saalika Khan, 25, a student at Towson University said “I don’t know why guys think, ‘If I just do it, she’ll do it, too.’ I never understood that. There has to be a conversation, you know?”
Head over to The Washington Post to read more.