Sometimes, the internet just give you gold.
I was scrolling through an article today, and as per usual, I went to read the comment section. Some people avoid comments like the plague, but I’m genuinely interested in hearing people’s opinions whether I agree with them or not, and sometimes I learn a thing or two or find a link to another relevant article. Today, however, I found ironic internet gold. As I’m scrolling along, I read the following comment:
“I think campus sexual assault is being discussed mostly in the hopes that it will lead to some republican saying something appalling on a live mic.”
This comment was posted in 2014, but they certainly weren’t predicting the future about this:
First, I certainly don’t think the discussions surrounding sexual assault on college campuses or elsewhere were a secret conspiratorial plot to stoke a fire and catch a republican presidential candidate making “lewd” comments. That is ridiculous. That is clearly ridiculous.
The problem is, too often, people think that conversations surrounding rape, sexual assault and consent are being perpetuated for any reason other than educating people and making people safer. People aren’t talking about it because they just want attention or pity, they aren’t talking about it because they want to encourage women to make false accusations, and they aren’t talking about it because they want to make all men feel like guilty pariahs. People are talking about it because they want others to understand the difference between consensual and non-consensual activity, and what should happen when non-consensual activity takes place.
I do think the discussion of sexual assault on college campuses and the Trump video are linked — they are linked because it demonstrates the exact mentality that leads to the normalization of non-consensual behavior. When Trump states that he can grab women’s private areas and kiss them, he claims that he doesn’t wait, and he doesn’t have to because he is a star. When he says, “I don’t even wait,” the words he carefully leaves out is, “for her consent” or “for her to stop me”. Even Trump himself knew when he made the statement that he was implying that there was something he should have waited for, and yet he did not — and to him, that is a bragging joke.
As women on college campuses, including my own, continue to battle this issue, it becomes increasingly clear that the journey will be entirely uphill until mentalities like that of Trump are dealt with.
When a college student is sexually assaulted they can go to both the police department and the University. Many students choose to report the incident to both parties, as the criminal justice system works slowly, often taking years to reach final judgement. By reporting the incident to the college as well, a victim may be able to have their assailant suspended, moved, or in some cases expelled. Colleges, however, have been heavily criticized for their inability to accurately judge such serious crimes and their proclivity to find ways to blame the victim for the assault. When elements like drugs and alcohol come into play, universities still seem unclear on how to proceed when determining consent. Further, it is often in the university’s best interest to determine the activity to be consensual in order to avoid PR issues.
On the flip side, high profile cases like that of the Duke lacrosse players, have drawn increasing media attention to the plight of those falsely accused of non-consensual activity, leaving a community of people who believe tons of women would be interested in accusing men of sexual assault for various vindictive reasons.
When I talk to male friends and guys on my campus, it seems they do not operate in fear that one day, a woman will decide to accuse them of rape because they are an angry ex-girlfriend or something. They are however, scared that will “accidentally” rape someone. Of course, you cannot accidentally assault a person, but some people feel that the idea of consent is so fuzzy in some areas that they could commit a crime by mistake. I find myself, time and time again, explaining that, no, just because your partner had alcohol doesn’t mean they can legally say you raped them (unless they were so intoxicated that they could not have objected to sexual activity or otherwise did not consent). I have to explain that no, you don’t necessarily have to say the exact words, “do you consent to this activity” before you make every sexual move. You do however, need to understand two things: 1. If someone does not have the capacity to object to an activity, then you cannot move forward with that person and 2. If someone, says “no” “stop” “slow down” “I don’t like that” or they pull away, push you off of them, turn away, try to leave, or do anything else to indicate they are not comfortable, you absolutely must stop what you’re doing. Learn to listen to the person’s words and body language and act accordingly and never use roughness or force unless they explicitly ask. If you find that when you are intoxicated, you aren’t a very good listener, then that isn’t a good scene for you and you should avoid drinking heavily before attempting to hook up with someone. If you are sober and an intoxicated person tries to initiate sexual activity with you, the best thing to do is decline. The next day, the person may regret the activity and feel taken advantage of, so while they initiated the interaction and it isn’t considered rape, you should honestly just be the better person and tell them “call me when you’re sober.” If at any moment, you feel unsure about a situation, discuss it with the other person before you do anything else.
While I have no problem explaining these consent rules to people headed to college parties, statements like Trump’s only expose our societal need for the conversation to start during our pivotal formative years. When I took sex education in middle school and high school, the conversation mainly centered on abstinence, puberty, and discussing how difficult it would be to raise a baby. After that, we were given a quick seminar on sexually transmitted infections and condoms (no other birth control methods were discussed). Consent never entered the equation. If schools don’t cover it and parents ignore the subject, who is going to tell them that you have the right to change your mind about a sexual activity at any point and being forced to continue is considered rape? Who is going to explain that males can also be sexually assaulted and they have the right to come forward? Who will intimate that while people may wear certain types of clothing because they want to look and feel sexy, you never have the right to touch someone, shout at them, or say rude things just because they dressed a certain way? All of these rules may seem obvious on paper, but when people boast about grabbing and kissing people without permission, it becomes all too clear that the consent discussion is far from over. Some people have yet to read the definition.