"Affirmative Consent: Are Students Really Asking?"
The NY Times
By SANDY KEENAN
Tyler Frahme, a University at Albany junior, had never even heard of affirmative consent, the unequivocal O.K. to sex that is mandated by state law. Nor was he in the habit of asking women for permission to proceed at every new juncture of sexual activity.
He and his friend Jill Santiago, a fellow junior and psychology major, were catching up in the Campus Center near the close of the school year when I approached their table to ask about the state’s new definition — put in place last winter to guide, govern and presumably protect nearly half a million students across 64 public campuses of the State University of New York, and followed in July by a law that applies to all college students in the state.
New York’s new legislation of what constitutes consent covers a lot of ground in sobering terms:
“Affirmative consent is a knowing, voluntary and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity.”
“Consent to any sexual act or prior consensual sexual activity between or with any party does not necessarily constitute consent to any other sexual act.”
Mr. Frahme turned defensive, even a little combative, after I introduced him to the legislation.
“Do you think this is a gender-neutral policy?” he demanded. “All these policies cast men in a predatory light. Most guys aren’t like that.”
I asked a test question: Can a really drunk person give consent?
“My answer to that is no,” he said. He was right.
“Consent cannot be given when a person is incapacitated.”
Mr. Frahme posed a (not-so-hypothetical) scenario of his own: “You both get drunk and it gets heated and you get into it. If the next day she regrets it and formally complains, to me that’s just plain wrong.” The initiator, in fact, is responsible for securing consent, but because the other party is intoxicated, it may not be obtainable.
Ms. Santiago, who knew all about the issue, having helped put together university-mandated training in sexual assault prevention for her sorority, jumped out of the interpretive rabbit hole, locked eyes with Mr. Frahme and said: “If guys realize they have to ask and get permission — and I’ve been asked before, it’s not that bad — this could wind up protecting everyone.”
It wasn’t such a mood kill, she said, when a partner paused and asked: “Do you want to do this. Is it O.K.?”
But Mr. Frahme wasn’t buying it — at least not yet.
Colleges and universities have been scurrying to amend codes of conduct and refine definitions of consent. One reason for the rush is that the Obama administration, which last year launched the “It’s on Us” campaign in an attempt to make campuses safer from sexual violence, has threatened to withhold federal funding from institutions that fail to address problems.
This past year saw a blossoming in the “yes means yes” movement, an about-face on “no means no,” which suggests that sex can advance until you hear that “no.”
“Silence or lack of resistance, in and of itself, does not demonstrate consent.” ...