New York Times
by NATALIE KITROEFF
IN 1993, when Antioch College introduced its “ask first” policy — mandating that students solicit permission for every intimate advance, including kissing — the policy was widely derided.
Once the stuff of “Saturday Night Live” parody, “consent” today is proudly emblazoned on T-shirts, underwear and condom wrappers.
Through activism that happens as often on YouTube and Twitter as on the main green, foot soldiers in the consent movement are encouraging fellow classmates to ask first and ask often before engaging in sexual activity. Their mission is to make consent cooler than Antioch did. The movement’s slogan: “Consent is sexy.”
It isn’t always an easy sell. Today, as it was decades ago, the butt of the joke is the awkward formality of the ask. Sayda Morales co-founded All Students for Consent at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash., last year. She hears from students: “Do I have to ask if I can move one inch closer? Do I have to ask if I can move my left hand one inch on their buttocks?”
But it doesn’t have to take on the air of a contract signing, she tells them. When she stands in front of the freshman class, she tries to keep the conversation light. “Consent is necessary,” she says, “and it’s fun.”
Getting consent should be just one part of a frank conversation about what is and isn’t O.K. during sex, she says, and can enhance the sexual experience rather than stifle it.
Ms. Morales says she shrugs off student giggles. “At least they’re talking about it,” she says.
Sometimes it pays to play on the mockery. In 2012, Rebecca Nagle and Hannah Brancato created a website advertising a supposedly new line of Victoria’s Secret underwear. True to form, they were frilly, lacy and kaleidoscopic. But instead of “sure thing,” the thongs were decorated with fiats like “no means no” and “ask first.” Before everyone picked up on the prank, the website went viral.
The two activists — through their Baltimore organization, Force: Upsetting Rape Culture — have been at the forefront of a new, edgier tone in consent advocacy. Their group held workshops at 10 colleges last year, educating students on how to spread the anti-rape message. Campus groups are trumpeting their message through “Consent Days,” and sometimes weeks, filled with panels, group discussions and consent-branded T-shirt and condom giveaways. ...