SERIES: Make consent: freely given

Photo courtesy of Griffith University

Ah, the age-old story of a handsome knight winning the hand of a virtuous lady. A fairytale plot line I think we are all familiar with, but the way it bleeds into modern life, I think, can be concerning. A fair lady of yonder days can be won, but but consent in a modern sexual interaction cannot. There is no line in the sand or concrete action that can be taken that implies consent. You paid for dinner? You’ve been supplying drinks all night? You have had sex with them before? None of these actions imply consent. Consent for sexual activity must be freely given and never coerced.

“Freely given” means that the person is excited to consent. There’s no outside influence except the willingness to have a sexual encounter with the other person. Coercion is when those outside influences come into play to try to get that “yes.” The two cannot coexist in a hookup. Even the most casual pressure (i.e., “are you suurrree you don’t want to?”) can put uncomfortable pressure on the other person that can lead them to do something they don’t want to.

Pressuring someone into sex definitely falls under the category of coercion for consent. Asking someone if they want to have sex in a sexual situation over and over and over until they give in is not consent. If someone is not comfortable with a sexual act and you pressure them into it — not cool. Ever seen the video where the guy talks about “consensual rape?” People can be so uncomfortable or scared in a sexual situation that they say yes just to avoid a forceful situation or just to get it over with.

So if you think that asking a bunch of times “wins you consent,” oh buddy, do I have news for you. And if you use the age-old “well they kept saying no but they meant yes,” it’s just a no. If someone is willing to engage in a certain sexual activity with you, they will be excited, and they will be clear. Don’t let your ego get you into trouble.

In other cases, I think that the idea of freely given consent can be much more sinister. I sincerely hope that it doesn’t happen often, but I think it is important to identify. If you trick someone into saying yes under any false pretenses, that is not truly consent. If the person is not fully aware of the situation surrounding the sexual encounter, they cannot be fully aware of what they’re consenting to.

This can be before the sexual encounter even happens (you made a bet with your friends you could get this person into bed), during the encounter (you are interested in having much rougher sex than they were aware) or even after (you share videos, pictures, texts, etc. that were meant to remain private). Even if the person says yes to the initial hookup, that does not apply/extend to situations outside their control.

The student-led conversation about sexual assault on campus is so important. This is my last column of this series, but the dialogue around it needs to continue. Only we as Xavier students know what the issues of assault looks like on Xavier’s campus. We need to talk to our friends, peers and teachers to expand what this issue means to us. It affects all of us, and it hurts all of us. At Xavier we are supposed to be men and women for and with others, so let’s expand that to all parts of our lives. Educate yourself and speak up for others.

Riley Head is a sophomore Philosophy, Politics and the Public and Gender and Diversity Studies double major. She is the Arts and Entertainment editor for the Newswire from Louisville, Ky.