Having seen all your Consent is Sexy posts recently made me realize how far away from certain issues life takes us as we move into different phases. Personally, the issue of consent hasn’t been one I have had to be concerned with for over a decade.
I hadn’t given your postings much conscious attention, but clearly my unconscious has been brewing it over because one very terrifying experience I had while at Haverford has been in my thoughts quite a bit lately.
When I was a sophomore, a guy who was a senior and who had been friends with my UCA from the previous year told me he needed to talk to me about her (the UCA) privately. The whole situation seemed odd so thankfully I told my roommate to stop by his suite in an hour to make sure I wasn’t trapped in some uncomfortable conversation. In actuality, he had every intention of convincing me to have sex with him to “ease the pain” of her rejecting him. He was unpredictable, violent (not towards me but he actually ripped the door off his closet in anger as I continued to fend him off), and I was sure I would be raped. Thankfully, my roommate stopped by early and that distracted him just enough for me to run out of his room.
The part that haunts me to this day wasn’t his behavior, or even the thought of his having been successful. The two things that haunt me are how I questioned my own behavior and how the Dean at the time questioned my behavior when I reported the event to him. I could not let myself off the hook. I had gone into his room alone, I hadn’t thrown punches at him and tried to claw my way out of the room – so somewhere deep down, I felt that I hadn’t done enough to say no. The Dean asked me questions that mirrored all my own doubts, which only served to deepen my self-doubt.
Looking back from over two decades later, I want to hug my younger self and tell her that one should not have to scratch out eyes or endure an hour of terror in order to prove she does not want to have sex with someone. Saying no should be enough.
I do think the issue of interpreting consent can be trickier when dealing with people who are in a relationship, who have a mutual attraction. There is a certain cat-mouse element that can come into play as couples move into a more sexual relationship…but there does need to be a line that can easily be drawn, and that is respected by the community, that signifies the withdrawl of consent clearly and completely at that moment. It gives the “aggressor” a clear signal, it gives the “aggressee” a simple, effective tool, and it gives the community a common set of guidelines for what is and what is not ok.
Anyway, not sure if any of this helps or not, but I thought I would share and commend you for your valuable efforts. It most definitely does happen “here” and at least in the past, has not been dealt with in a very satisfying manner. Hopefully, this has changed a bit and will only continue to get better.