What is considered consent is a simple question that has a frustrating, unnecessarily complex answer.
It’s needlessly convoluted because of perceptions, especially when violence is trivialized as “20 minutes of action,” joked about in “locker-room talk” or dismissed with inane questions like “what was she wearing?”
There’s a fundamental problem with curtailing a crime if some people don’t understand it in the first place. If two people are romantically involved and don’t know where the line between consent and crime is drawn, it’s incredibly hard for someone to redraw that line after the fact.
Higher education institutions have to deal with this all the time. Their students are young adults learning about relationships, many for the first time, and sometimes don’t know better.
The Title IX office on campuses can help, but students usually have to come to them. That would be a hard ask if a student didn’t know a crime was committed against them.
Many institutions have some type of outreach program that brings awareness, but it can get lost or ignored in chaotic college life.
Usually, it isn’t until a victim realizes they were in a scary or violent situation that they seek out help.
Students shouldn’t be learning about all of this after being victimized. They should be taught.
Higher education institutions need to go the extra step of educating their students beyond academics.
Rice University has the right idea.
The private university has a pilot program in which a class, Critical Thinking in Sexuality, will be mandatory for all incoming freshmen starting this fall.
Students will attend 50-minute classes for five weeks, learning about and discussing topics like sexual consent, bystander actions, domestic violence and sexual assault.
After the mandatory classes, there is an optional extension for another five weeks, in which topics like contraception and rape culture will be discussed.
Students who don’t complete the program won’t be allowed to register for other classes. It’s only mandatory for incoming freshman. Transfers students are not required to take the program.
This is something other higher education institutions should pay attention to and learn from.