By Hannah McCarthy Potter ‘20
* trigger warning for sexual assault
The Consent is Sexy Campaign (CIS), has been adopted by various colleges and universities as a means of, “sparking conversations about consent, to reduce levels of sexual assault, and reduce levels of abusive attitudes and behavior,” (consent). The CIS campaign is helpful for creating awareness about the importance of consensual sex; however, the campaign does only that. It opens a needed conversation in a cheeky manner and stops there. When the majority of DOS approved parties’ assert the necessity of sexual consent by stating, “Please, always remember that consent is sexy AND mandatory” our community attempts to broach the topic of consent in a palatable manner. Yet, out community then ignores the needed next steps which we must take to combat the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. Although the CIS campaign does start a necessary conversation about consent, by equating consent with sexiness, we undermine the necessity of sexual consent. We effectively ignore that consent may also encompass a no, a statement that need not be sexy, and refuse to acknowledge the systems that promote sexual assault.
The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines sexy as, “sexually suggestive or stimulating, and generally attractive or interesting.” Yes, consent can possess these components: however, consent does not equate to sexiness. Part of sexual consent may encompass a verbal “no”, and by parallelling consent to sexiness, our community ignores the possibility of receiving a no that is not sexy. By telling students that consent is sexy as a means of promoting consensual sex, our community perpetuates the misconception that sexual consent is inherently unappealing. We continue the notion that students do not actively seek consent as a result of the topic of consent seeming too uncomfortable to talk about. This bolsters students feeling the need to sugar coat consent when discussing its importance, which directly decreases the gravity of such dialogues. Our community should not feel awkward asserting the necessity of consent. We must teach students the value of having adult conversations about what they want or do not want. Reading a partner’s body language to determine if they feel comfortable or uncomfortable is something all human beings should take part in and converse about without feeling stigmatized.
By advertising consent as sexy in order to prevent sexual assault, our community neglects the prevalence and power of a rape culture. We ignore that the majority of sexual assaults on campuses are committed by, “perpetrators who plan and premeditate their attacks, using sophisticated strategies to groom their victims for attack, and to isolate them physically (Lisak & Miller, 2002).” By doing this, our community does not hold systems and values that promote sexual assault assailants accountable for their actions. Sexual assault will not end until we all take personal responsibility for living in and furthering a culture that supports and allows one person to take advantage of and violate another’s human rights.
1. Consent Is Sexy, 2011, www.consentissexy.net/about-faqs.
2. “Sexual Assault Statistics.” One In Four USA, www.oneinfourusa.org/statistics.php.