The College Experience
Ultimately, going to college is about gaining an education. But the college experience involves much more. You transition to a new world of self-exploration where you are encouraged to get involved in different social settings and situations, meet new people, and be on your own for the first time. And for some students, this includes hookup culture and partying. All of this is part of finding out who you are and will shape your future.
However, a sobering fact of the college experience is that 1 in 5 female students will be a victim of sexual assault. And although it happens less often, male students are victims of this crime too. And 42% of LGBTQ university students in one sample reported they had been forced to have sex against their will compared to 21% of heterosexual students in the same study.*
Why is the idea of consent so important?
The majority of sexual assaults are not happening while students are attending class and involved in their academics. They occur during the social scenes. They happen when students are partying or letting loose on the weekends. And in some cases, they occur when people don’t understand what the meaning of CONSENT is.
UNH students are required to abide by two separate systems and two separate policies.
1. The NH State Law
2. The UNH Code of Conduct
NH law considers a felony sexual assault to be sexual penetration of another person, that is forcible and/or against that person’s will; or, where the victim is incapable of giving consent. Consent cannot be given if: the victim is being physically forced, threatened, coerced, incapacitated by drugs or alcohol when the victim gives a verbal or behavioral indication that they do not want sexual contact.
Sexual misconduct, which includes, but is not limited to, any sexual activity as defined by RSA 632-A:1 (V) without seeking and receiving expressed permission (consent). Sexual misconduct includes sexual activity when a person’s ability to give expressed permission is compromised due to mental/physical disability and/ or mental/physical incapacitation due to substance ingestion. Substances can include legal or illegal drugs and alcohol or any combination of these. This means, any sexual activity without consent is sexual misconduct and is sexual assault and is a violation of the UNH Code of Conduct, as well as a violation of the NH state law.
So what is Consent?
- A mutual agreement, based on a shared desire for specific sexual activities;
- An ongoing verbal interaction, taken one step at a time, to an expressed and honest yes;
- Mutual awareness of possible consequences of activities;
- Each partner remains open to and respects the other partner’s expression of agreement or disagreement to engage in the activity.
Consent is not...
- Power - This occurs when there is an imbalance of physical size and strength, or of status or authority, it can feel impossible to honestly express desires and limits;
- Coercion - This occurs when one gets another to say “yes” by threatening, forcing, manipulating, intimidating, pressuring, blackmailing, drugging, and getting him or her drunk.
What does seeking and receiving consent mean?
There can be a lot of confusion about the terms “seeking” and “receiving” and “expressed permission.” Seeking and receiving expressed permission to engage in sexual activity is best done when using verbal communication with your partner. Non-verbal communication may lead a person to think they have sought or received permission when, in fact, they have not.
Seeking consent means...
- Being clear about your desires and expectations;
- Asking permission to engage in specific, named sexual behavior, whether or not you were the one who initiated sexual contact;
- Asking permission each time you wish to progress to new, different, or more intimate sexual behavior.
Seeking consent does not mean assuming that...
- Someone who consents to one type of sexual activity consents to all types;
- Previous consent to sexual activity applies to current or future activity
- Sexy clothes, flirtatious behavior, accepting a drink, or anything other than clearly expressed consent is an invitation for sex.
Asking for a sexual act does not have to be awkward or unsexy. There are many creative and sexy ways that we can check in with our sexual partners about the sex acts we are wanting to initiate with them.
Is this okay? Are you sure? Are you sober enough? Tell me how you like it? Tell me what you want?
Receiving consent means...
- Hearing clear agreement /desire to engage in specific, named sexual activity;
- Always asking when you’re not sure what the other person is telling you.
Receiving consent does not mean...
- Ignoring your partner whey they say "no," or ignoring verbal or physical signs that they do not want to have sex. Unless your partner says “yes,” consent cannot be assumed;
- Accepting your partner's “yes” when he/she is incapacitated by alcohol or other drugs; a clear state of mind is required.
The crucial part to getting consent is receiving an answer back from the person you have sought consent from. Some clear answers that are enthusiastic consent responses are,
Yes! Do it! I want it. Give it to me Yes, Yes, YES!
Things to remember when you are looking to receive consent...
A response of
I don’t know, I want to but…,
I am not sure,
I think so, or SILENCE are not consensual answers. A response of
NO is clear and obvious that consent is not given. A person giving any of these responses is a person not giving consent.
The responsibility of getting consent is with the person initiating the act. It is not up to the person receiving the act to stop the initiator. It is the responsibility of the initiator to make sure that they get a clear consensual answer.
We asked Wildcats what they think about the idea of consent…
Alcohol and Consent
A complicating factor of seeking and receiving expressed consent is the presence of alcohol and/or drugs. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not cause sexual assault. The person committing sexual assault is the cause. However, alcohol is the #1 “date rape drug” and is often used as a tool to commit an assault.
A person cannot give consent if they are incapacitated by drugs and or alcohol. A person that is passed out or is blackout drunk legally cannot give consent. Having sex with a person that is passed out or blackout drunk is sexual assault. Having sex with a person that is heavily intoxicated is a violation of the UNH sexual misconduct policy and is illegal under the NH law.
Here are some obvious signs that a person has drunk too much alcohol and can no longer make a clear decision about giving consent.
- They weeble. They wobble. They fall down. If a person cannot stand or utilize their own legs because of how much alcohol they drank, then they are too drunk to give consent.
- If a person's speech is so slurred that you can’t understand their words, they make no sense or they are having a hard time communicating than this person is too drunk to have sex with.
- If a person can’t focus their eyes, can't comprehend or is very confused about what is going on around them, then they are too drunk to have sex with.
- A person that has urinated or defecated or vomited on themselves is too drunk to have sex with.
- A person that is passed out or sleeping is too drunk to have sex with.
Remember, if you are asking yourself if someone is sober enough to consent, it is best to err on the side of caution. The person initiating the sexual act is responsible for getting consent. If you are drunk and you perform a sexual act on another drunk person, you are responsible for your behavior.
When it comes to drinking and having sex, the choice not to drink is always a low-risk choice. However, if you choose to drink you can learn more about low-risk drinking here…
Consent is about communication and respect.
If you respect the person you are initiating sex with, then you communicate what your intentions are and you listen for their response. It doesn’t matter if this is a person you are with for the night, a week, or a lifetime. Every sexual partner deserves the respect of you taking the time of getting consent. If asking for sexual acts is too embarrassing, awkward or you just can’t imagine doing that, then you are not ready for sex. If you can’t talk about sex with your sexual partner then you shouldn’t be doing it.
Consent is coherent.
Consent is communicated.
Consent is an act of RESPECT.
*Duncan, David, “Prevalence of Sexual Assault Victimization Among Heterosexual and Gay/Lesbian University Students.” Psychological Reports. 66.1 (1990): 65-66. Web.