Beyond Consent

So there was a lot of press last month about new laws to try and limit rape on university campuses, particularly a new rule that emphasizes the need for, “affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement,” to continuously exist between partners. And while this is and should be a basic principle of law, perhaps we should re-examine how our tacit endorsement of “free love” in universities is used as a licence by power-hungry and sexually aggressive men to coerce women. Once upon a time, the institution of marriage was used to regulate these sorts of things, treating any sexual contact between non-married parties as not just taboo, but semi-coercive. (Granted, I’m skipping over the really ugly problem of “marital rape” that existed, but only for the moment.) The sexual revolution has burst apart all but the darkest of taboos in our culture. And yet it has coincided with a perverse rise in the sexualization of young girls, of a (continued) failure to teach boys how to treat women, and a system of higher education that throws teenagers into under-regulated environments with far too few ways to protect their own bodies from exploitation.

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