Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The flaws in implied consent

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Collegian File Photo

(Collegian File Photo)

The term consent is officially defined as actively agreeing or allowing something to happen; for my purposes, this “something” is sex. With our modern hookup culture that’s prevalent on many universities nationwide, consent is often misconstrued.

At a typical weekend gathering on or off campus, people approach each other, and sometimes they are attracted to each other. However, our culture seems to blur the definition of consent to make it implicit instead of explicit. In other words, people use implied consent as an unwarranted green light to proceed sexually.

This implied consent is flawed. Every person reads expressions differently.

For example, outwardly displaying your palms means performing the “stop” gesture in North America. However, the same signal is a highly insulting gesture in Greece. Similarly, a touch on the arm can mean three different ideas to three different people. Is that person cold? Embarrassed? Anxious? There is no answer because it is based on each individual person and their interpretations.

If these gestures can be so subjective, how can we use implied body language consent to agree to sex? The simple answer is that we can’t. Body language is not a form of consent – physical cues cannot be taken as consent. Consent cannot be implied, it must be clearly, verbally communicated.

Sometimes people say yes and sometimes people say no. Then there are instances where people change their minds or circumstances where individuals are not capable of making decisions in their current state of mind. Whatever the case, individuals must honor the other’s rights to make his or her choice and not misconstrue what qualifies as consent.

Any uncommunicated, yet physical sexualizing gesture can easily be misinterpreted as intimidation and pressure. Consent that is the result of intimidation is not consent at all. It seems redundant, but the easiest way to make sure all proceeding actions are consensual is to never assume and to always make sure the verbal consent is there – every step of the way.

Jessica Kriegsfeld is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “The flaws in implied consent”

  1. Sam on April 8th, 2016 7:52 pm

    As good a model as verbal consent is, would you require consent to be verbal to count under the law or student code of conduct?

    I ask because doing so would overlook the fact that fully consensual sex is very often not confirmed verbally first, regardless of who initiates. Having the goal of changing social norms towards verbal consent is one thing, penalizing behavior widely practiced as normal is another.

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