Choosing “Yes”

Freddie responds to Vanessa Grigoriadis’s piece on campus rape:

I think that it’s a mistake to create different standards of consent for college students. The potential unforeseen consequences scare me, and besides, a central aspect of the fight against sexual assault is to insist that rape is rape. I think it sends a retrograde message to suggest that there is a different standard that is applied only to college students. I would argue that a clear takeaway from the New York piece is that the establishment of this entire separate legal system for campus sexual assaults, while undertaken with good intentions, has added a layer of complexity and lack of accountability that has backfired badly. …

I feel strongly that explicit consent laws actually undercut the absolute ownership by the individual over her or his own sexual practice.

One of the most important parts of the feminist project is insisting that women own their own bodies. This has application to abortion, where the pro-life movement seeks to take physical control of women’s bodies away from them. And it has application to rape. The insistence of those who work against rape is that only the individual has the right to define appropriate and wanted sexual practice. With the informed consent of all adult parties, no sexual practice is illegitimate. Without that consent, no sexual practice is permissible. This is a humane, moral standard that has the benefit of simplicity in application and clarity in responsibility.

But it stems first and foremost from the recognition of individual ownership. To define the exact methods through which individuals can request and give consent takes away that control and turns it over to the state, or even more ludicrously, to a dean or some academic grievance board. We should be expanding the individual’s control over their own sexual practice, not lessening it. And we should maintain the simplest standard that there is: that if a person rejects a sexual advance, or is in such an incapacitated state that they cannot rejected that advance, or is under the power of the other party to the extent that they feel compelled to consent, sexual contact cannot morally or legally take place.