It’s Friday night and you and your girlfriends are ready for a great time. After a rough week of stressful nights studying and long days filled with less than intellectually stimulating classes, you cannot wait for happy hour. After a great dinner and drinks with the girls, you continue your night with some cocktails and fun before heading out to the bar.
As you’re dancing with the girls, you see a cute guy across the room. You start dancing and have a great time. Flash forward two hours. Somehow you ended up in his bed, lights off and having a little too much fun.
Before you know it, he pulls out a condom. You hesitate for a minute, think about how long it’s been since you’ve done this before and figure, why not?
This is consent. Not rape, consent. Not a crime … technically no one has done anything wrong. You were fully conscious and so was he. But when you wake up the next morning laying next to this guy whose last name you can’t even remember, you wonder why you said yes in the first place.
Now consider option number two. The beginning of the story is still the same. You’re at the bar, dancing the night away. As you lean up against the bar, you bump into someone and turn to see it’s the guy you’ve been crushing on since sophomore year.
You can feel your heart beating faster and you start over-thinking everything you say and do. When he offers you a beer, you think, “Um yes. I could use any kind of liquid courage at this point.” The conversation goes well and you’re having an awesome time.
As the lights come on, he grabs your hand and asks you to come back with him. You agree, obviously, because you’ve only been dreaming of being alone with him for … like ever. After more light-hearted conversation and flirting, you find yourself hooking up with him. You still have butterflies in your stomach and can feel his heart racing too.
When he wants to go a little farther, you don’t hesitate. This time, you know. You know this is something you’ve always considered in the back of your mind. You know that when you see him again in The Stag, your heart will still skip a beat. You know with confidence that this is something you want to do.
This is enthusiasm.
Society has made consent and enthusiasm one and the same. Clearly, they are not. They have different implications, different consequences and an array of feelings and emotions attached to each.
In the college culture, there is this unspoken idea of “blurred lines” in regards to sexual activity. Take, for example Robin Thicke’s song, encouraging sexual activity regardless of the situation: “I hate these blurred lines. I know you want it. … But you’re a good girl. The way you grab me, must wanna get nasty. Go ahead, get at me.”
Like most Fairfield students, I am just as guilty as anyone of blasting this song on the radio and singing and dancing to it at The Grape, but what are we really promoting? Why are so many of our popular songs degrading toward women?
These lyrics make the first situation of consent seem completely common, completely okay and even completely desired. Let’s be honest: It’s not.
Consent can be filled with hours of discussions with friends, regretful tears and sometimes, a confused sense of self. It wasn’t thought out or considered before.
From a guy’s perspective, I’m sure they disagree with me by this point, doubting that girls are lying in bed with them thinking, “Hmmm, do I really want to do this?”
Let me clear this up for you. No, we don’t do this. Well, at least all of the women I’ve talked to don’t. I’m sure there are some out there who have the capacity to think this deeply in the heat of the moment, but I sure don’t.
Anyway, girls all have lists. Sorry boys, but it’s true. We have our guys that we would hook up with. We have our crushes, and we even have those boys who we think are so adorable and would make the best husbands but who we couldn’t imagine even holding hands with.
“Consent is really too low a bar. Hold out for enthusiasm,” tweeted author Rachel Vail as a recap of her son’s college orientation. This tweet has been widely circulated as part of a campaign to create awareness of the college culture of consent versus enthusiasm.
I’ve retweeted it, and I think you should too. Girls, I’m sure you would rather enthusiastically agree to sexual participation. And guys, trust me when I say you want your girl to be enthusiastic. The repercussions are much less severe and much more enjoyable.
In the past, college students have been warned about rape with the anti-date rape slogan, “No means no.” The idea of consent versus enthusiasm takes that slogan to the next level.
Rather than simply receiving a “yes” in regards to sexual activity, this campaign identifies the need for enthusiasm and desire. The slogan is outdated and it’s about time to start raising our standards.
Persephone Magazine writer Elfity explained, “The idea of enthusiastic consent is quite simple. In a nutshell, it advocates for enthusiastic agreement to sexual activity, rather than passive agreement. … To give enthusiastic consent isn’t exactly to scream that you want it at the top of your lungs; it’s more that an unsure or hesitant yes is not enthusiastic consent, and needs to be considered.”
The need for enthusiasm challenges the rape culture. It creates a need to communicate boundaries between partners. It also ensures that a simple yes is not a good enough answer and that there must be a mutual desire to participate.
According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, “approximately two-thirds of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. Seventy-three percent of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger, and thirty-eight percent of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.”
With such high numbers, a more defined line is required to determine when sexual activities are okay. By eagerly claiming that the sexual activity is permitted, both partners make a conscious decision that will, hopefully, not be regretted in the morning.
Consent versus enthusiasm factors in feelings that will come after the deed is done, rather than focusing on living in the moment.
I don’t want to simply consent to anything. Not my dinner, not my spring break plans, not my major and certainly not my sex life.
I want to decide what I do, when I do it and whom I do it with. Consent isn’t good enough for me. I choose enthusiasm, all the way.)