[Crimson] A Job Well Done, More To Do


“It is also our hope that the new director focus intensely on advocating for sexual assault policy change. Our Harvard Can Do Better a student campaign for sexual assault policy reform received overwhelming support for its policy demands in a student referendum last year. Among those demands are a policy of affirmative consent, clarifying the meaning of mental incapacitation, and offering comprehensive and inclusive sexual assault prevention and response training every year. The group also calls for more transparency in the administration and for clearer language that includes the LGBTQ-identifying community. These commonsense reforms have been implemented at a number of peer colleges, and they will go a long way toward creating safe social environments.

A standard of affirmative consent in particular is a change that would be critical in helping students to have more power in prosecuting assailants and in creating cultural change on campus. Despite the successes of the Our Harvard Can Do Better campaign, students have thus far lacked a strong ally in OSAPR who is willing to push for their demands. We hope that OSAPR’s new director can become that ally, and that he or she does not shy away from advocating for reform to administrators.

We salute the outstanding work that Sarah Rankin has accomplished in her seven years as OSAPR director. With a greater focus on policy reform, OSAPR can become an even stronger ally for sexual assault survivors and students working to effect change.”


Silence ≠ Consent

The boys’ lawyers plan to argue that silence is consent. Attorneys for Maystried to get the charges dropped entirely because two of his friends were denied the chance to serve as witnesses. When that failed, the defense came up with a different strategy: They plan to argue that, “[s]he didn’t affirmatively say no,” and thus gave her consent. This ignores Ohio’s law, much like laws in the rest of the country, that agreeing to go out with someone does not mean you have given consent to sex. The lawyers’ argument is perhaps most disturbing, because it actually echoes one of the jokes captured in the uploaded Anonymous video: “It isn’t really rape because you don’t know if she wanted to or not.”

Read more: Everything You Need To Know About The Steubenville Rape Trial

On affirmative consent:


from “Affirmative Consent as Legal Standard?” from Yes Means Yes 

The “it will ruin sex” objection is one of several common objections that I think are rhetorical and fall apart under even casual scrutiny. For example:

“Why does the guy have to secure consent?”

He doesn’t. It’s a gender-neutral obligation. Initiator secures consent. Worked fine at Antioch.

“What if they are both drunk?”

Same answer.

“What if nobody initiates?”

Not possible. If two people lay in bed next to each other, no sexual contact takes place. If we mush up “sex” into some gauzy montage, and refuse to consider it as anything but a unified whole, it becomes possible to have a confused situation about initiation. But each act has to have an initiator. It is that person who has the obligation in the first instance.

“What if they initiate mutually?”

Well, that’s enthusiastic participation. If two people lean in to kiss each other at the same time and stick their tongues in each other’s mouths, I think we can be pretty clear on consent.

“But … Isn’t It Awkward?”

Well, here’s the beauty of it. It isn’t, because people can always bargain around the law in private arrangements, and law provides a background rule. The person initiating has the obligation to secure consent. In the presence of enthusiastic participation, that person may be so clear on the existence of consent that they don’t need a verbal confirmation — but they have to be willing to assume the risk of error. The non-initiator, if they are for example a survivor who freezes, faces serious consequences from a mistake, and the initiator faces serious consequences from a mistake theoretically (but not actually because there are no convictions in these situations). But the initiator is more able to avoid the mistake by checking for affirmative consent. As I recall, “stop if your partner goes limp” was a rule of Fight Club. If a bunch of guys fighting in a basement can observe that, we can expect it between sex partners, I should think.

The other way to “bargain around the rule” is to explicitly agree that silence equals consent and set other conditions for revocation, which is what BDSMers do with safewords and safesigns. Empirically, the experiment worked at Antioch, where the students loved the policy.

[Yes Means Yes]

What is Rape Culture?

Rape Culture is engendered in a society in which rape and sexual violence are normalized. where rape is perpetuated by every aspect of our culture: in the media, the justice system, the prison industrial complex, our own government, music, advertising, etc. Rape culture is victim shaming and blaming. It is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Where 75% of all survivors are assaulted by someone they know.

Victim blaming occurs when the survivors of sexual harassment/assault are held entirely or partially responsible for the transgressions committed against them.

Sexual assault is nonconsensual, intentional physical contact of a sexual nature, such as unwelcome contact with a person’s genitals, buttocks or breasts.

Affirmative consent is a clear unambiguous, and voluntary agreement between the participants to engage in specific sexual activity.