Many colleges now have policies that clarify acceptable and unacceptable sexual behavior. Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, NY) developed the policy below to define what constitutes “effective consent” to sexual activity. I encourage parents of teens, especially those heading off to college, to read this, have their kids read it, and discuss it.
Thanks, Skidmore, both for developing this helpful policy and for giving me permission to share it here!
Effective Consent is the basis of this policy because effective consent maintains the value that all persons have the right to feel respected, acknowledged, and safe during sexual activity.
- Effective Consent is informed, freely and actively given, and is based on rational and reasonable judgment. It requires clear communication between all persons involved in the sexual encounter.
- Consent can be communicated verbally or by action(s). In whatever way consent is communicated, it must be mutually understandable.
- Consent is mutually understandable when a reasonable person would consider the words and/or actions that you and your partner(s) have expressed demonstrate a desire to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way, with one another.
- In the absence of mutually understandable words or actions, the initiators of sexual contact are responsible for making sure they have obtained effective consent from their partner(s). The initiators must fully understand what their partner(s) wants and does not want sexually.
- Consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to another form of sexual activity. Each new sexual act requires new consent. Effective consent has time boundaries.
- Consent at one time does not imply consent at any other time.
- The existence of a dating/romantic relationship between the persons involved or the fact of a previous sexual relationship does not automatically establish effective consent for future sexual activity.
- Consent is not the absence of resistance.
- Silence is an inactive behavior, and effective consent is an active behavior. Therefore, silence alone (absent a non‐verbal action clearly demonstrating consent) is considered ineffective consent. Silent and inactive behavior may indicate that something is wrong and the potential for sexual misconduct exists. If a partner is inactive (for example, silent or physically still) sexual activity must stop until both partners have communicated clearly with each other about what, if any, sexual activity is mutually desired.
- Effective Consent can never be given by minors (under the age of 17 in New York state), mentally disabled individuals, or by incapacitated persons. A person may be incapacitated as a result of alcohol or other drug use. A person who is unconscious, unaware, or otherwise physically helpless cannot give effective consent to sexual activity.
- Effective consent cannot result from force, or threat of force, coercion, fraud, intimidation, or incapacitation. The use of force to obtain sexual access or to induce consent violates this policy whether the force is physical in nature, violent, or involving threats, intimidation or coercion.
- Physical force includes but is not limited to: hitting, kicking and restraining. Physical force means someone is acting on you physically and exerting control over you through violence.
- Intimidation is an implied threat. It is not as clear or explicit as an overt threat.
- Coercion is the application of an unreasonable amount of pressure on someone to the point that they say yes even though they would not have said yes if they had not endured a long period of convincing.
Coercion is evaluated based on the intensity, frequency, and duration of the comments or actions. It exists where a sexual initiator engages in emotional manipulation in order to persuade someone to do something sexual they do not want to do.
- Threatening someone to obtain consent for a sexual act is a violation of this policy. Threats exist where a reasonable person would have been compelled by the words or actions of another to give permission to sexual activity to which they otherwise would.