I hate to admit it, but as a sophomore at Boston University, sexual assault is an issue that has come up numerous times already in my short time here. In just the past month there have been two reported assaults at BU.
Why is this happening? What is missing from our society here at BU, and in general, that has made sexual assault such an issue?
A big thing that is missing from our society – and not just here at BU – is definitively receiving consent before taking any action. Guys just assume that a potential partner wants to do something, and this misinterpretation can end in a situation in which the girl is forced to do things she does not want to do.
A few weeks ago, an acquaintance was talking to someone who was definitely not the greatest guy in any way. But being a typical 19-year-old fully immersed in the hookup culture present in colleges today, she was simply having fun and meeting new people in the process. They had been talking over the summer for quite a few weeks and had both made it clear they wanted to “hook up.” When they got to school in September, they immediately met up and were hanging out in his room one night.
Before anything physical happened, he looked at her and said, “Do you want to do this? Do you want to hook up?” This after they had both previously made it clear they did. Could a guy who many would see as being a self-interested bad boy actually have done the morally right thing? Instead of assuming she was still interested, he made sure to double-check to confirm she was fully comfortable with what was about to happen.
My acquaintance was shocked and completely taken aback. In the moment, all she could think was, “What? Who is this kid? This is weird, why are you asking me when I’ve already said yes?” Regardless of her thoughts, she answered his question and they proceeded to enjoy their night together. They continued hooking up for weeks after that first night.
The next day, she told a friend about the events of the night before. Initially, they both agreed that the question was strange and unnecessary. However, after thinking back on previous conversations on the topic of consent, my acquaintance’s friend began to realize that the question was not actually all that bizarre or redundant.
As my acquaintance continued to think back on the question and what her friend had said to her, she began to agree that the question might not have been as negative a thing as she had immediately thought. She soon realized how much more she respected him after he asked her for definitive consent. Looking back on it now, she’s relieved that he asked.
Because of the mutual interest, the situation turned out exactly as it would have had he not asked. They had a thing for a while, until it naturally died out and they both moved on as friends. But had she not wanted to hook up with him and had he not asked, the situation could have turned out very differently, and much worse.
The problem with our society is the way we handle situations like these. It should be normal for the guy, or the girl, to make sure that both parties involved are 100% okay with having sex, or doing anything really. It shouldn’t seem strange for a guy to clarify that the girl definitely wants to continue on ahead. My acquaintance should not have found it weird that this guy asked her if she definitely wanted to hook up. These things should be normal.
But they’re not. And instead, guys who feel they are above asking for consent surround us and we end up finding out about unfortunate situations after the damage is already done.
A change of how we, as a society, think about these situations is needed. I don’t have an explicit answer as to how to create the change that we need. What I do know is that it will take time, but if more and more guys, and girls, start to ask for consent, it will hopefully become commonplace and expected. So much so that when a guy doesn’t ask for consent, that’s a red flag for the girl to head for the door.