u albany

Quote of the Day: “I didn’t expect the policy to change my behavior but it has”

Oh ye of little faith, look at what the youth say.

At the New York Times, Sandy Keenan (not to be confused with Sandy Kenyon) interviewed a bunch of students at the University at Albany ,which now, because of a new New York state law, must obtain affirmative consent before sexual activity to avoid breaking school rules. Keenan asked the students about their sexual practices and knowledge of the new consent policy. Some of the responses were devastating. Many students didn’t know anything about affirmative consent. One young woman told the reporter that recently, to deflect unwanted sexual attention and touching, she had “pretended [she] was dead.” Another, when asked how many of the ten men she most respected on campus needed consent education, said 11.

But one junior, Tyler Frahme, warmed my heart. When Keenan first spoke to Frahme, he didn’t know about affirmative consent. But Keenan writes:

Since first hearing about the new policy, he said, he had been practicing consent almost religiously. He now asks for consent once or twice during sexual encounters with women he knows well, and four or five times during more casual or first-time hookups.

“I certainly didn’t expect the policy to change my behavior,” he said, “but it has.”

It’s getting to be a little more comfortable, he said. He crafts and poses questions like “You O.K. with this?” “Do you still want to go ahead?” and “Hey, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”

For reasons Maya and Reina have written about before, I don’t think affirmative consent is a silver bullet to end gender violence: it’s really just the bare minimum we can ask of each other as decent human beings, and a very early step toward building health sexual cultures. But so much resistance to affirmative consent is based on an assumption that sexual practices are set in stone, as though people couldn’t possibly have sex slightly differently tomorrow than they did yesterday. History, of course, instructs us otherwise, as does Mr. Frahme.

Image via.

Washington, DC

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at Feministing.com. During her four years at the site, she wrote about gender violence, reproductive justice, and education equity and ran the site's book review column. She is now a Skadden Fellow at the National Women's Law Center and also serves as the Board Chair of Know Your IX, a national student-led movement to end gender violence, which she co-founded and previously co-directed. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she is the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future. She has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice at campuses across the country and on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, and NPR.

Alexandra Brodsky was a senior editor at Feministing.com.

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