New Misconduct Policy has Potential
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 00:11
Before its revision at the end of last semester, Kenyon’s sexual misconduct policy was based on the concept of clear verbal consent. During every step of a sexual encounter, one had to indicate with spoken words “his or her willingness to engage in a particular form of sexual relations,” according to the 2011-12 Student Handbook.
This policy was admirable because it encouraged communication with a simple, clear message: verbal consent is the only consent; yes means yes, all else means no.
Reality, however, is anything but clear, especially when fogged by alcohol. The policy — as it was formally defined in the Handbook — didn’t reflect the sexual culture at Kenyon.
Kenyon’s revised policy continues to uphold clear, communicative verbal consent as the standard of responsible behavior, as it should. But, recognizing that we are college students, the new policy also makes allowances for other types of clear, non-verbal consent. Namely, the type that is realistically found in healthy, positive sexual relationships — for example, unambiguous body language. While this makes the policy more realistic, it also introduces more gray area.
The problem with any policy, of course, is that it cannot proactively prevent all cases of sexual misconduct. To do so would require a major change in Kenyon’s oft-bemoaned “hookup culture,” and that is something that cannot be implemented from the top — it must come from the individual efforts of every student. What the sexual misconduct policy can do is provide a clear procedure for how to adjudicate incidents after the fact, and we believe that the new policy, by being more realistic, will be more fair and just in this regard.
Overall, we are cautiously optimistic about Kenyon’s revised policy. Verbal consent remains the first priority, and while the introduction of more gray area is of concern, we believe this new, more realistic policy has the potential to open communication, create a safer campus and allow for clearer procedures in the aftermath of incidents. Above all, we urge every student to educate him or herself about the sexual misconduct policy now, to be mature and responsible adults and, above all else, to seek clear consent every time.