In 1999, Bill Cosby released a book for recent college graduates called, Congratulations! Now What? Though the book has been out in the world for 16 years, some disturbing aspects take on second meaning in light of recent allegations.
In the book, the comedian tells readers how lucky they are to have graduated, since they no longer have to deal with "campus sex police." In a chapter titled, "No More Pre-Caressing Agreements," Cosby describes how silly it is that men need to get permissions to have sexual relations with women they find attractive.
In the chapter, Cosby makes fun of how affirmative consent --a standard that replaces "no means no" with "only yes means yes" -- is unrealistic to how sex works. Cosby goes on about "manuals" (italicization his) that "tell the men the permissions they need" before they can start making moves.
Per Cosby, "campus sex police" are always "ready to charge you with sexual harassment if you put your hand on any woman besides one who had asked you for help in crossing the street."
At the time of Cosby's book, campus sexual assault did not receive nearly as much attention as it does today. Some colleges at the time did not adjudicate sexual assault cases. Among those that did, some schools were mocked for embracing affirmative consent. Antioch College, which became the inspiration for a "Saturday Night Live" skit called "Is It Date Rape," was one of those schools. It wasn't until 2011 that the U.S. Department of Education clarified that all colleges and universities receiving federal funds needed to respond to and investigate reports of sexual assault among students.
Cosby's thinking certainly seems to be in line with contemporary critics of affirmative consent. Even today, 16 years after the release of the book, conservative columnists insist that "yes means yes" is too difficult, confusing or that it would kill the mood to ask for consent in sexual encounters.
In the chapter, Cosby paints a hypothetical situation, four pages long, between a college male and female. The obviously ludicrous depiction is supposed to prove how awful and comical it is when sexual permissions are required. The Huffington Post has obtained a copy of Congratulations! Now What? and has recapped the scenario below.
The scene is set in "a leafy college lane" ...
Two students attempt to go on a date. They stroll along three feet apart, on a "typical" college date. The first line of dialogue comes from the male, "calling" to the female, "I'm really glad you agreed to go out with me, Louise." The female calls back, "Well, I heard violins when you filled out the pre-foreplay form."
The female student then derides the male student for saying she looks lovely in the moonlight:
FEMALE: Max, I don't want you to have a record, so I'll pretend you didn't say that without permission. Do I have to quote the Supreme Court on Ruddy v. Weinstock and Kansas State?
MALE: Sorry. Okay, Simon says: May I look at your face?
The female student warns her male counterpart not to "wonder if [she's] ovulating." She then claims that she's trying to stop her ovulation cycle, and suggests the male student try and lose his testosterone as well.
As the male student in Cosby's depiction sneaks a glance at the moon and the female student "snuggles up to her copy of The Illinois Criminal Code," the two negotiate whether hand-holding would be all right. She initially says that she's saving hand-holding for her husband, but eventually offers a "couple of knuckles."
The two can't do much more because the harassment office was out of the right forms. The male student says an oral contract could work, but the female responds, "Do you really think I would be involved in anything oral? That's for Sodom and Gomorrah."
The above scene ends the "No More Pre-Caressing Agreements" chapter, and Cosby switches back to writing financial and career advice.
Earlier this week, a judge ordered Cosby to give a sworn deposition in a lawsuit, where he is accused of sexually abusing a woman at the Playboy Mansion when she was 15 years old.
H/T Justin Shanes
Tyler Kingkade contributed to this piece.
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