As "Yes Means Yes" policies become more common at colleges, some scholars have argued that such policies leave too much open for interpretation and confusion among students. Does anyone else see the irony of such an argument?
Asking first is the one way to clear up any and all confusion.
Imagine the alternative: "Don't ask and instead just go for it when you think you know what your partner wants." Such thinking is based on guessing and the interpretation of one partner. To assume what another person wants to experience sexually with you and then to take that action without giving your partner a choice first is arrogant and may lead to sexual violence.
For the person who says, "My partner can always say, 'No!'", how about not making your partner defend themselves against your actions based on your assumptions? If you believe your partner can say "No" at anytime, why not let your partner say "No" or "Yes" BEFORE you start engaging in sexual activity with their body?
Asking first and respecting the answer eliminates the difficulty of trying to "interpret" what a partner wants and definitely clears up any confusion. After all, a sober "Yes" between partners of legal age means "Yes."
Then why all the confusion on "Yes Means Yes?" Too many schools have failed at providing education on consent prior to students arriving on campus, and sadly many campuses continue to fail students by not providing effective education and skill sets for asking first and respecting the answer.
When you talk to students about these issues, you'll hear questions such as:
"Does saying yes once mean we are good for the whole night?" No!
"If we are both drunk and not of sound mind, then is it okay?" No!!
"Should I videotape our encounter to prove I had consent?" No!!!
How do we help students get the right information? Some universities are using emojis to teach consent, some are using musicals, some use interactive comic books, and some are using online training. The campuses that invest the most in teaching consent do a great job of researching which programs, approaches, and guest experts make the biggest impact. Then they integrate those resources into their campus culture and events throughout the year.
Sadly, some universities are ignoring the problem, and plenty of people are denying that there is even a problem to begin with.
One of the more disturbing realities is that students are not taking the time to find out what actually constitutes consent and how they should go about requesting consent from a partner! As mentioned previously, these students are relying upon body language and guessing - two things that can be influenced by a person's own ego and can lead to an abuse of power ("I know what you want and so I'll do it to you").
Students need to be proactive when it comes to consent. Don't wait for universities to formulate the correct policy. Consent is a very simple concept: you and your partner are on the same page regarding intimacy. You both know what the other person wants because you openly communicate with your words prior to and throughout a sexual experience.
Open verbal communication along with both of you being of sound mind and legal age is the key to "Yes Means Yes." If you ask questions of each other and respect the answers, then you know exactly what is on and off limits at that moment.
Asking first and respecting the answer is the ultimate way to clear up any potential confusion and to insure the boundaries and wants of all partners are respected. Best of all, you remove the opportunity for arrogance to direct your choices and you greatly reduce the chances of any unwanted sexual contact, leading to a healthy, passionate, romantic, and respectful sexual experience.