Consent is key in sexual relationships

Libby Trammell

I know that typically this column is supposed to funny and lighthearted, but this time I’d like to talk about something a little more serious. Sexual assault is something that happens on every college campus, and yet every college wants to ignore that fact. Every two minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted, and one out of every four college aged women will be sexually assaulted. Take a moment to really think about one in four of all the women you know that have attended college—mothers, girlfriends, daughters, sisters, cousins and friends. And yet sexual assault is not a topic that people think needs discussing. Well, here I am going to discuss it.

We live on a campus where the most publicized sexual assaults are what is referred to as ‘stranger rape.’ Stranger rape occurs when someone that you do not know attacks you. But this is not the most common way that sexual assaults occur. Most rapes happen when the victim knows the rapist. This can make acknowledging the attack extremely difficult, especially when the victim has lots of friends in common with the rapist. This can make it hard for a person to report their assault and even harder for them to heal from it.

But what is rape? In movies and TV shows rape happens when a man beats a woman and then violates her in a very angry manner. And this can certainly happen. But more often than not rape happens quietly. You can be raped by your boyfriend if you didn’t want to have sex and he didn’t listen. You can be raped by a friend. It happens behind closed doors with a combination of pressure and fear. It happens when consent is never given, but instead the need for consent is ignored. At this point I’d imagine several readers are thinking, ‘Why would rape be quiet? Why wouldn’t someone fight tooth and nail to prevent it?’ And I only have one answer: fear. Have you ever been too scared to move? Or say a word? It happens, and it can happen easily in a rape situation. It’s always important to remember that we can’t judge people unless we understand what they’ve been through.  And so many people do judge rape victims. We tell rape jokes, we call the parking lot on campus rape lot, and we always ask ‘why didn’t you fight harder? Why didn’t you tell someone? Why didn’t you report it? Why, Why, Why?’ What we should be asking is ‘Are you OK? What can I do for you?’

Climbing down from my soapbox, I leave offering one more bit of advice for all my readers. You don’t have to get consent in writing. A simple ‘Are you sure?’ can go the distance. And it is possible to ask for consent in a romantic way. In fact, my favorite consent asking sentence I’ve ever heard was ‘Libby, I’m having lots of fun on this date, but I’m having trouble concentrating because I really want to kiss you. Would that be all right?’ Aaaaaand boom goes the dynamite. So there you go. Asking for consent can be amazingly romantic and sexy. So there are no excuses for skipping this vital step.


Libby Trammell is majoring in human development and family studies. She can be emailed at [email protected]