Affirmative Consent for parents: what you need to know part 2

The American Dream

Our whole lives, we are preparing for college in America. First as students, and then as parents, and sometimes even as grandparents of students attending college.

Re-financing the house, selling the extra vehicle, cracking a whip over your teenager to get a job and help supplement the cost of all of this. Scrimping and saving in the middle of your professional career- struggling for promotions and taking the extra job(s) to make sure that you can send your kid to a good college is an American pastime, and has been for over one hundred years.

It’s one of the middle chapters in the American dream. To a certain extent, if you have made it this far in the game of life you are considered by most of the world to be in a privileged class of people.

Breaking ourselves financially so our children can attend college and make something of themselves is a trope we have all bought into. A college degree is a necessary cornerstone of most careers that will actually provide a decent life.

But what if instead of saving our pennies we should be saving our kids, from college?

As parents, it’s been awhile since you’ve been to college probably. Although back then, the problem of sexual assault was simply swept under the rug. If you were a victim of sexual assault- likely you didn’t attribute it to a larger institutional concept of higher learning and the culture that it fostered.

Our children are the ones who have collectively pushed for affirmative consent on campuses. Especially our daughters. The movement is gaining momentum.

It eventually took plain statistics, to get state legislatures to pay attention. Now affirmative consent is the focus of many legislative conversations and lawmaking processes. Even a White House campaign against the problem of sexual assault on campuses called It’s on Us. Four states have already redefined what consent means on college campus. More are on the way.

These measures and efforts are loosely connected, and can be collectively referred to as “affirmative consent.”

The slogan is: (only) “Yes means Yes.”

Anything else means you don’t have consent. It seems to the authors of this article, and probably many of you as well that this should go without saying. But the math says that way too many women are being sexually assaulted at college.

It obviously does not go without saying.

Sexual assault on campus is still an epidemic.

Our first instinct as parents may be denial if the math is left to speak for itself. We can question the details and demographics on surveys and studies. (Many do question them, which is fine from an actuary science perspective, but unfortunately dilutes the urgency with which we address the real problem)

We can be dubious about polls and news coverage, and allow our media-jaded minds to skim over the text and infographics with mild disbelief. This is our natural state.

So let’s do an anecdotal thought experiment. Your own subjective experience definitely matters when it comes to understanding how big a deal this really is.

Our theory is: one in five now, likely means one in five then.

Can you re-evaluate your own college experience and say that this wasn’t the case when you attended? Can you think back to the frat parties, and the overall culture and say, “Nah, it wasn’t like that at all?”

With the answer to that question firmly in mind, ask yourself if this changes the way you prepare your sons for college? What about your daughters?

We’ll bet the fathers in this thought experiment have a different answer than the mothers after taking just a brief trip down memory lane.

These differences are self-evident, and illustrate something that our children are telling us with increasing frequency.

Kids call the gendered differences in these major and minor life experiences between men and women ‘rape culture.’ It’s an uncomfortably descriptive way to sum up the advantages that your sons will have at college, and in life, over your daughters.

If you don’t believe us, ask your college-aged children what rape culture is, and let your real education begin.

More than likely you will find out that this isn’t just a feminist thing. This isn’t a knee-jerk reaction by a few. This is in fact, a majority of our children pointing out glaring inequalities in the culture that we as parents inherited, and in turn and have left for them to inherit and (hopefully) improve on.

There you will have it. It’s in your house. In front of your face, where it has been the whole time.

If you ask your son what rape culture is will he give a different answer than your daughter?

This is important stuff.

You should be open to finding out, and taking at least partial responsibility for what you hear. Because that is just the beginning, if your aim as presumably good parents is to understand and positively affect your child’s experience at college.

That brings us to the first way that you can help your future college grad.

Be informed. Become aware. Affirmative consent is a long overdue game changer.

Affirmative consent on many campuses is mandatory, and law in 4 states. There can be life changing consequences for students who run afoul of these very specific guidelines.

Silent acquiescence is not a green light to continue a sexual encounter. Their partner must specifically communicate YES- or it’s considered sexual assault on most campuses now.

Your son needs to know this before he ever sets foot on campus.

Define affirmative consent for your children. They will likely not always be in a sober state of mind when they follow the yellow brick road through college life and frat culture.

So, ultimately it’s to you- those one-of-fives that we address this to. Individually, your voice may be muted. You may have worked emotionally your whole life to overcome your experience(s) at college. Together as a group however, your voices and experiences are startlingly loud. In fact, your voices are a necessary, and timely signal boost for the solutions our children are presenting us with now, today.

Now is the time.

If we pay attention to the leadership we see in student created movements like this one, we can lend our experience and influence to that momentum. That is our entire goal at SaSie. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We just have to listen to our daughters. They know what college is like. Ask them.

Talk to your sons, and talk to your husbands about what you learn. If their understanding differs from yours, think about checking their misconceptions, and then having them lend their voices as well. It may end up positively affecting your child’s experience at college. It really is on us to speak out first. Men are victims of sexual assault too. Remind them that no one is immune. If there was ever a time to have that long put off conversation with your kids- it’s before they actually leave for college.

Explicitly warn your daughters about the dangers she will have to navigate on campus.

This is something they should be aware of before they go to college. Ask her to use a consent tool like this one, as a legal deterrent against sexual misconduct, and as another option for her if she is ever sexually assaulted. (Statistics say that overwhelmingly, students do not report sexual assault at school.)

Make sure your daughter knows that her partner should be willing to openly communicate about consent before sex. Casual sex is cool, but casual consent is not. If her partner is squeamish or uncomfortable with the particulars of her consent, then this should raise red flags for her.

As hopeful as we are for the future, the reality is that it isn’t going to get better for our children overnight.

If you don’t get involved now, your influence as a parent to help address this diminishes almost entirely when your child leaves college, and it will just be shifted to the next group of students to deal with.

Our campuses are incubating the culture that our country adopts in the next 50 years. Having a single serious conversation with your kids in your own living room or kitchen may make all the difference.

The takeaway:

As it stands now, your child may be the next player in the sexual assault lottery. Are they aware of the odds? If you were aware of the odds, would it have changed your course? And more importantly- was the end result worth the risk?

As parents, we need to have these conversations with our children, and with each other.

Affirmative Consent isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a fundamental piece of your child’s sexual education and mental well-being as newly minted adults.

Getting a clear yes before you ‘go there’ with someone is such a simple and fundamental part of having healthy sexual relationships as adults. Teach it to your kids before they get to college.

Lend your voice or show your support, and hit like or recommend on this article. It’s past time we had this conversation, don’t you agree?