Reported by Mary Beach
‘Yes means yes,’ a California bill that requires universities to adopt an affirmative consent definition in cases of sexual assault, is sparking debate on campuses across North America.
“Students don’t always know what consent means,” said Maggie Ross, manager of student conduct and judicial affairs at Langara.
To the best of her knowledge, Ross said there has never been an incident of sexual assault on the Langara campus. Still, she welcomes opportunities for both male and female students to get a better understanding of what consent means.
The question created an impromptu roundtable discussion at the Langara Students’ Union on Friday. Lauren MacLeod, Lindie Last and Tash Cheong, classmates in Langara’s social service worker program, shared their reactions.
MacLeod was a student at UBC when controversy erupted over freshmen responding to the “no means no” message by chanting “no means yes,” in public, and even displaying banners.
Grey areas are inevitable
“I think the intent of [‘yes means yes’] is great. But there are always going to be instances that are going to be grey,” said MacLeod, “Just having one phrase can’t effectively control that.”
“If someone, right before you were going to have sex with them said, ‘can I get your consent?’ Like where’s the sex in that?” said Last.
“Where’s the chemistry?” Cheong added. She said she supports legislation like this but what is more important is “to empower people to mean what they say [but until] that happens words are just words”.
“Men involved in this might have a problem,” said Last.
Ross advised the best policies “build situations in which our male students and our female students are allies, trying to address that whole issue of sexual violence.”
“There’s a wonderful video that University of Victoria put together – it’s not that kind of victim/perpetrator bashing kind of thing,” said Ross. Entitled “Let’s Get Consensual,” the video has been reposted on Langara’s Facebook page.
Video by Ashley Legassic and Madelyn Forsyth
Langara students talk about what consent looks like to them.