The University of Alaska just adopted a new “affirmative consent” policy for sex between students.
That’s not new – the “yes means yes” standard, with its practically insurmountable burden of proof on accused students, is enshrined in California and New York law and common on college campuses.
Here’s what’s notable about Alaska’s version: A member of the working group that devised the policy has basically given every student an easy-to-remember routine to follow in their sexual activities that, if later questioned about an incident, they can cite as irrefutable evidence of their partner’s consent, at least to begin.
Alaska Public Media interviewed Michael Votava, director of student conduct and ethical development for the Anchorage campus, who interpreted the section of the policy on “words or actions [that] create mutually understandable clear permission” for sex:
“If there were two parties that were involved in a romantic encounter and one party started removing their clothes and started motioning with their finger for the other party to come toward them and had a smile on their face, that’s in my mind, I think a reasonable person would argue that that was a form of nonverbal consent,” Votava says.
Seriously, that’s all you need to do: Set up a video camera, start recording right before your partner takes off his or her clothes, then have them motion with their finger while smiling.
It will be better if you leave the camera rolling during the entire sexual encounter – consider investing in boom mike as well to capture every enthusiastic “yes” – so you can establish ongoing consent throughout the act, but the Undress. Finger Motion. Smile (TM) routine will do in a pinch.
Not everyone thinks this ambiguous new policy is going to help much – like survivor advocate Mandy Cole, deputy director of the Juneau nonprofit AWARE:
“What I would like to see and what I think is kind of a best practice is that we get more used to getting verbal consent and that we get more used to saying the words, ‘Do you want to have sex with me?’” Cole says. “Because honestly if you feel comfortable enough to have sex with somebody, you should be comfortable enough to say the words.”
Until words are mandatory, though, just remember: Undress. Finger Motion. Smile (TM).