A 2015 survey of twenty-seven elite colleges found that twenty-three percent of respondents reported personal experiences of sexual misconduct on their campuses. That figure has not changed since the 1980s, when people first began collecting data on sexual violence. What has changed is the level of attention that the American public is paying to these statistics. Reports of sexual abuse repeatedly make headlines, and universities are scrambling to address the crisis.
Their current strategy, Donna Freitas argues, is wholly inadequate. Universities must take a radically different approach to educating their campus communities about sexual assault and consent. Consent education is often a one-time affair, devised by overburdened student affairs officers. Universities seem more focused on insulating themselves from lawsuits and scandals than on bringing about real change. What is needed, Freitas shows, is an effort by the entire university community to deal with the deeper questions about sex, ethics, values, and how we treat one another, including facing up to the perils of hookup culture-and to do so in the university’s most important space: the classroom. We need to offer more than a section in the student handbook about sexual assault, and expand our education around consent far beyond “Yes Means Yes.” We need to transform our campuses into places where consent is genuinely valued.
Freitas advocates for teaching not just how to consent, but why it’s important to care about consent and to treat one’s sexual partners with dignity and respect. Consent on Campus is a call to action for university administrators, faculty, parents, and students themselves, urging them to create cultures of consent on their campuses, and offering a blueprint for how to do it.