New Book Examines the Issue of Sexual Consent on College Campuses

A new book by Columbia University professors Jennifer S. Hirsch and Shamus Khan examines the issue of sexual consent on college campuses. The book, Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus (W.W. Norton, 2020), notes that consent is not as clear cut as simply yes or no. The research included interviews of a large group of students as part of the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation initiative at Columbia University in New York City.

In an excerpt, the authors state that “we often think of consensual sex as the opposite of assault. But sometimes people say yes because they are coerced. And people often consent to sex that they really enjoy and want without ever saying yes. There is an awful lot of consensual sex happening that is, as students say, ‘kind of rape-y,’ or hurtful, or not very enjoyable for one person.”

“Some students do practice affirmative consent,” the authors report. “But many others use a range of social cues to make sense of whether or not a sexual encounter was consensual or nonconsensual. They use space as a shorthand for consent in ways that highlight how campus sexual geography shapes what students do and how they understand it. Students frequently assume that someone else choosing to be alone in a room with them signifies consent.”

Jennifer S. Hirsch is a professor of sociomedical sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Shamus Khan is a professor and chair of sociology at Columbia University.


Filed Under: Research/Study


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