The Monsters of Ohio State
I heard something interesting on the radio today.
The Ohio State University’s Student Code of Conduct (SCoC) is drawing a lot of heat from conservatives and libertarians for having a list of criteria that — I think most of us would agree — is utterly ridiculous. Among the provisions of the SCoC:
- If a male student kisses a female student without receiving verbal consent just prior to the kiss, the University considers it sexual assault. This is true regardless of the relationship between the students, and regardless of whether the female wants, enjoys, or returns the kiss.
- If a female student and male student have sexual relations of any kind, but it is determined that the two students engaged in said behavior for different reasons, the University considers this to be sexual assault perpetrated by the male student.
- If a male student shakes the hand of a female student, the female student has the right at a later time to have the male student charged with sexual assault.
When I heard this, I found myself saying, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that!” As in, “Oh my God, I really and truly do not believe that you aren’t just pulling that s**t out of your ass.” So when I got home, I did some Googling. It turns out that this is a pretty widespread meme amongst conservative and libertarian talk shows and news sites right now. This includes Reason, Rush Limbaugh, PJ Media, and other various places.
What’s interesting (and funny) about all of these sources is that they all link to one another. What no one seems to bother to have checked out at all is the actual OSU SCoC. And — SUPRPISE! — it turns out it doesn’t actually do any of those things. You can see for yourself; the link to the OSU SCoC on sexual misconduct is here.
So why, you might ask, does everyone seem to think that these claims are true?
It’s actually because of another page on the OSU website that gives general guidelines to students about the most effective ways to gauge whether or not the other person actually wants to have sex with you. Here are is the advise given by the University, with the parts that are freaking everyone out emboldened:
- Effective consent can be given by words or actions so long as the words or actions create a mutual understanding between both parties regarding the conditions of the sexual activity–ask, “do both of us understand and agree regarding the who, what, where, when, why, and how this sexual activity will take place?
- When someone affirmatively demonstrates that (1) they do not want to have sex, (2) they want to stop any sort of the sexual acts, or (3) they do not want to go any further, the other party must stop completely. Continued pressure after that point can be coercive.
You will note that there is nothing here that suggests that the University defines sexual assault as the absence of verbal approval — indeed, it very specifically says consent can come from “words or action.”
You will also note that there is nothing here that suggests that if two people have different reasons for having sex with one another that the University considers it sexual assault. Remember, that this is a set of guidelines given to young people who are still figuring out what it means to be a mature adult when it comes to matters like boinking. And Reason’s Robby Soave’s click-baiting sneers notwithstanding, each partner understanding why the other is playing under-blanket bingo really is part of being a mature adult — and nineteen-year-olds who make the effort to honestly communicate and hear their partner’s and their own reasons why will save themselves a lot of pain and grief down the road.
Look, I know that old-school objective journalism is so last generation and everything, but it seems to me that you’re doing an withering expose on a Code of Conduct Policy that clocks in at all of 311 words in order to show how you’re so much smarter than those eggheads that run academia are, the very least you should be willing to do is read the fishing thing first.
 Trust me on this. I know of what I speak.