Opinion

What is the point of Consent is Mac, again?

Although “Consent is Mac” t-shirts are ubiquitous on campus, we, the student leaders of the campaign, want to reaffirm the mission and components of the Consent is Mac initiative. We want to acknowledge the foundation of the campaign and what it seeks to establish. The “Consent is Mac” slogan does not imply that consent is a universally-accepted and understood principle on Mac’s campus; we recognize that violence happens here. Consent is a conversation. The purpose of the Consent is Mac initiative is to foster dialogue both on campus and to emphasize the vitality of communication between sexual partners.

We view the slogan “Consent is Mac” as a work in progress. Consent is Mac attempts to address the nuances that exist through our pledge and our events throughout the semester. We are aware of the limitations of the campaign, the pledge and the t-shirts. We are also conscious of the critique that consent oversimplifies complex human interactions, and that it isn’t the most effective paradigm for sexual violence prevention. Ultimately, we are both affirming that we expect consent to be an integral part of Macalester’s campus, and that we hope to create a cultural shift through this campaign.

Before moving on, we also want to clarify the purpose of the consent pledge. Prior to signing the pledge, we hope that all students view consent as mandatory to any sexual encounter. We also hope that students who decide not to sign the pledge do not view their action as a direct refusal to use consent. We don’t see the pledge as a contract to dictate one’s behavior. The pledge only serves to reinforce the knowledge of one’s rights and responsibilities. Signing it shows that you are cognizant of these issues, and declares an understanding that you will be held accountable for your actions.

It is also important to remember that the Consent is Mac campaign is just one part of Macalester’s comprehensive sexual violence prevention efforts. This includes a variety of programs, including a newly revised Sexual Misconduct Policy, Sexual Violence Prevention Working Group, This Matters @ Mac, Safer Sex Week, Green Dot Bystander Intervention Trainings, Sexy Trainings, Sexual Assault Support Team (SAST), Sex Trivia Night, Safer Sex Kits, Sexual Violence Prevention Month, the “Lunch with” series, Denim Day, FIA*STARSA and a sexual violence session at study abroad orientations. Consent is Mac is just one piece of a larger sexual violence prevention puzzle, and we understand that the concept of consent is just one part of many efforts to dismantle our society’s entrenched rape culture. Unfortunately, the pervasive nature of rape culture means that Mac students are still socialized into it. We may be generally more “awake” or “educated” than other college campuses, but we still can benefit from broadening the conversation.

Addressing the nuances of consent is one of the goals of our program, in order to stimulate conversation and to further examine consent’s role in our society. Many of the events we hold throughout the year address several of the different complexities that are tied to consent. Our lunch events with professors like Harry Waters Jr., Liz Jansen and Alicia Muñoz have addressed the topics of masculinity, myths and misconceptions about sex and sexuality, and power dynamics within BDSM relationships, with the goal of situating consent within a larger societal context.

The Consent is Mac initiative began eleven years ago with the mission of starting a conversation about consent, and we’ve expanded our efforts to accommodate new initiatives and understandings of sexual violence prevention. For example, we will be changing the color of the t-shirt next semester to teal, as to avoid contradicting the message of the Green Dot Program, in which red signifies acts of violence. We are also updating the back of the t-shirt to make it more reflective of our current objectives. We want to keep this campaign as an entity led by students for students, and if you have any concerns or suggestions, please reach out to us and let us know which aspect of consent you would like to see addressed. Email [email protected] or join our Consent is Mac Facebook group to reach out to us, and to stay up to date on events.

October 14, 2016

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