Depaul "Consent the D" Tee Shirts Are a Valiant Anti-Rape Culture Effort...That Fails Pretty Miserably
There are some really awesome consent campaigns, and then there are some that are more...ambiguous. And that's sort of the case with a new campaign out of DePaul University that involves tee shirts reading "Consent the D." And yes, the tee shirts are supposed to be a pro-consent, anti-rape culture thing. And no, I'm not drinking in the middle of the day, that's the real story. (Not that there aren't things that don't make me want to drink in the middle of the day.)
The "Consent the D" tee shirts are a response to a tee shirt controversy last year involving shirts to raise money for the basketball team which read "Fear the D," where the "D" supposedly stood for DePaul. But no matter what it was supposed to stand for, it was clearly being used as a clever play on the more colloquial usage of the term, and it understandably had many people on campus upset. After all, if people are afraid of your penis, you may be a rapist.
To push back, this year a new group had created the "Consent the D" tee shirt as a response to last year's controversy. They're hoping to use them to raise awareness, and they're also donating the half the proceeds from the shirts to Rape Victim Advocates, one of Chicago's oldest and most respected organizations working with survivors of sexual assault. Which is pretty awesome.
And yet none of the other stuff really changes the fact that "Consent the D" is a terrible slogan. For one thing, even though the "D" once again supposedly stands for DePaul, the same double entendre still applies here, just as it did with the basketball team's shirts, and it's still just as obnoxious. For another thing, the sentence is phrased as a command and people cannot be commanded to consent, not to sex or to anything else. Ordering someone to agree to do something is no different than just ordering them to do something. And most importantly, neither of those things gets you consent.
Really, this whole thing is about what you'd expect from a consent campaign that, as far as I can tell, is made up entirely of male students. The group was founded by Randy Vollrath, a senior, and judging by the article about them in a DePaul student paper, the other members seem to only be men as well. And it's clear that all of these boys have good intentions, and when it comes to putting money into a worthwhile cause, they've done pretty well. But the tee shirts themselves...
Well, let me just say that I hate the slogan passionately with the burning fire of a thousand suns and that I hope it gives a rash to anyone who touches it, and leave it at that.
There is a difference between a quippy, clever response and an actually valuable contribution to the conversation on consent and rape culture. Hopefully the next group that tries to respond to a controversy will keep that in mind.
Image: Consent the D