This Student Campaign Helps Define Sexual Consent

by Rachel Sanoff

A collective of Texas Tech University students have begun an online campaign called Define Your Line to strengthen sexual consent education on their campus and combat the notion of "blurred lines" as a fact of sexual relationships (thanks, Robin Thicke). The campaign's goal is to stimulate conversations about sexual consent and promote open communication in sexual relationships through an online Q&A forum.

By creating a website where students can anonymously ask questions regarding consent, sexual health, sexual assault, etc., students are able to gain insight and knowledge from experts and other anonymous student commenters in the community without the risk of feeling uncomfortable or embarrassed. The anonymity element of the campaign is key, as students will be more likely to ask difficult or intimate questions when the conversation guarantees an undisclosed identity.

Anybody can submit a question on the site, and once the question is received, the students of Define Your Line go around Texas Tech's campus and gather anonymous answers from other students. Define Your Line has also teamed up with counselors, psychologists, professors, lawyers, and health experts at TTU who focus on issues of sex and consent to provide a more researched and professional perspective. Once the answers are gathered, Define Your Line posts them on the website. Students and commenters are also able to anonymously answer posted questions directly using the Q&A forum on the site.

While there isn't specifically a trans identifier available when submitting a question, you can identify yourself as A Guy, A Girl, Other, or Choose Not to Answer. You can specify toward which gender your question is directed with selections including All, Guys, and Girls. The campaign is new and off to an awesome start, and hopefully a greater variance of gender identities will soon be represented in the submission process in order to provide answers specific to all student groups at TTU.

This consent workshop is a welcome resource, emerging as rape on college campuses (and the horrifying frequency with which it occurs, 1 in 5 women specifically) has finally started to receive national spotlight thanks to the tireless organizing work of survivors and advocates. Rolling Stone 's awful handling of the University of Virginia story has caused some advocates to fear the effects it will have on the movement. But with the birth of consent workshops like Define Your Line, the newsmaking activism of students like Columbia University's Emma Sulkowicz, and the ACTUAL STATISTICS regarding rape on these campuses, consent advocacy is proving to be unstoppable. Define Your Line's resources page makes sure to also provide information for survivors of sexual violence, ending with the supportive message “You are not alone. Texas Tech cares about you.”Let's take a look at some of the essential conversations that this TTU student-led campaign has already begun:

1. How can you tell if a girl wants to have sex?

Thank goodness, some of these answers promote the ideal model of enthusiastic consent and the importance of directly asking prospective sexual partners for consent, hopefully educating every person who visits the site. Go TTU!

However, some of the answers also reveal the threatening and abusive pressures that female students at TTU experience – also crucial to changing the culture on campus.

2. Why don't guys just straight up ask if a girl wants to have sex?

This is an especially important and timely question to ask as people are freaking out that the new and exciting consent law on California campuses, “Yes Means Yes” (which prompts sexual partners to discuss consent outright), will destroy good sex forever. How rad is it then that Define Your Line's enthusiastic slogan is "Have better sex!"

Some of the answers to the posted question explain that respecting your possible sexual partner makes asking for consent an easy task, and that “respect should never be a turn-off.” (Yay!)

Other answers are disconcerting. If communicating with your partner about sex “doesn't work,” then what does this student think qualifies as consensual sex? This answer reveals the types of dangerous disconnects between students that Define Your Line is hoping to address.

3. Do guys ever feel pressured to have sex?

The answers to this question do the very necessary job of confronting the grossly wrong assumption that men want to have sex all the time, no matter what. And if they don't, then there is something wrong with them. This mindset feeds into the cultural stigma that surrounds masculinity and silences male survivors of sexual assault, claiming that “men can't get raped.” In reality, 1 in 6 young males suffer sexual violence in their lives. TTU students on whether male students ever feel pressured to have sex:

4. What should a guy do if a girl just wants to cuddle?

You'd hope that the answer to this would be basic enough to not have to ask the question in the first place. Thankfully, some TTU students have the right idea. Pay attention, original poster.

Some of Define Your Line's soon to be answered questions include “How do you know if someone is too drunk to have sex?” and “Do guys judge a girl if she doesn't want to have sex?” Plus, there are already more answers available on the site. Follow Define Your Line on Facebook and Twitter to stay updated about the powerful work done by these awesome students to further the consent revolution happening on campuses across the country.Lastly, check out this campaign video to learn more:

Images: Allison Terry/TheHub@TTU; Define Your Line (9)