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Opinion

Communication and consent are key in hookup culture

By Erin McCulloch '16

May 1, 2014

As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Andrew Austin ’14 and Hannah Tessler ’14 gave a very poignant presentation on consent at Hamilton. Their goal was to “establish the importance of clear consent and clarification in a hookup situation in order to prevent sexual assault.”

According to the survey statistics they provided, 24 percent of women at Hamilton reported that they had been sexually assaulted. Furthermore, 76 percent of females said they knew a survivor of sexual assault. This, as Hannah explained, means that if you see four people walking down Martin’s Way, the odds are that one of them was sexually assaulted and that the other three know of someone who was. Despite the number of sexual assaults reported in this survey, only two cases were brought to the Harassment and Sexual Misconduct Board (HSMB) this year.

The underreporting of incidents of sexual assault is telling of the stigma surrounding “reputation” at Hamilton. Rightfully so—rumors travel insanely quickly around our campus. If something noteworthy happens, I hear about it on six to nine forms of social media, depending on how outrageous it is. So I get it—you’ve got a reputation to maintain. It would be horrifying if your gross, drunken hookup story the topic of choice over eggs on Sunday morning in Commons.  As embarrassing as that would be, it would be worse to let a potential rapist walk free.

Bottom line: It only takes 20 seconds to stop and ask for consent. A quick confirmation—“Hey, is everything alright” “Is this okay” “What do you want to happen?”—could prevent you from making a detrimental mistake. As discussed in the talk tonight, “hookup” is a very ambiguous term and should be treated as such. The smartest thing you can do is openly communicate with your partner to avoid any confusion. If you ask someone, “How has your night been?,” and he or she responds, “I don’t know! I can’t remember what I did tonight.” You can assume this person is too intoxicated to consent.  If someone is incapacitated due to drug or alcohol consumption, he/she is unable to consent (even if that person answers yes at the time).

Additionally, if you see your friend leaving a party to presumably go hookup with someone, try to confirm that he or she is, in fact, in a situation in which he (she) feels totally comfortable, and that he (she) is sober enough to make conscious decisions. Overcoming the bystander effect could play a serious role in helping a friend avoid sexual assault. If you do not do anything to stop a friend who is too drunk to consent to a hookup, you are complying with an action that could potentially harm him or her and are indirectly involved in the incident. When in doubt, just ask.

The hookup culture at Hamilton is inevitable. However, the student body could do a lot more to prevent incidents of sexual assault from occurring on campus. Please don’t be the next “rapist” on Yik Yak.

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