Consent is not a nicety

The fact that we treat it like one reveals a dark reality about campus culture

It was the first weekend back from winter break. Everyone wanted to get all their fun in before they had to buckle down for the semester. After going out, I woke up the next morning, got breakfast and listened to my friends describe their nights.

One of my friends said that he was at a pregame, talking to a girl. The rapport was pretty flirty. One thing led to another, and they ended up in the guy’s room. They started making out, and clothes started coming off. When he asked the girl if she wanted to do anything more, she gave an unclear answer. She was drunk, he was drunk—he decided that he’d be taking advantage of her if they had had sex. She wasn’t in a state of mind to be giving consent. And so he bid her goodnight and they went their separate ways. What shocked me was not the story itself, but what followed.

After hearing this, two of my girl friends said that that “was so sweet of him” and that “he’s such a good guy.”

Men violate women’s consent so often on college campuses that when they don’t, they’re treated like heroes. The standards are so low that consent is treated like a cordiality instead of a basic human right.

It would be ridiculous to compliment someone for not stealing another person’s wallet. Being a not-horrible human being is not cause for celebration—it should be cause for nothing. Decency should be assumed. When it is not assumed, those who practice it are exalted. They become the nice, sweet guys.

At Vanderbilt, the men who don’t rape are the good guys. This means that we don’t assume that the norm is to respect women’s consent. And that says a lot about our expectations and our culture.


  1. I agree with the girls in your story. In the heat of the moment when both parties are somewhat intoxicated and ready for sex, it is not so easy to figure out what the right thing is, and then do it. Your friend deserves the kudos for doing the right thing. I don’t know what I would have done in his shoes. I’d like to think I would have his self-control, but I don’t know for sure. I do know that if I did what he did that the next day I would feel much better about myself.