The Complexity of College Consent

Adjudicating Campus Sexual Misconduct and Assault, Cognella, 2020

U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 20-6

22 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2020 Last revised: 12 Mar 2020

See all articles by Aya Gruber

Aya Gruber

University of Colorado Law School

Date Written: November 30, 2019

Abstract

Teachers, parents, and administrators tell students that consent is “simple.” To be sure, every day, millions of people follow the directive to have only consensual sex with great success and have mutually wanted, unproblematic intimate contact. Law and policy, however, rarely intervene in easy cases. Consent standards intervene in the hard cases. College sexual consent policies delineate when sex between two competent adults of equal status, without force or threat, is a punishable offense. They determine what should happen when the accuser feels harmed but the accused believes he or she has not committed harm. They weigh in on default views of sex — whether people generally desire, are ambivalent toward, or fear sex. They guide decision makers on whom to believe in “he-said-she-said” cases. In short, consent is far from simple. This chapter, written for the book Adjudicating Campus Sexual Misconduct and Assault, unpacks the complex concept of consent in college codes. Its aim is taxonomical and explanatory: to categorize various consent formulations and clarify how they regulate behavior and resolve disputes. The first part of the chapter is a brief history of “ordinary” and affirmative consent standards in criminal law. The second turns to the concept of consent itself. There, I explore what it means to say that a sexual transaction between two people is consensual and whether consent relates to a state of mind, communication, or both. The third part examines the various formulations of consent in college codes, placing them on a scale from most to least regulatory. Finally, I discuss the complicated costs and benefits of affirmative consent.

Keywords: Rape, Sexual Assault, Title IX, Campus Sexual Assault, Consent, Sexual Consent, Affirmative Consent, Sexual Misconduct, Non-consent

JEL Classification: K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Gruber, Aya, The Complexity of College Consent (November 30, 2019). Adjudicating Campus Sexual Misconduct and Assault, Cognella, 2020; U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 20-6. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3527825

Aya Gruber (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States
(303) 492-8441 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://lawweb.colorado.edu/profiles/profile.jsp?id=325

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