Donna Freitas’ “Consent on Campus”: University sex culture goes under the microscope.

Consent on Campus is written by a leading expert on sex and campus culture. Drawing on over ten years of research and discussions with college students, it makes for an extremely effective and relatable book, especially within the current ‘#MeToo’ climate. It has been described as offering a ‘blueprint’ for how universities should be teaching more effectively the definition of consent.

Donna Freitas rightfully takes pride in her work as she aims to bring into focus these subjects; subjects that are too often avoided. She is an avid lover of writing both fiction and nonfiction and often uses her talent for the greater good of society, as is seen in ‘Consent on Campus’. She has lectured at nearly two hundred universities about her research on college students and the idea of consent, making her an expert in her field.

In 2015 it was discovered that, in a survey of 27 elite American Colleges, over 23% of respondents claimed personal experiences of sexual misconduct on campus. Crucially, this why Feitas’ book is so relatable to so many, and on such a personal level. Girls and guys alike can often experience some form of sexual assault in their teens or young twenties, making consent a subject which should be spoken about on a much larger scale, rather being somewhat of a ‘no go’ area.

Donna Freitas touches on a variety of subjects that are otherwise viewed as taboo: she pushes boundaries by referring to subjects such as rape culture and drink culture. Even though the students that she is reaching out to are not yet of legal drinking age, she breaks down walls by recognising that it is more than likely that they will drink once they start to attend College. She feels it important to address this fact, recognising that once alcohol comes into the equation, the line for consent becomes extremely blurred. She wisely states however that, “drinking does not cause assault, a perpetrator causes an assault”. Too often alcohol is pinned as the problem for sex without consent, the issue lies with those who are going ahead with sexual intercourse despite not gaining any clear consent. After attending a domestic violence talk at University myself, it resonated with me that alcohol is not the root of the problem but simply exacerbates it. If an individual is aggressive or violent with you whilst ‘under the influence’, it simply means that alcohol is shedding more light onto a trait in which they already possess.

Freitas is not at all shy about addressing previously unspoken topics, such as sexual harassment on campus. She interviews a number of young women in order to gain a clearer understanding of what may or may not be taking place on campuses. She is horrified when the majority of these young women speak very briefly of these exchanges and don’t even consider themselves to have been sexually assaulted. One of the most striking interviews to me was one with a girl named Amy, who had passed out unconscious as a result of alcohol consumption. She awoke to find a young man masturbating into her mouth; she did not see the problem with this. This shocked Donna greatly and she could not understand the thought process behind this. Why was Amy accepting of this behaviour? How did the young man in question not see a problem in what he was doing? Why are young men and women putting up with these sorts of experiences? These are the questions Donna aims to answer throughout her book.

However, answers like these are not easily found.

I believe the message that Freitas aims to convey is extremely empowering to both men and women who have been subject to sexual assault, harassment or rape. By reaching out to these students, and young people in general, she is emphasising that it is okay to talk about these things and that no one should keep information such as this to themselves. In certain cases, the victim may be suffering in silence or may well even be unaware that they have experienced it at all. She puts emphasison these dreaded experiences taking place on college campuses where students are supposed to feel safe. Freitas wanted her book to reach a wide audience amongst students but also faculty. Having faculty and university presidents present reminds students that they have friendly faces to turn to and confide in during their time of need. I found ‘Consent on Campus’ a very enjoyable ready with an extremely valuable message. With people like Donna Freitas recognising and bringing attention to the nature of rape culture and sexual assault, it helps society talk about it and resolve issues that are occurring far too frequently.

 

Give it a read!! Consent on Campus is available now, in Bookstores worldwide (RRP: £12.99)

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/consent-on-campus/donna-freitas/9780190671150

(don’t forget to use Student Discount at Waterstones (UniDays offer 10% online discount))

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