Campuses of Consent by Theresa Kulbaga & Leland Spencer

On the surface, consent appears to be a simple concept. If you want something, you say yes. If you don’t want something, you say no. But if you spend a few seconds digging deeper, you realize consent is complicated.

When I get home today, I will give my wife a hug and a kiss hello. I will not ask her for a kiss. I will not ask her for a hug. Did I fail to get consent? Did she fail to give me consent? Though we are married, she is not contractually obligated to hug or kiss me, and I am not obligated to receive any. In our marriage, we have created a culture of understanding. We have built norms of consent that have been constructed on years of conversations. I’m sure if I came home covered in feces, my wife would not consent to a hug or kiss until I was thoroughly soaped, scrubbed, and cleaned.

I share this example to highlight the communal aspect of consent. Consent requires more than one person. As I talk to college students about consent, I regularly fall into the trap of victim-centered consent, where consent relies solely on one person (typically presented as a cisgender white female).

A lot of things have changed in just the past few years. When you take a step back and look at it, it’s kind of amazing. I look at television shows that aired only a few seasons ago, and I am taken aback by the predatory sexual norms presented.

Campuses of Consent is a great book because it challenges me. I am a cisgender white male, so there is no comfort for me in this book. There are definitely moments when my instinct was to push back, but I had to remind myself to let go of egocentric conceptions.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to make a change on college campuses. It is a short book but it packs a punch.