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This article featuring real life stories of college age consent (or not) stories is a good illustration of just how blurry the lines can be.

In some cases consent is explicitly asked. Some welcomed being asked. Some found it unsettling, unnecessary, even off-putting. Even when directly asked, some still said yes when they wanted to say no.

In other cases no verbal consent was asked. Again sometimes that was ok. Sometimes it was not. Sometimes it was ok at the time but later not. Sometimes it wasn’t ok and that was ok. Sometimes it wasn’t ok but happened anyway.

In some stories one person wanted to say no but never actually did for various reasons. Out of politeness. Out of shame. Out of inexperience. Out of guilt. Out of habit. Out of resignation. In many cases the other party may have had no idea. And in other stories they probably did.

Some stories are confusing. Sad. Painful. Tragic. And some are good stories. Good experiences.

Overall they are a good illustration of how consent is not as easily defined, understood, given, or received as campus posters or talks may make it seem. In many stories the person themself is unsure if they consented or not, wanted to or not, were violated or not. Often the other person had no idea. Was never told of those thoughts.

Some stories were from the other side — of people who later wondered if they had missed signs of non-consent? If they inadvertently had violated someone? And in some cases how they knew they had.

As I read these stories one thought I kept having was how most of them could have been avoided by avoiding the situations and conditions under which they occurred. How not taking certain steps, actions, or crossing certain lines could have prevented them. And how maybe talking to young people about that might be the discussion that’s not happening.

What do you think? Please share in the comments.