Consenting across the ’Cac

Last weekend, Men for Consent (MFC) hosted “ConsentFest” at the College, an event aimed at promoting intercollegiate dialogue about rape and sexual assault. We at the Record applaud Men for Consent for attempting to address a serious problem that afflicts college campuses nationwide.

ConsentFest, which was attended by Bennington, Colby, Hamilton, Bowdoin, Smith and the Art Institute of Chicago, opened with a discussion of the unique challenges each college faces and how the various groups address specific issues of sexual assault on their campuses. We believe that such discussion is useful, since by learning more about other schools’ approaches we can further develop our own approach to the issue of sexual assault. Additionally, we think that the workshops run by MFC provided positive forums for discussing issues of rape and sexual assault. We particularly applaud the workshop on queer sexual assault, which helped dispel myths about queer sexual assault and discussed how to combat it, as well as the workshop on drinking and sexual assault, which are two issues often linked on college campuses.

However, while MFC did many things well in organizing ConsentFest, we believe that the keynote speaker, Meg Bossong ’05, manager of community engagement at the Boston Rape Crisis Center, did not seem to be in line with MFC’s general message. Bossong’s keynote discussed the limitations of consent, saying that it is more important to focus on boundaries than it is to focus on consent. We believe that by presenting Bossong as their keynote speaker, MFC implied that they shared her opinion. We therefore strongly encourage MFC to consider Bossong’s message in relation to their mission. She may have a valid point, but whether or not that point is aligned with MFC’s current mission is a different matter. The keynote speaker should reinforce the general message of the event rather than challenging it after the opportunity for meaningful discourse has already passed.

Additionally, we wonder if ConsentFest’s final keynote event could have targeted a wider audience. It seems as though much of ConsentFest was designed for people already involved in groups like MFC, and we think that the culminating event could have been designed for students outside of these groups to participate in.

Nevertheless, we believe that ConsentFest was successful, and we congratulate MFC for hosting an event that provided compelling dialogue on rape and sexual assault. We hope that they will continue to provide interesting and thought-provoking forums for discussion in future ConsentFests.