'Yes Means Yes' sexual education class provides P.E. credit

  • Colgate University in upstate New York is offering a seminar class on affirmative consent facilitated by students.
  • Students who complete the class will receive physical education credit.

As part of a university initiative to curb sexual assault on campus, Colgate University in New York now offers a “Yes Means Yes” (YMY) sexual education course to students for physical education credit.

What formerly began as a student thesis in 2009 is now a full-fledged seminar class that meets for six weeks every term. The seminar, which the school bills as an “extracurricular program,” has been leading the discussion on affirmative consent on campus for the past four years.

"Consent is sexy—everyone should think consent it sexy."   

“I've heard a lot about change and the entire campus seems committed to it,” Caroline Boudreau, a sophomore at Colgate, told Campus Reform. “The frats and sororities are very active. It’s not something every student is active with, but it is definitely something everyone supports and is aware of on campus."

The YMY course is offered to Colgate students for college credit but is also open to faculty and staff in order to encourage openness on the university’s sex culture. At the same time, the course is meant to educate students on the proper sex skills, “Colgate hookup culture,” and encourage the campaign’s motto of affirmative consent—“Yes Means Yes”.

“Consent is sexy—everyone should think consent it sexy,” said Colgate YMY facilitator, Emily Hawkins in an interview with NBC.

As a guide to the class, YMY uses a book by the same title, written by Jessica Valenti, a popular feminist blogger and creator of Feministing. Students meet weekly, discuss readings, and reflect on their own relationships in a relaxed classroom setting with a student facilitator.

Through the discussion-based class, students are supposed to speak to each other and to faculty about creating a safer environment on campus. At the end of the course, students discuss their ideal sexual campus climate.

This year, 140 students vied for slots in the 70-person seminar.

In 2012, Colgate had three reported cases of forcible sexual assaults on-campus in residential facilities. One assault was reported in 2011 and two in 2010.

About two decades ago, Antioch College in Yellow Spring, Ohio, pioneered the “Yes Means Yes” policy that has surfaced throughout the higher education system as sexual assault has become a political issue. The policy, recently applied to California universities through the “Yes Mean Yes” bill in September, is sparking conversations across the nation about the best ways to handle the issue of campus sexual assault.

“‘Affirmative consent’ means affirmative, conscious, and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity... Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time,” California Bill SB 976 says.

Recently, New Hampshire State Rep. Robert Cushing has introduced a similar bill which would require “Yes Means Yes” policies for New Hampshire universities.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @y_mdbailey

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