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Would yes-means-yes have made a difference in the U of M sex scandals?

In a new survey, one in four U of M women reported having been sexually harassed in the past. The highly debated yes-means-yes consent policy probably wouldn't improve the situation.

In a new survey, one in four U of M women reported having been sexually harassed in the past. The highly debated yes-means-yes consent policy probably wouldn't improve the situation.

The University of Minnesota’s been having a rough spin in the news cycle when it comes to sexual impropriety. First there was the high-profile disgrace of athletic director Norwood Teague after he fired a string of gross texts to two female employees. Then there's the ongoing probe into whether Teague’s buddy, associate athletic director Mike Ellis, ever tried to force a staff member to look at college girl porn on his phone.

So the Pioneer Press got curious and requested all of the U’s sexual harassment cases over the past five years, revealing the U had to shell out nearly $450,000 to settle five cases.

Last year, a student gymnast received $250,000 after accusing the head coach’s husband, Jim Stephenson, of touching her creepily when she modeled for him over the span of two years. In another case, a male research assistant got $77,500 after his female supervisor wouldn’t quit hitting on him. At UMD, a student received $30,000 after her supervisor in the school wellness center repeatedly harassed her and others.

So would any of these scenarios have played out differently if the U had implemented its affirmative consent policy sooner?

Yes and no. It certainly wouldn’t have prevented any of the barefaced creeps from creeping, says Katie Eichele, director of the U’s Aurora resource center for sexual harassment. Teague, for example, persisted in sending lewd texts despite repeated pleas to stop.  

Policy never prevents anything from occurring, Eichele says, but could hold bad actors accountable. Contrary to some initial reports, contracts and videos aren't required to obtain that consent. Though if students are engaging in BDSM, it might be good idea, she adds. 

Consent could actually be either verbal or nonverbal. Continuous consent between couples who have talked about sex and established what's OK and what isn't should be able to carry on without having to reconfirm that agreement with every kiss unless that dynamic changes, Eichele says.

As ludicrous as having to pull out a multiple-page contract with every sexual act sounds, it's these gray areas that have other schools across the nation turning them down.   

Harvard’s explanation for not enacting yes-means-yes sheds light on another scenario, where consent backfires on accusers. If sex done right hinges on consent that could be either verbal or nonverbal, it creates a door for rapists to make the excuse that they just misread the situation.

Rather, the nation’s oldest college is sticking to the original Title IX standards, which defines harassment as conduct that was both uninvited and unwanted – not simply that there was a lack of a no, or an implication of a yes.