The Failures of Consent: How the (En)gendering of Sexual Scripts and Desire within Consensual Sex Preserves Rape Culture within the University
The epidemic of sexual assault on American university campuses that was first acknowledged by Mary P. Koss in 1987 has resulted in the centering of consent as a key way of distinguishing between acceptable, normal sex and unacceptable, punishable sex. Unfortunately, various experiences of sex that fit within the acceptable, normal sex category according to university policy frameworks can often have just as detrimental side effects on women as rape does. The need to investigate how simplistic notions of consent might be failing women in challenging rape culture then becomes paramount. This paper uses a mix of intersectional feminist theory and script theory to provide an analytical review of contemporary writings and studies derived from various books, journals, and news articles on sexual assault and consent movements available through the University of Washington library system and various online resources. The findings include how various forms of apparently consensual sex such as coerced sex, compliant sex, and even enthusiastic, pleasurable sex can play into upholding rape culture, harm women disproportionately, and uphold men’s systemic power. By becoming involved in the continued modern discussions of consent, this paper seeks to redirect the current discourse on sexual consent now common on university campuses in hopes of broadening our perception of consensual sex and more adequately challenge rape culture.