By Tiffany Fields on May 18, 2016

Affirmative Consent Policies: Cultural Barriers and the Need for Affirmative Sexuality

Many sexual assault prevention efforts have long included various forms of “consent-promotion” based initiatives. Such programming encourages college students to “get consent” prior to engagement in sexual activity as the main mechanism to prevent sexual assault. These initiatives recommend that consent communication ideally occur verbally, via explicit language, when all parties are sober; unfortunately that does not always happen. From a behavioral science perspective, communicating sexual consent with a partner is a complex set of interconnected beliefs about sexuality and gendered scripts that get enacted to initiate sexual behavior. As universities move to adopt affirmative consent policies on campus, either on their own volition or because of state legislation, what implications will these policies have on sexual violence prevention? Are sexual assaults being perpetrated because of a lack of understanding surrounding consent? Or is the issue more complicated?
This webinar will summarize current research focused on how college students communicate consent, highlighting the miscommunication theory, which is the empirical basis of consent-promotion based initiatives (including affirmative consent policies). Socio-cultural factors that influence, and can act as barriers to affirmative consent, will also be discussed. The webinar will conclude by addressing how consent education can be used as part of a comprehensive prevention plan to reduce rates of sexual assault on campus. Join us in conversation and share your experiences in utilizing consent education in your prevention efforts on campus.
HOST: Ashleigh Klein, MPA, PreventConnect and CALCASA
  1. Describe cues most frequently utilized by college students to communicate and interpret sexual consent and how such cues fit into the miscommunication theory.
  2. Describe socio-cultural factors that serve as barriers to affirmative consent policies and consent-promotion based programming.
  3. Identify opportunities to include sexual consent education as part of a comprehensive approach to reducing high rates of sexual assault on college campuses.


Slides [PDF]



Kristen N. Jozkowski, PhD, Assistant Professor of Public Health and Director of the Sexual Health Research Lab at the University of Arkansas and Research Fellow with the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University

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