“Sexual consent contracts,” once the stuff of parodies, are now a real product that activists are selling online for the purposes of promoting “sexual respect.”
The “Consent Conscious Kit” is being sold online by the Affirmative Consent Project at the website InstantConsent.com. For only $1.99, one can get a small bag (available in both faux-suede and canvass varieties!) filled with a condom, a pen, some breath mints, and this simple contract:
The contract recommends that potential lovers take a picture of themselves holding the contract, or else use the pen to fill out the back, which reads “On this date, [blank], we agree to have consensual sex with one another.” There are then lines for two people to both print and sign their names (the contract is apparently no good for threesomes or orgies).
The contract is intended to promote the idea of getting “affirmative consent” for sexual activity. The affirmative consent standard holds a person responsible for sexual assault or rape if they do not get prior, explicit permission for every sexual act with a person, in contrast to the traditional “no means no” standard where sexual assault occurs if a person ignores a person’s explicitly denying their consent. Affirmative consent is the required standard at all colleges receiving government funds in California and New York, and activists are pushing for it to be national policy. (RELATED: Gillibrand: ‘Yes Means Yes’ Should Go Nationwide)
Despite sex contracts being an item straight out of comedic parody, Affirmative Consent Project creator Alison Berke says the intent of the item is entirely serious.
“We’re trying to change the conversation and make people more secure,” Berke told The Daily Caller News Foundation. She said the group had already sold or given away hundreds of the kits. Berke also explained the unusual presence of a breath mints in the contract, saying it was to encourage users to “take a breath” and think things over before agreeing to sex.
Ironically, though, Berke admitted that her group’s supposed contract would not provide any real legal protection. They were not approved by a lawyer and, at best, could simply be evidence of consent rather than proof. Students relying on the contract to prove consent to a hook-up or other encounter could find themselves out of luck should they be accused of rape and in danger of expulsion.
“We do not believe they are legally enforceable,” she told The Daily Caller News Foundation. The group’s website gives no indication that its contract could be dangerous to rely upon.
Berke’s assessment is certainly correct, and the reason lies within the nature of affirmative consent. The contract itself only covers “sex” without even defining what that is, while affirmative consent actually calls for independent consent to every kind of sexual act, from kissing to oral sex to unspeakable acts that cannot be written here. Also, consent must be continuous, so an accuser could easily dispense with the “contract” by simply claiming that they stopped consenting sometime after they signed it.
Besides the consent kit, Affirmative Consent Project is selling several other goods designed to gets its message out. It offers a $20 T-shirt with its sample contract printed on the back, as well as $2 wristbands simply promoting the idea of being “#ConsentConscious.” Berke says her group has plenty of ideas for more products to get the message out, though she didn’t tip her hand about what those might be.
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