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Say 'yes' before sex: U of M students consider new sexual consent policy

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Student leaders at the University of Minnesota are looking into creating a rule that would require people to give some form of "yes" before they had sex.

It's called affirmative consent, and "yes means yes" is becoming the new standard on college campuses to prevent sexual assault. It comes as leaders rethink how to define consent, ditching the "no means no" policy that's now sometimes criticized as outdated, Inside Higher Ed said.

Students at the U of M are looking into doing the same on their campus.

Some believe the university's sexual assault policy is vague when it comes to what consent actually means, MPR News reports. In the "heat of the moment" there's a lot of "assumption going on." Having things continue until someone says no doesn't always work, students told the news station, adding the absence of an outright "no" doesn't always mean "yes."

The Minnesota Student Association plans to explore how enforcing an affirmative consent policy would affect people on campus before recommending a policy change. Such recommendations could come as early as this spring, MPR notes.

Student leaders told the Minnesota Daily the new consent policy – if the student association considers it – would be similar to California's new state law, which requires "an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision" by everyone involved to engage in sexual activity, USA Today reported.

California became the first state to pass a "yes means yes" law for all its colleges, and more than 800 schools across the U.S. have similar consent policies, including at least three in Minnesota: the University of St. Thomas, Carleton College and Augsburg College, reports note.

Supporters of these policies say they could help determine whether sex was consensual in sexual assault cases, however opponents have said asking permission can still be filled with ambiguity and could kill the mood, Inside Higher Ed noted.

There are also questions on what it means to give consent. Is only verbal permission acceptable, or are physical actions – from a head nod or progressing the encounter – also giving consent?

These are things student leaders will have to consider if they move forward with a policy change.

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