By Mira Lerner || Contributing Writer
In light of Shafia Zaloom’s Common Hour talk, “Consent and Authentic Connection,” the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh are feeling especially relevant. Zaloom’s distinctions between legal, ethical, and good sex highlight the implications of Kavanaugh’s appointment to the supreme court; by Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford’s account, there was no consent (illegal and unethical) and Dr. Ford did not leave feeling the same way one does after a meaningful conversation (not good).
Zaloom’s safe, healthy, sex positive practices felt intuitive to me, yet the national rhetoric is delivering an opposing narrative. She said, “consent protects the fundamentals of human dignity,” but Kavanaugh did not have consent when he assaulted Dr. Ford and is now trusted to carry out justice. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and, according to the government page, part of its mission is to “protect civil rights and liberties.” Why, then, was a justice appointed who has personally infringed upon someone else’s dignity? What message does that send about the court’s values? What message does that send to survivors of sexual assault? Although Kavanaugh’s job is to rule on the most pressing matters of justice and civil liberty in the U.S., it seems hypocritical that he himself is not being held accountable.
As a college student surrounded by hookup culture and its impacts (positive and negative), I wonder how Kavanaugh’s appointment affects the saliency of the importance of consent among young adults. One the one hand, women and marginalized groups are fighting for recognition, respect, and credibility in all facets of life. One the other hand, the 70% white and 77% male Senate (senate.gov), deemed Kavanaugh fit to uphold “equal justice under law” and guard/interpret the U.S. Constitution (supremecourt.gov).
When at college, attending parties, and engaging in hookup culture it is important to feel secure in the support of friends, school, and ultimately, the law to defend everyone’s right to dignity and ownership of their body. In a story in the New Yorker, Deborah Ramirez, Kavanaugh’s second sexual assault accuser, says that he swung his genitals in her face at a college party and people standing around laughed at her discomfort. The role of the perpetrator of this action cannot be overlooked, but neither should the roles of Ramirez’s peers. While Kavanaugh’s transgression is being discussed nationwide, not much attention has been paid to the bystanders who perversely laughed at another person’s sexual assault.
The culture that allows for such glee to be taken at someone else’s expense needs to be re-examined. It is the same culture that perpetuates locker room talk and whitewashes feminism. As students at F&M and human beings we have a commitment to look out for, respect, and believe each other. We have parties here, we have drinking here, and we have a hook up culture here, which means that decisions about consent are constantly being made. Following Shafia Zaloom’s advice and being educated on what consent is and how it benefits all parties involved is a means of respecting each other as members of the F&M community.
Senior Mira Lerner is a Contributing Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.