OU’s Gender and Equality Center started a new campaign in the fall 2019 semester to reshape the way students view consent with a fresh slogan.
The GEC’s “Yes means Yes” poster campaign is a collection of four posters that describe what consent looks like. The slogan filters out passive language to define consent.
Bliss Brown, coordinator for gender-based violence prevention programs of the GEC, said using a more active tone in prevention campaigns helps students gain a better understanding of consent.
“Students, when asked about consent, will often describe consent in terms of what consent is not,” Brown said. “Many students have heard the phrase ‘no means no’ before, and while no always means no, it’s not enough to just avoid a no — you need to get a yes.”
For Brown, the slogan puts emphasis on the importance of a coherent, mandatory yes.
“Perpetrators will often say I didn’t hear them say no,” Brown said. “They think because they don’t have a no, they have a yes, which is why ‘no means no’ doesn’t work. The absence of a no does not equal yes.”
End Rape on Campus, a national organization advocating for survivors of sexual violence, used the slogan to empower students to hold perpetrators accountable. "Yes Means Yes" is an affirmative law being passed by activists state-by-state. California is the only state that has passed a "Yes Means Yes" law, and New York has passed a similar "Enough is Enough" law, according to the organization's website.
The “Yes Means Yes" law is a "groundbreaking effort,” according to the organization’s website.
According to the group, affirmative language means “fewer survivors will experience sexual assault and institutional betrayal.”
Sara Raines, human relations senior and peer-educator for Step In, Speak Out, OU’s mandated sexual misconduct prevention training, supports the new campaign.
“Changing our framework for consent is powerful,” Raines said. “If our standard for consent is just avoiding a no, then the bar is literally on the floor.”
Step In, Speak Out is implementing the new slogan in its 50-minute sexual misconduct prevention training, which is mandatory for all freshmen and transfer students to attend.
Brown said the new slogan's affirmative tone changed the saying “consent is ongoing” to “consent is reversible.”
“We were looking to improve the script,” Brown said. “We didn’t want people to think that once you have a yes, you always have yes.”
Because of the slogan, the GEC and Step In, Speak Out are emphasizing the definition and importance of a yes.
“You can’t just have any kind of yes,” Brown said. “It has to be specific. They have the right to change their mind. They have to be coherent.”
To Raines, changing and improving the dialogue in prevention programs on campus helps students understand the true definition of consent.
“(Prioritizing the word yes means) you aren’t avoiding something,” Raines said, “but rather, actively seeking something out. Teaching young people to respect the people they’re hooking up with, to actively seek out consent, and to know what consent truly looks like in real life, that’s what I think is powerful,” Raines said.
This story was corrected at 6:38 p.m. Sept. 29 to reflect an updated quote from Bliss Brown and updated language.