JU Philosophy Slam emphasizes the importance of consent

In the wake of sexual assualt allegations, JU brings light to consent in relationships



A poster displays information about the philosophy slam.

Carley Stickney, Staff Writer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.– In the wake of muddied sexual assault allegations in Hollywood and social movements like “Time’s Up” and “Me Too,” Jacksonville University sought to bring the conversation to campus.

On March 6, Jacksonville University hosted Warren Wilson College philosophy professor Sally Fischer to lead a philosophy slam on consent in the River House Pub. She teaches courses in feminist philosophy and researches gender theory.

The philosophy slam drew quite an audience, including philosophy professor Scott Kimbrough, as well as many students, notably the president of JU’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance, Jacqueline Cano.

“The goal of philosophy slams is to get people thinking and to hear the opinions of their peers,” Kimbrough said. “Sometimes people need a forum where it’s ok to bring up a sensitive topic like this and to share their views with people that they otherwise wouldn’t have a conversation with.”

Philosophy slams are a staple of JU and have often tackled controversial subjects like the ethics of drone warfare or the concept of sanity.

The topic of consent has recently caused public confusion, especially with the recent allegations against Aziz Ansari, who asays he identifies as a feminist and has been a supporter of the Time’s Up movement.

“With situations like Ansari’s, some people don’t think of the issue as existing or don’t realize it’s happened to them,” Cano said. “Consent is seen by some as clean cut, when it’s really a constantly evolving process for an individual.”

Fischer began the conversation by giving her audience background information in feminist philosophy and playing a clip about the subject from the late-night television show “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.” Fischer detailed the Ansari allegations and then brought up the concept of affirmative consent.

“Affirmative consent is about a ‘yes meaning yes’ instead of a ‘no meaning no’, so it strays away from the idea of a green light if someone doesn’t explicitly say no,” Fischer said. “It means people shouldn’t be proceeding unless there’s a clear yes.”

The notion of affirmative consent seemed to be one that very few people in the audience were familiar with. Most listeners had questions about the concept, such as why more people and campuses around the country aren’t talking about it or promoting it.

“We think of these topics as natural, so when we try to change them, it doesn’t sit well,” Fischer said. “Many people think of these things as the core base of who they are, so the threat of tweaking it can be uncomfortable.”

More college campuses around the country are adopting “yes means yes” policies regarding consent, which makes college students a target audience for this conversation.

“The issue does have particular application on college campuses, as students and administrators must figure out how to foster a culture of affirmative consent and to develop policies to deal with cases when appropriate consent is not obtained,” Kimbrough said. “Everyone needs to think about this issue, but it is particularly important for young people who are more likely to be initiating new relationships.”