By Bethany Saltman | October 22, 2014 8:50 a.m.
It took a few news cycles for me to realize that “Affirmative Consent” was, in fact, “the policy,” as we, the “Womyn of Antioch,” called the controversial document we wrote in 1990, demanding that verbal consent be required at each progressive level of sexual contact. “May I remove your Che Guevara T-shirt now?" was the way Meghan Daum described it in her 2007 article in the Los Angeles Times, “Who Killed Antioch? Womyn.” She was going for a burn, playing on our silly radical politics, but she was right. We did wear those shirts, we loved them, and we wanted to say yes to taking them off.
Many of the folks who are pushing for affirmative consent today weren’t yet born when we “womyn” (a spelling we liked because we felt it freed us from the patriarchal male root of the word/everything else) turned the prevailing idea of consent — that it was always the naysayer’s responsibility to make her/himself heard — on its head. Though the college did accept our demands, the broader culture did not. In fact, we became laughingstocks. And the Antioch College Sexual Offense Prevention Policy (SOPP) became a stand-in for Ridiculous PC Bullshit, mercilessly mocked by pundits, reporters, family members, and even Saturday Night Live. The premise of the SNL sketch, called “Is It Date Rape?” was a game show hosted by Phil Hartman (“the dean of intergender relations”) in which two Antioch students, one played by Chris Farley, a nose-tackle, frat guy (as if … we had neither sports nor fraternities), and Shannen Doherty, a junior in “Victimization Studies” (that’s a little more realistic), compete to see who can judge situations correctly as date rape. For instance, “I paid for dinner” (date rape!) or “It is the last day of school, a female student asks a male student to help her move her futon” (date rape!). When this piece aired in 1993, I was in graduate school in New York City, trying very hard to leave Antioch and the policy behind. When I watched the skit, I felt misunderstood and defeated, but also kind of excited that we had hit such a nerve.