May 11, 2018

Dear members of the FFC,

We’re popping into your inbox to let you know about a special project we’ve been working on over at the New York Times. 

We teamed up with Modern Love, the weekly column about love and sex, to ask college students how they navigate the gray zone of sexual consent, where communication is not always as simple as “yes” or “no.” As we're sure you know, sexual consent can be complicated. And much in the same way that the #metoo movement has uncovered the sheer prevalence of sexual harassment and assault, it's also shined a light on this murkier area of the consent equation (think: Aziz Ansari): the kind of encounter that may not not be entirely consensual, but may not be sexual assault, either.

We wanted to get at all that complexity when we asked young people to tell us about the sexual encounters still troubling them. What did they anticipate going in? How did they negotiate the moment? And how did they make sense of what happened in the aftermath?

Some snippets from those stories are below, in students' own words.

We hope you'll take a look at the whole package. 

“I had a hard time explaining what was wrong for a long time. I kissed her back when she kissed me. I never told her to stop. Eventually I would stop moving, arms limp and eyes averted and focus on the crack in the ceiling of my room. I wonder sometimes why I didn’t say no, where all of my no’s went every time I needed them.” — Jenny, Ohio

“Here is what you say: ‘No, no, no, no. Do I have to? Please stop.’ Here is what you can never forget that you finally say: ‘It’s fine.’” — Olivia, Illinois

“I didn’t kiss anyone in high school. I was determined that this would not be the case in college. And so, courtesy of my concerned and more experienced male friends, I was armed with a whole new set of advice: ‘Don’t be a wuss.’ ‘Girls want you to be assertive.’ ‘You need to make the first move.’” — Samuel, Texas

Want to keep up with us at NYT? 
Follow us on Instagram @nytgender and subscribe to Gender Letter, our new weekly newsletter on sex, gender, and culture written by NYT gender editor and author of Feminist Fight Club, Jessica Bennett
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