Sexual Misconduct Scenarios
Although sexual misconduct includes a wide range of behaviors, certain kinds of sexually unacceptable behaviors tend to be particularly prevalent on college campuses. Here are some examples:
Ann and Tom have been dating for about a year. Although they have engaged in some sexual touching, they have never engaged in sexual intercourse. One night, as they are cuddling, Tom decides that they have waited long enough and starts pressuring Ann to have sex with him. He tells her that, if she really loved him, she would have sex with him. Tom then threatens to break up with Ann if they don’t have sex. Ann verbally expresses her hesitance to have sex but then goes silent. Tom interprets Ann’s silence as a sign that she has changed her mind and proceeds to get on top of her and penetrate her. Ann doesn’t say anything—she doesn’t continue her verbal protest, but she also doesn’t say no.
Tom is engaging in sexual coercion by threatening to break up with Ann if she doesn’t have sex with him, and he is violating two requirements of sexual consent. In hoping that Ann will “give in” to his advances, he is violating the requirement for sexual consent to be freely given. In choosing to interpret Ann’s silence as indicting that she has changed her mind and decided to have sex with him, he is violating the requirement for consent to be clearly articulated.
Ryan and Derrick meet at a party and start talking. They hit it off immediately and find a quiet corner to make out in. Over the course of the evening, Derrick consumes much more alcohol than Ryan does and is slurring his speech and having a hard time standing up. Ryan recognizes that Derrick is drunk but likes that he is being playful and flirtatious. Ryan suggests that they go back to his residence hall room. Derrick agrees but has to be physically steadied as they leave the party. When they get back to Ryan’s place, Derrick flops on Ryan’s bed and closes his eyes. Ryan is relieved that Derrick isn’t getting sick after all that he’s had to drink. Ryan asks Derrick if he can perform oral sex on him. Derrick mumbles something that Ryan can’t understand but seems to cooperate as Ryan begins taking off his pants. So, Ryan proceeds to perform oral sex on Derrick.
Ryan is engaging in non-consensual sexual intercourse. While Ryan and Derrick start out the evening with mutual flirting, Derrick’s eventual drunkenness renders him incapable of giving sexual consent. Ryan is aware that Derrick is too drunk to speak clearly and stand up on his own, and so he could reasonably be expected to understand that Ryan is too drunk to consent to sexual activity.
Elizabeth and John are in a new sexual relationship. Things are going very well and Elizabeth is particularly impressed with John’s performance in bed. She’s been bragging to her friends about him and wants to provide evidence. So, she hides a video camera in her bedroom and tapes them having sex. John is unaware of the camera.
Elizabeth is engaging in sexual exploitation. She is taking sexual advantage of John for her own benefit by tricking John into documenting their sexual activity. In so doing, she is also violating a requirement of sexual consent—she is preventing John from giving fully informed consent because she has created a scenario in which John does not have full knowledge of what is happening.
A group of students routinely gathers outside of their residence hall to publicly rate the bodies of the students passing by. When a student whose body they find attractive passes by, they raise a sign with the number 10 printed on it. When a student whose body they find unattractive passes by, they raise a sign with a lower number printed on it. Eventually, many students start avoiding this residence hall, choosing instead to take a longer route to the cafeteria, their classes, the health center, etc.
The students who are rating their peers are engaging in sexual harassment. By commenting on and evaluating others’ bodies, they are engaging in unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. Because the routine is so pervasive that many start avoiding the residence hall, the students are creating a hostile environment. They are interfering with the ability of their fellow students to easily attend class and participate in campus activities, and they are creating a climate in which many feel disrespected and objectified.
Jennifer and Nina are always the first two people in their chemistry class. They pass the time before class starts by chatting about upcoming homework assignments and quizzes. As the semester progresses, their interactions become more flirtatious. One day, as Jennifer is passing Nina on her way to her desk, Nina pats Jennifer on the butt. Jennifer explains to Nina that she doesn’t feel comfortable with that kind of physical contact, but Nina does it again the next day.
Nina is engaging in non-consensual sexual contact. She is touching Jennifer on a private body part without Jennifer’s consent, and she is not respecting Jennifer’s request that she stop such behavior. Although Jennifer has flirted with Nina, that does not give Nina the right to touch Jennifer in any way that makes Jennifer uncomfortable.
Mallory and Nick have been dating for four months. One night, Nick admits to Mallory that he has developed feelings for someone else and needs to break off their relationship. Mallory feels betrayed and is determined to figure out who Nick’s new crush is. Mallory starts hanging around outside of Nick’s residence hall room, showing up outside of his classes, and following him to the cafeteria. She also keeps tabs on him by sending him texts and calling his cell phone. Nick tells Mallory that she needs to stop contacting him, but she continues anyway. Eventually, Nick’s roommates begin to complain about Mallory’s random drop-ins, noting that she refuses to leave when they tell her Nick isn’t home. Given this behavior, Nick begins to fear for his safety. He’s not sure when he’ll run into Mallory or what state of mind she’ll be in.
Mallory is stalking Nick. While it is normal to feel hurt and lonely after a breakup, Mallory’s persistent and unwelcome contact with Nick is unhealthy and disconcerting. Nick has asked Mallory to stop contacting him, but Mallory refuses to do so. This has caused Nick to become reasonably concerned about his safety.