On Saturday, organizers from Colby and Bates brought Colby’s Party With Consent to Chase Hall. The question on many Batesies’ minds leading up to the event was, “What exactly is Party with Consent?”
“Party With Consent is a movement that brings excitement to the social culture of campuses and communities through focusing on what you can do and what you can look forward to. By developing comfort and safety in party atmospheres, Party With Consent ensures optimal levels of fun and safety for everyone involved.” This is the official definition of the movement from Party With Consent’s website, and I’ll admit it left me a bit confused.
It appears that from the mission statement, Party With Consent wants to focus on the fun things that can happen in social situations and does not want the conversation around consent to center on negative aspects of consent.
This is a worthy goal that distinguishes Party With Consent from the lectures, panel discussions, and advocacy groups that focus on the negative aspects of consent such as sexual assault. While other groups that focus on consent in a different way are necessary, Party With Consent was able to capture the attention of the Bates campus in a way that other groups and movements did not do.
Perhaps this was a product of Party With Consent maintaining a visible presence on campus before the event. However, the unique nature of the event as a party with lots of live music and collaboration between Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin did more to build anticipation, and more importantly, discussion.
In the week leading up to the event there was a vibrant discussion throughout campus and even on Party With Consent’s Facebook page about the goals for the event and whether centering the discussion on consent around partying is a good idea.
“While our mission emphasizes respect and responsibility, our goals are not to decrease partying, but increase the amounts of consensual partying,” states the Party With Consent website.
Consensual partying is another confusing term, but just because the movement does not have specific goals such as eliminating alcohol related sexual assault, does not mean that the movement is unimportant.
“Consent is important and productive discourse surrounding the issue is important but I think there are some rhetorical problems with organizing a party around consent and trivializing the issue,” said sophomore Taylor Blackburn.
There was some worry that Party with Consent emphasizes consent solely in partying situations and does not focus on the fact that consent is important in any social interaction among individuals. The organizers of Party With Consent stressed that the event is an introduction to the topic of sexual misconduct for individuals that do not think about or do not know a lot about consent.
Bringing in the entire campus to the discussion is important to Party With Consent. Past efforts of dealing with consent and sexual assault have seen the same dedicated group of mostly female students attending. By offering a conversation of consent along with copious amounts of live music, the movement can reach out to students that do not consider themselves “activists” on the issue.
“I think that resources that already exist on campus are really important, but people aren’t willing to attend them in the same way as a party,” said Blackburn. “Hopefully it will lead to people supporting movements around campus.”
While attending Party With Consent on Saturday in Chase Hall, I noticed a party that was not that different from any other Bates weekend function. There was plenty of hooking up, den-eating, and drunkenness to be had along with some great live music.
When looking at Party With Consent solely from the perspective of the party, the movement does very little to advance a culture where consent is an expectation for any social interaction. The party may have some benefits for inter-school relations and promoting student-run music.
“I can’t speak for the entire movement but the party itself was counterproductive,” said sophomore Jordan Becker. “I don’t understand what it actually accomplished; it brought up the issues without discussing them in a coherent way.”
However, Party With Consent is not really about the party, it is about the discussion that such a large campus event can generate around the issue of consent.
That is why the week-long forum this week to discuss campus culture surrounding sexual assault along with the visibility of a campus-wide party is so important because it has the chance to become the impetus for change. All movements around controversial issues have flaws, and Party With Consent certainly has them, but it does not mean that we should not support a movement that seeks to reach out to those who are otherwise under or uninformed.