To Hug or Not to Hug at Gettysburg College

By May 11, 2006

To say Gettysburg College’s Sexual Misconduct Policy trivializes rape and sexual assault is to exercise extreme understatement. And yet, as detailed in today’s FIRE press release, when confronted by FIRE with such a jarring trivialization, the president of this 2,500-student college replied that it was “good practice” to draw no distinction between an unsolicited hug and forced sex, as well as to leave enforcement of such a policy to the caprice of individual university administrators.

GC’s policy defines “consent” as “the act of willingly and verbally agreeing (for example, by stating ‘yes’) to engage in specific sexual conduct.” The policy defines sexual interaction not only as sex acts, but also as “brushing, touching, grabbing, pinching, patting, hugging, and kissing.” Read those two definitions again, and then ask yourself: the last time I hugged someone—anyone—did I receive a series of consenting “yeses” throughout the hug? The entire hug?

The important and difficult task of preventing and reducing sexual violence is made no easier by instituting a policy that stretches the definitions of “consent” and “sexual interaction” beyond recognition. Rape and sexual assault are, rightly, already crimes. To equate them with patting and hugging in one fell swoop, as GC’s policy does, belittles their significance, while simultaneously rendering vulnerable even the huggers among us. 

Schools: Gettysburg College