The Antioch Rules’ Sexual Offence Prevention Policy

The 1991 “Antioch Rules,” created by a group called Womyn of Antioch, became the punch line of the ’90s, especially after it was mocked in the shockingly topical and shrewdly written 1993 SNL skit “Is it Date Rape?” (transcript here; sample: “Dean Frederick Whitcomb: Welcome, players. Let’s take a look at our board. The categories are: “Halter Top”; “She Was Drunk”; “I Was Drunk”; “Kegger”; “Off-Campus Kegger”; “She Led Me On”; “I Paid For Dinner”: and “Ragin’ Kegger”. Alright. Ariel, you’re our champion, the board is yours.”). I couldn’t find the skit on YouTube, so here instead is Nirvana doing “Rape Me” on SNL.

Even at my most radicalized, I too thought it was hilarious that people in the Antioch community would have to say, “May I touch your right breast?” before going to second base. There was something fascist and breatakingly humorless about this womyn’s group who insisted a person be hauled before a board if he kissed someone without getting explicit permission first. How passionate could making out in a dorm be if you had to keep your legal brain engaged the whole time?

But, inspired by Shayla’s testimony, I just went back and actually looked at the Sexual Offence Prevention Policy, also called the SOP or the SOPP. And you know what? It’s super interesting. The thing I think is really significant is that in it, date rape was “uniquely viewed any sexual offense as not simply a violation of the victim’s rights, but as an offense against the entire campus community.”

Here’s the part on consent; the whole thing is here:

Consent is defined as the act of willingly and verbally agreeing to engage in specific sexual conduct. The following are clarifying points:

  • Consent is required each and every time there is sexual activity.
  • All parties must have a clear and accurate understanding of the sexual activity.
  • The person(s) who initiate(s) the sexual activity is responsible for asking for consent.
  • The person(s) who are asked are responsible for verbally responding.
  • Each new level of sexual activity requires consent.
  • Use of agreed upon forms of communication such as gestures or safe words is acceptable, but must be discussed and verbally agreed to by all parties before sexual activity occurs.
  • Consent is required regardless of the parties’ relationship, prior sexual history, or current activity (e.g. grinding on the dance floor is not consent for further sexual activity).
  • At any and all times when consent is withdrawn or not verbally agreed to, the sexual activity must stop immediately.
  • Silence is not consent.
  • Body movements and non-verbal responses such as moans are not consent.
  • A person can not give consent while sleeping.
  • All parties must have unimpaired judgement (examples that may cause impairment include but are not limited to alcohol, drugs, mental health conditions, physical health conditions).
  • All parties must use safer sex practices.
  • All parties must disclose personal risk factors and any known STIs. Individuals are responsible for maintaining awareness of their sexual health.
These requirements for consent do not restrict with whom the sexual activity may occur, the type of sexual activity that occurs, the props/toys/tools that are used, the number of persons involved, the gender(s) or gender expressions of persons involved.

You can see a telling little 1993 message board discussion of the SOP here.

Now that I’m looking at it I think it’s sad that the soul of the policy — this idea of a community together trying to prevent sexual abuse, even by extreme methods — was dismissed as categorically repressive and insane.


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14 responses to “The Antioch Rules’ Sexual Offence Prevention Policy

  1. Remember Riot Girl, and then remember how the media ran with it and twisted it and made it into this crazy thing? That’s what you should do with what you think you know about the “Antioch Rules”. As I remember it, it came about after 2 or 3 people were raped one semester. It had been in effect for 3 years or so before the media discovered it and blew it into a big, horrible, giant set of permissions and oversight.
    As we all followed it, it broke down to this: if you weren’t both mutually going for it, you had to state your intentions aloud, and the other person had to answer. Pretty much “I want to kiss you” and then (possibly)later “I want to have sex with you”. It gave people too shy to speak their mind an opportunity to say no, and it CERTAINLY didn’t stop any consensual sex from happening. Or orgies, etc. It was completely orientation/gender neutral, and in my time there I only heard about a few people being brought to the SOP, only one was a straight man.
    Keep in mind this is a tiny campus, full of mostly smart weirdos, with no fraternities or college sports teams, narrative evaluations instead of grades, unlocked doors to the dorms, unisex bathrooms full of condoms, dental dams AND finger cots, a few single gender dorms but mostly co-ed even in the rooms, situationist food co-ops, beer-drinking pagans, frequent admin building takeovers, protesting the Contract With America, incessant discussions about gender politics, the coming apocalypse, mayan linguistics, etc. It just asked that you really think and talk about what you wanted to do in a sexual context with someone, to set the ground rules, essentially. Mostly it was the boys at Antioch who would receive aggressive unwanted attention, since an unattached, attractive straight man was basically a unicorn. The SOP protected them as much as everyone else. When it swept through the media and everyone assumed this “protect the delicate flower of womanhood” shit I remember were all horrified. And that SNL skit was an abomination.
    Interestingly when Rohypnol (Roofies) hit campus and swept through in the mid 90s, they were never used there as a date rape drug, just something that you took and drank and it made you SUPER wasted.
    /end rant

  2. I remember *we* were all horrified

  3. Schala

    If I was on this campus, with my now 1 year old relationship boyfriend, whom we agree to have somewhat kinky sex together, I would think it was repressive.

    We get drunk once or twice a week. The code doesn’t mention at what point impairment is attained, only that alcohol and drugs cause it. The nebulousness of it could cause problems.

    He likes sleep-sex, which I agreed to. I can only consent in advance (before sleeping), yet I don’t consider myself violated for not having a voice when it actually occurs.

    Blindfold sex can also occur, where I don’t see what happens, yet I wouldn’t think of asking him to stop, even if I can’t consent in the traditional sense (if I’m not seeing what’s happening, I’m not an informed-consenter).

    Same for bondage, where my movement is restricted and where I can’t physically remove myself. And I prefer not knowing in advance exactly what will happen, just that I agreed to it in general and voice concerns about it happening this time if I have any (bruises, health issues and other reasons not to do that activity now).

    We don’t ask to kiss, hug, touch sexually etc each other. And we like it that way. If I don’t want to be touched, or he doesn’t, we will say so when it’s relevant.

    Neither of us want to date other people and we prefer being exclusive to each other. We know what each other likes and talk about it in our own time…just usually not during the act. Talking is a turn-off during the act for both of us, only done when needed.

  4. John Mann

    Before contributing financially to the rebirth of Antioch, I’m waiting to see whether its new form will be free of the repulsive requirement to yammer one’s way step by step through any sexual experience. I can imagine nothing better than such a policy if the goal is to deter as many young people as possible from applying for admission. Human sexuality doesn’t work that way. It never has and it never will, because it is far too important to be entrusted to the fallacies and obsessions that haunt the symbolic mind.

    and requiring otherwise is guaranteed to drive off young people

  5. John Mann

    Sorry about that dangling last line. Please feel free to delete it and this also.

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  7. Elliott Lauderdale

    From folks I have known at Antioch, despite SNL or worse Rush Limbaugh have to say about unnatural talking or honest espression on desire, they had more and better sex in Antioch.

  8. I attended Antioch during the final year before closing, and took part in Nonstop Antioch as well. My observation was that the SOPP was probably the most popular program on campus, even among students who questioned other affirmative action programs on campus. Even the new owners, who in their actions have demonstrated nothing but contempt (if not hatred) for the Antioch I attended and everything it stood for, were quick to institute my college’s SOPP because they saw the merit of it.

    In rhetoric and in practice, the campus community was very sex positive at the time. As the old Antioch survival guide put it “the spirit of the policy is ‘yes.'” The point is not to police sexuality, but to provide a framework for consensual interaction that breaks with the patriarchal script. It’s more important to stick to the spirit of the policy than the letter (though if you’re ever in a situation where you’re unsure about happening, going by the letter might be a good idea).

    For myself, as a straight white male who has always had an interest in feminism, the SOPP came as a revelation: I’d learned a lot about all the things I was not supposed to do, but now for the first time was a positive framework for interacting with women I’m attracted to. It probably changed my life.

    I’ve also taken the principles of the SOPP and extended them to nonsexual situations. So, for instance, I will often give hugs freely among close friends and loved ones because I have a sense of what is and is not okay with them, but when it’s someone I only know a little bit (not enough to gauge their comfort level) if I want to hug them, I just ask if they’d like that. Often (not always) they’ll say yes, and you know something? it’s a really nice feeling.

  9. Reblogged this on How to be a better husband or boyfriend and commented:
    This policy, when distilled down into its essence, provides an excellent framework for improving communication and intimacy within a couple.

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  12. The issue that single men, on that campus, were Unicorns on the campus it developed on, and it was for their protection as much as Shayla noted. However today, single men as rare is the general rule on many campuses, because they are outnumbered heavily by single women (1.5 to 1 which means if 75% of the men are dating it leaves 3 to 1 in the singles) however the one group that has zero protection is men, and it is their guilt that is presumed. It is presumed that it would always be men initiating, even though sex drive among women is as or nearly as great, and men have much broader opportunity.

    It is the effective assumption that it is only and ever men that need to get consent that is a huge part of the issue. As it is, young women are in effect being taught regardless of who did what, if he did not have your consent when you jumped him – it is his fault.

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  14. Pingback: Rape and Confessions | Sherry F. Colb | Verdict | Legal Analysis and Commentary from Justia

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