Copyright (c) 1996 The American University Journal of Gender & the Law
The American University Journal of Gender & the Law
ARTICLE: GETTING TO YES: THE CASE AGAINST BANNING CONSENSUAL RELATIONSHIPS IN HIGHER EDUCATION
4 Am. U. J. Gender & Law 269
Sherry Young *
In most legal contexts, we have finally arrived at a consensus that a competent adult woman's expressed desire not to have sex shall be conclusive on the issue of whether she consented to a sexual contact. The popular form of this idea is the notion that "no means no." Unfortunately, there is no similar consensus that "yes means yes." Instead, there has been much debate about when the expressed consent of a competent adult to sexual contact should be considered legally ineffective. Many contend that expressed consent to sexual relationships between professionals and their patients/clients should be considered legally ineffective, and that such unions should be prohibited. 1 Colleges and universities are now debating the need for policies that prohibit consensual sexual relationships between professors and students. 2
Although prohibitions on professional-client sexual relationships are ostensibly gender-neutral, most supporters concede that the intent of the restrictions is to protect women clients from male professionals. 3 The paternalistic character of the restrictions has not generated much opposition, even though it has been acknowledged that:
by creating an absolute presumption of harm, the legislature implicitly decides that a woman "will always be incapable of giving informed consent to a sexual relationship" once she comes under the domineering influence of a male professional. 4
Instead, the proponents of consensual relationship policies in higher education enthusiastically endorsed the incapacity argument. Analogizing students to children molested by parents, 5 and to mental patients undergoing psychotherapy, 6 proponents claim that there ...
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