Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ohio State University consent policy

I was born at Ohio State University hospital (now known as the Wexner Medical Center). I have not spent hardly any time in Ohio other than when my family used to have Kings Island season passes while I was growing up in Indiana. I have never visited the university or Columbus, Ohio itself during any time that I can recall. I haven't been that interested in anything having to do with Ohio State University except for when they were playing the Hoosiers in a basketball game. However, some recent news from OSU caught my attention.

The Student Wellness Center section on the OSU website has a page dedicated to consent as relates to sexual activity. Their definition of consent is as follows: "The act of knowingly, actively and voluntarily agreeing explicitly to engage in sexual activity. Consent must be freely given and can be withdrawn at any time.” Sounds fair enough, right? Problems don’t start arising (no pun intended) until farther down the page. Under the heading that reads, “Circumstances in which a person cannot LEGALLY give consent (No matter what he or she might verbalize):” one of the circumstances reads, “The person is physically or developmentally disabled.”

When I first heard this and read it for myself, I couldn't believe it. Under this rule, a person is incapable of giving consent in any type of romantic situation if they are physically disabled. I am not offended by much and in fact probably have offended more people than I care to count, but as a physically disabled person, there is something seriously wrong when a university or a state (since this did say “legally”) says that physically disabled people are incapable of agreeing with someone they love to be involved in intimate activity.

Obviously from a biblical perspective, the only way in which any kind of sexual activity is permissible is within a marriage relationship to someone of the opposite sex. I can’t believe we now live in a day where I have to specify that it must be someone of the opposite gender, but--in the words of Sophia on The Golden Girls--”I digress” since the non-consent portion of the OSU policy applies to married couples as well. “It does not matter if it is a current long-term relationship, a broken relationship, or marriage.” So I am not defending the rights of fornicators by bringing this topic up, nor do I make it a habit of being defined by my disability. I know people who are defined by their disability rather than who they are and it sickens me, but it is equally sickening to me when a person or governing body arbitrarily decides that someone with a handicap is not capable of thinking for and making decisions for themselves.

I would hope that OSU will get enough complaints that the consent policy would be at least slightly modified to reflect the concerns mentioned in this post as I am sure there are disabled people on their campus that could be negatively affected by this. If not now, then the door is wide open for it to happen in the future. I would also hope that anyone who reads this will not make assumptions on the abilities of a physically disabled person to think for themselves the next time you encounter one. It’s a shame that an institution of higher learning such as OSU did not give their disabled students that courtesy.