One of the most important lessons I learned as an undergrad wasn’t in history or philosophy class. It was something I learned outside of the classroom: It’s not rude to stand up to someone who is making you uncomfortable. You do not have to cater to them. It might seem obvious, but it’s a lesson many — girls and women especially — have to learn.

We tend to raise girls in a way that prioritizes following rules and not rocking the boat — sugar and spice and everything nice, and all that. As girls grow into adulthood, they may not have learned how to be assertive in unpleasant and demeaning situations. So what happens when you are a first-year in college and the guy you like sticks his hands up your shirt and grabs your chest on a crowded dance floor? Do you tell him this makes you uncomfortable and ask him to stop? Or do you question whether or not this is normal college behavior and freeze in panic over whether asking him to stop will upset him?

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My perspective changed my senior year when I was introduced to the concepts of sexual entitlement and “Intimate Justice.” Previously, my understanding of the dark underbelly of the college hook-up scene had relied solely on the framework of rape culture, which argues sexual violence against women has been normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Within this black-and-white framework, I knew pushing back and demanding consent as a requirement for sexual activity was key. I knew statements like “boys will be boys” and “she was asking for it” — meant to surpass moral and legal obligations to obtain consent — were B.S.

What I didn’t know was how to deal with all the gray stuff that lay beyond the basics of my right to say “yes” or “no.” I’d yet to learn that the spaces I’d inhabited in the past felt blurry because of underlying power dynamics resulting from gendered socialization I’d received since birth.

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Intimate justice takes this gendered socialization into account. Sara McClelland, Associate Professor of Psychology & Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Michigan, coined the modern term to address the ways in which “social conditions, such as racial and gender-based stereotypes and sexual stigma, impact what individuals feel they deserve in their intimate lives." This framework can prompt us to ask necessary supplemental questions like: Are both partners entitled to enjoy this experience? Is there a primary beneficiary? Are levels of expected satisfaction similar?

Read the complete article in Teen Vogue