YELLOW SPRINGS, OHIO -- Fear blazes in Justin Wilks's eyes. "I'm 6 feet 3, 208 pounds, black, and I feel threatened."

There's a thundering emphasis on the last word. Even though the lunchtime crowd here at the Winds -- one of the finer off-campus eateries in Yellow Springs, home of Antioch College -- seems genial and non-threatening, Wilks casts a wary eye over the nose-ring-and-Birkenstock set before he goes on.

"It's tough being a guy at Antioch," the freshman says. "It's like you've got an automatic strike against you. When I first got here, we had to go to these workshops on the sexual conduct policy, which they say is supposed to improve communication about sex.

"But the first thing they do is separate the women and men. Then they go over this thing point by point, with a real threatening edge. The message was, like, 'All men are predators.' I got up and left." He sighs, shakes his head. "Men walk a thin line here."

Indeed, many students have been on edge since the stories broke this fall about Antioch's sexual offense policy -- the one that says the initiator of libidinous activities must ask for a partner's verbal consent for each sexual act. The policy, first proposed three years ago by a feminist group calling itself Womyn of Antioch, seems to have provided women a measure of security and respect. If nothing else, the policy has sensitized men to issues of sexual harassment and date rape. "I've had a lot of people come to me and tell me they're practicing the policy," says Karen Hall, Antioch's curiously titled sexual offense advocate.

But the policy has also divided the campus and made Antioch something of a national joke. Wilks says he knows of no one who asks for consent "every step of the way." As another student so eloquently put it: "I ask a girl if she wants to have sex, and if she says yes, I get busy." Senior Jenny Schwam, a lesbian, says of the policy: "It's got its good and bad points. But it sure does slow down an orgy."

No one has stopped having sex, of course -- you might just as soon attempt to legislate an end to breathing. Sex has always been a big part of life here at the "boot camp of the revolution," as this small liberal arts school (enrollment 650) has been known in some circles since the radical '60s. "I'd say this is probably the horniest campus in the Midwest," says one male student.

Almost everywhere you turn on the Antioch campus, you can obtain a condom. Free condoms in the bathrooms. Condoms in the student government and dean of students offices, there for the taking. Blizzards of handbills depicting proper use of condoms.

"Free love still goes on here," says Wilks. "But maybe not like the '60s."

No, in the '90s, love is a bit more complicated, and not just because condoms are involved. Seduction has always been a contest between control and abandon; that's part of its sweet, tantalizing mystery. At Antioch, the recklessness, surrender and regret inherent in human sexual congress have been codified into a nine-page policy.

To wit: "Obtaining consent is an ongoing process in any sexual interaction. Verbal consent should be obtained with each new level of physical and/or sexual contact/conduct in any given interaction, regardless of who initiates it. Asking 'Do you want to have sex with me?' is not enough. The request for consent must be specific to each act."

And just because you've had "a particular level of sexual intimacy before with someone, you must still ask each and every time," the policy warns.

The policy governs offenses ranging from rape to "non-disclosure of a known sexually transmitted disease." It applies to both sexes, to faculty and administrators as well as students, and it establishes a quasi-judicial process and various punishments, including expulsion.

All the media attention over Antioch's sexual offense policy might make you think it's brand new. In fact, the policy has been in effect since fall 1992. It's just that nobody off campus noticed it until this semester.

And so far, not one student has charged another with a violation.

Helpful or Hysterical?

It's a cold Tuesday afternoon, and once again, senior David Yagobian is talking to yet another reporter. A self-described "classical liberal" ("It sounds nicer than what he really is, a conservative," says a fellow student), Yagobian -- a conventional-looking nice Jewish boy wearing a yarmulke -- is already an ideological heretic by Antioch standards. So acting as the longstanding critic of "the policy" comes easy for him.

The whole thing started, he recalls, after two reported rapes in fall 1990. While Antioch had a policy stating that complaints could be made to the dean of students, there was no clear-cut process for adjudication or punishment. The possibility of a charge getting lost in the shuffle, Yagobian says, struck a chord with certain elements of "the community" -- Antioch-speak for its socialist-style collective of students, faculty and staff who vote on major issues.

Even before the revolutionary '60s, Antioch was governed mainly by its students. But the power structure was male, and men tended to set the sexual agenda. Today almost 70 percent of Antioch's student body is female. And according to Lisa Birnbach, author of "The New and Improved College Book," "homosexuals, particularly the women, have a lot of clout" on campus.

Then came the policy proposed by the Womyn (who have since left Antioch). According to Yagobian -- perhaps the longest-standing critic of the policy -- the first-draft code was rife with procedural and constitutional problems. "The accused would have no right to representation and wouldn't even know exactly what he was being accused of," he says. "And the guilt or innocence of the accused would be decided by the person who was acting as advocate for the alleged victim."

In Yagobian's view, the whole approach was hysterical.

"This small group of radical feminists decreed that you were either pro-policy or pro-rape. If anyone raised any civil liberties points, they would be like, 'What are you worried about?' " he says.

Women viewed the code not as particularly anti-male but as a form of consciousness-raising. "We felt vulnerable," says senior Christian Feurstein. "A lot of students who entered that quarter didn't come back, because the community was being ripped apart. {The code} helped the community band together."

In early 1991, the community voted to adopt the policy, with the understanding that "it was a living document, something that needed to be revised and would be worked on," says Marian Jensen, dean of students. After more than a year of debate in weekly community meetings, the college voted to institute the policy in its current form.

Media Overkill

"So much of the left lacks a sense of humor," sighs Nick Szurbela. "One of my main concerns about the policy is, you can't take {criticism of} it so seriously. You have to have a sense of humor about this."

Most everyone else is in class or studying right now, but even on this cool day, a few students are scattered around Antioch's main quad. "It's blatantly intellectual," Szurbela, a third-year student, says of the policy. "That's a reflection of this community. I mean, if you were to propose to take this to a city, you'd be laughed at."

His friend Randy Reiss looks up. "We've been contacted by over 150 other schools for details on the policy, and actually, that makes me a little uncomfortable," he says. "People need to understand, this was written for our campus, within a context. This is definitely not a policy that Ohio State can just take and use."

Szurbela nods. "But at least this was a case where the students took their anger and did something constructive with it," he says. "I'm not a full supporter of this policy, but it does lead to opportunities for discourse."

However, much to the displeasure of this tight-knit society, most of the recent "discourse" has been framed by the barrage of media coverage. In addition to reporters from Switzerland and the United Kingdom, numerous domestic correspondents and camera crews have descended on the campus, resulting in a distinct anti-media backlash.

"I talked to a student the other day who said that the media have been like a common enemy everyone's joined forces against," says Anne Danahay, editor of the Antioch Community Record, the school paper. "For the most part, reporters have been coming here with their stories already written."

Apparently the notion of wandering journalists didn't sit well with the community; in a move that puts Antioch on par with the U.S. military during the Persian Gulf War, reporters are not allowed to freely roam the campus but must be accompanied by a "host" at all times. While the majority of visiting scribes have honored this policy, one reporter for the Daily Mail, a London tabloid, found himself in dire straits after returning to the campus unaccompanied.

"He broke every rule," recalls Kristine Herman, the reporter's escort. "He snuck into the dorms and was taking pictures of people asleep with each other. And he always had this group of girls with him, telling them that the English love American girls, and that's why he was taking so many pictures."

After several students demanded that the Daily Mail rep fork over his film, the guy made a beeline for his car, where he was surrounded by a small crowd of hostile Antiochians. "He drove through the crowd to make his getaway," one student said. "It was crazy."

When some Newsweek representatives showed up at the student union building, they were met with chants of "Out, demons, out!" One student, Gerry Bello, didn't warm to the idea of having his picture in a national magazine, so he got naked and started yelling obscenities at the photographer.

"They said they were going to take my picture anyway," Bello later told the Record. "So I made sure they wouldn't be able to use it." After several students complained about Bello's actions, he apologized to the community for his tactics aimed at "removing reporters from the campus."

Blame It on the Vegetarians

As he stalks across the Antioch College campus, his mood as bitter as the weather, Greg Powers angrily shakes his head. "It's the damn vegetarians," he mutters.

"We were going to have a goat and pig roast yesterday, and the only vegetable I was going to serve was beer," he explains. "So all these liberal vegetarians got upset, and the community voted that unless I get some other vegetable, we can't have this thing."

He snorts. "So now I have to get a keg and a bag of carrots."

As he approaches the student union building, a few female students glare at him; he loudly carries on, venting spleen about "the surgical removal of men's spines" at Antioch, and bemoaning the demise of traditional liberalism. Powers, 26, majors in something called "social justice." When he attended a community college in Dayton, "everybody would give me {expletive} for being 'too liberal,' so I came here," he says. "Now I'm not liberal -- or radical -- enough for people here. It's crazy, man."

Seconds later, after making his way through the graffiti-covered hallways of the Antioch Union's second floor, Powers stops and unlocks a door. "Here it is," he says. "The Boneyard."

It's an average-size room, its walls adorned with beer posters featuring busty women and slogans that appear to have been inspired by Robert Bly. ("I support the preservation of machismo.") A boombox cranks out the Rolling Stones' "Some Girls" album. According to Powers, a number of Antioch women consider this room -- "the only safe refuge for men on this campus" -- on par with a Serbian rape hotel.

"Ever since I came here, certain women have complained that I 'intimidate' them, just by the way I walk," Powers says. "I would have women yell at me for holding doors open for them. It was amazing."

Antioch has a wide variety of student organizations, which are supported with student government money. Last spring the community reluctantly sanctioned the Boneyard.

"Basically it's about 30 guys who get together, talk and drink beer. And y'know what? It drives females here crazy. They hate it," says Powers, who, as "Bonemaster," leads the group. "Some have actually said we shouldn't be allowed to exist because just by getting together, we're 'threatening' and 'intimidating' them. It's okay for every other group to get together, except us." Powers says that although he didn't take an active role in the debate on the sex policy ("They wouldn't let me drink beer at the meetings"), he thinks it goes way too far: "Just saying 'no means no' would have been enough."

Female Bonding

Since the code went into effect, it hasn't been tested, largely because students are hesitant to file a formal complaint that could result in a fellow student's dismissal. Dean of Students Jensen says everything has been handled informally -- so far.

"I've got people coming to me every Monday saying, 'Hey, this happened to me, is it a violation of the policy?' " says Jensen. "So I explain the options. A lot of students go take care of {a problem} themselves. Sometimes I'm asked to mediate, and I've had some pretty candid discussions. I've had male students come to me and complain about unwanted attention from a female. What we're trying to do here is get people to communicate about sex."

First-year student Suzanne Menair says the policy figures somewhat into the dating ritual. "My experience has been, people will talk about the policy with you, if they're interested in you," she says. "It's kind of like part of courtship."

There are less subtle approaches. In fact, brawny freshman Justin Wilks says a group of Antioch women who call themselves the Bushwhackers have targeted him for "a good time."

"The Bushwhackers, they're this group led by Greg Powers's girlfriend, kind of like a female Boneyard," says Wilks. "Some of 'em get drunk and go after guys. They've got a list of guys they want to have sex with. They left a note on my door saying, 'You're next, big boy.' "

Head Bushwhacker Noel Hensley disavows knowledge of such activities, but says her organization is rapidly expanding. "There's about 25 of us now," she says. "We sit, talk, drink -- female bonding stuff. We're not the type who feel comfortable, or wanted, by the crowd that hangs out in the Women's Center."

She smiles. "Oh, and Greg and I break the rules daily."