With the recent time change and spring just around the corner, I’m excited and looking forward to having more sunshine and warmer weather to come soon! With that, another important time of year is also coming up: Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The national campaign for Sexual Assault Awareness Month is organized around a theme of “#IAsk” and consent in relationships, particularly as a tool of sexual violence prevention and education.
In addition, consent applies to all types of relationships (platonic, sexual, romantic, friendships, or otherwise). It is a concept specifically for navigating sexual encounters, and one generally we all engage in more often than we think in negotiating our boundaries and those of others. We all have the skills to ask for and receive permission from folks to inform our interactions with them, we just need to focus those skills and engage in open dialogue around applying them in a healthy way in sexual encounters. We also need to recognize how we also leave space for folks to feel comfortable to say no and express their hopes, needs, and desires.
In negotiating sexual activity, here is one definition we use at the SACE Office:
“Consent is a voluntary, dynamic, enthusiastic, creative, clear, informed, mutual, and honest agreement to engage in sexual activity. It is an active agreement that is a combination of words and actions. Consent can be withdrawn at anytime, and it is never implied. Neither the absence of a no nor silence mean consent was present. Finally, someone who is incapacitated cannot give consent.”
In order to normalize consent in sexual encounters, we have to make consent common practice in all aspects of our lives. If we all engage in a culture of consent, this would mean respecting and empowering folks choices to say no on a variety of fronts: an invitation to a social gathering, a request to help on a project, or even an offer to attend an event on campus. “Consent culture” is how we reimagine a world without sexual violence. Consent culture is how we challenge rape culture overall.
If you’re interested in talking more about what consent is and what it looks like, consider requesting a program from the SACE Office!
For this month, and in the future, I hope we all can think about the ways we can make consent a central lens by which we view our interactions and connections. Together, by taking these small steps we can begin to hope for a world without sexual violence and where healthy, exciting, consensual sexual encounters are commonplace.