by Cheyanne Llanos Bare, Coordinator of the WLC
Trigger Warnings: Mentions of sexual assault and rape
The era of #MeToo has opened our eyes to the experiences and stories of countless survivors, as well as the realization that rape culture is extremely prevalent in our society. Yet there remain lingering questions over what constitutes sexual harassment and assault.
The answer lies in consent.
The problem is that many of us have not had conversations or received formal education around consent. Only 8 states require sex education classes to mention consent, so we are often navigating the waters of consent, boundaries, and healthy relationships without a guide. This leaves plenty of opportunity for misinterpretation and miscommunication. For example, a 2015 Planned Parenthood survey found that people varied greatly in what they believe indicated consent.
Actions that respondents “strongly agree” indicate consent include:
• Taking off their own clothes (35%)
• Getting a condom (37%)
• Nodding in agreement (24%)
• Engaging in foreplay (22%)
• Not saying ‘no’ (19%)
Conversely, between 12% and 13% of people indicated that they “strongly disagree” these same behaviors indicate consent, with a full 20% of people indicating they “strongly disagree” that not saying ‘no’ is giving consent. The survey concludes: With such varying opinions on what indicates consent we are at risk of miscommunication as well as assault.
It’s clear that education around consent is a crucial next step.
“Consent is the basis and foundation for all healthy and respectful relationships and interactions,” said Jessy Spinney, YWCA Sexual Assault Prevention Specialist. “Everyone should feel like they understand what consent really means and why it’s important. Creating a culture of consent is crucial to preventing interpersonal violence and creating safer communities.”
Planned Parenthood provides a handy acronym for defining consent, FRIES:
• Freely given. Doing something sexual with someone is a decision that should be made without pressure, force, manipulation, or while drunk or high.
• Reversible. Anyone can change their mind about what they want to do, at any time. Even if you’ve done it before or are in the middle of having sex.
• Informed. Be honest. For example, if someone says they’ll use a condom and then they don’t, that’s not consent.
• Enthusiastic. If someone isn’t excited, or really into it, that’s not consent.
• Specific. Saying yes to one thing (like going to the bedroom to make out) doesn’t mean they’ve said yes to others (like oral sex).
While FRIES offers a comprehensive definition for consent, it is important to recognize that the learning doesn’t stop there. Normalizing and developing the skills to discuss consent with a partner, recognizing nonverbal cues, and checking in on your partner are paramount to consent. To engage in the next steps people can practice consent conversations with loved ones (including youth and teens), speak to their representative, and encourage their state to make consent education mandatory in schools. One local resource for our community is to join the Women’s Leadership Center for Taking Action: Creating a Culture of Consent:
Taking Action: Creating a Culture of Consent
Mondays and Wednesdays, November 26 – December 5
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
Registration available at: ywcaclarkcounty.org/wlc ($25 student rate and partial pay scholarships are available)
Raise your voice, develop skill to take action, and recognize your valuable contributions in creating a culture of consent. In this 4 session series we will define, explore, and develop an action plan for each of the following themes:
- Defining Consent: Framing the discussion for the series and defining consent.
- Strengthening Safety: Examine our right to emotional, mental, and physical safety while developing skills to empower others to do the same.
- Communicating Boundaries: Explore our own self-awareness of boundaries and develop skills to explicitly communicate those boundaries.
- Incorporating Technology: Apply themes of consent, safety, and boundaries and explore ways to utilize technology to create a culture of consent.
From this series you will take away and in- depth understanding of the role each theme plays in your life, relationships, and society. In addition, you will have expanded knowledge and gained skills to lead conversations around consent and to take action, creating a culture of consent.