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The Mass Media

The Healthy Dose #012: Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Sexual Assault Awareness Month

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and in preparation for what’s to come this month, I wanted to give a crash course introduction to the concepts of consent.

Quick content warning: Some of what I’m about to write might be somewhat uncomfortable to read for survivors of sexual violence. It might be uncomfortable to read for others who will read what I’m going to say about consent and feel some sort of way about it. And to those of you feeling those sorts of ways—just listen.

And keep in mind: the long-standing statistic is that one-in-four women and one-in-six men will be the victim of some form of sexual violence during their time in college.

What is consent?

Simply: consent is when someone agrees to do something, or gives permission for someone to do something to or with them.

In terms of the context of sex, consent is when someone agrees to do something sexual with you, or when you agree to do something sexual with someone else.

Okay. Still with me?

Because here is where I might lose some folks—consent must be reaffirmed for anything and everything you do with a sexual partner. And in order to give and receive consent, it must enthusiastic!

Enthusiastic consent is not “maybe,” or “I don’t know,” or “I’m not sure.”

Enthusiastic consent is “yes.”

If the answer is not “yes,” it’s a no—however, I will also accept “sure.” Yet even then, it might be safe to just check in and make sure before moving forward.

What consent comes down to is communication.

It’s important to talk about what you like, don’t like, and what you’re willing to try—and that might mean someone wants to try it eventually, but not right that moment. And your role as a sexual partner is to NEVER pressure them into doing that thing until they are ready and give you a “yes, let’s try this.”

Now, what is not consent?

Note: this is where I need folks to really pay attention.

Consent is not persuasion.

If you have to persuade your partner into sexual activity, you do not have consent.

If you have to pressure or even worse, force, your partner into sexual activity, you do not have consent. And chances are, you have committed sexual assault.

That’s reality.

If you do not have consent, you are committing sexual assault.

Also, consent cannot be given if someone is intoxicated. Even if BOTH parties are intoxicated, consent cannot be legally given. Even if consent is given at the beginning of a sexual encounter, and then someone becomes intoxicated, it is not legally consent.

This is not a blurred line. This is the fact of how to know how to obtain consent.

Consent must be reaffirmed before and during each sexual act.

It shouldn’t kill the mood, so don’t think of it that way—simply ask, “can I do this now?” And if you have enthusiastic consent, proceed and do the deed.

But if there is apprehension, do not proceed.

Again, if there is any apprehension, read that sign, heed that message, and stop.

This is very important, not only for maintaining a good relationship with your sexual partner. In addition to that, it will also allow the two of you—or three, or four—to build a lot of respect and care for each other.

One final note:

Consent can be revoked at any time—anyone has the right to rescind their consent at any point during sexual activity, for whatever reason. And it is our job to listen to this and understand that this is okay.

Do not try to persuade or coerce—just let it go.

Because when you listen to the desires of your partner, it ensures a safe interaction that will possibly even open up the opportunity for further opportunities for sexual activity in the future!

Now, if you’d like to get involved with any of the events for SAAM, know that there are two film screenings happening next week. On April 18, we will show the film, “The Invisible War” in the ISC in room 3300; this film covers sexual assault in the military. And on April 19, we will show the film, “Yeah Maybe No,” which focuses on male survivors of sexual violence. That film will be shown in Campus Center in room 2540—both films will start at 5 p.m., and both events will include discussions afterwards.

We are also hosting a discussion on Bystander Intervention at 1 p.m. on April 25 in the Point Lounge on the third floor of the Campus Center.

Also, Take Back the Night takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 24 in the Ryan Lounge on the Third Floor of McCormack!
Lastly, there will be a sex-positive comedy night on April 27, starting at 6 p.m. in the Snowden Auditorium in Wheatley Hall. This comedy night will feature the Not Ready for Bedtime Players, a sex-positive theatre troupe from UMass Amherst, and will also include local Boston transgender comedian. Erin Spencer. So be on the look-out for that event as well!