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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: We need to talk about consent all year, not just at Valentine’s Day

If you haven’t checked your email in a while, now might be a good time to catch up.

Last week, all first-year UA students were emailed about the approaching deadline to complete their Title IX training. Title IX is part of a constitutional amendment that protects against discrimination in any educational setting. The online training provided information on how to recognize and handle sexual harassment and consent.

While people generally understand that sexual harassment isn’t OK, it’s the conversation about consent that tends to exist in a gray area.

For example, how can consent be given through body language if non-verbal communication is subject to misinterpretation? What happens if one party changes his or her mind? What if alcohol is involved?

These are the reasons why sex education is crucial, even at the college level, when it’s no longer simply about the birds and the bees. Perhaps the topic is especially important now, since mid-February (I’m looking at you, Valentine’s Day) is a common time of the year to hook up. Giving and receiving the OK to proceed with any sexual act is vital to the comfort and safety of everyone involved.

While the training may seem like a hassle to some, it’s certainly worth the time. It doesn’t hurt to make sure your understanding about consent is solid and to remind yourself what constitutes as sexual harassment and assault. These encompass everything from an unwanted touch to entrance into sex without permission.

Additionally, the training holds students accountable for their actions. After completion, sexual harassment cannot be defended by ignorance. There’s no longer any excuse to not knowing if a behavior is inappropriate. The training provides students with the tools they need to prevent the construction of an inappropriate situation. Should such a situation occur, it is clear that the instigator is at fault.

At the UA, the discussion on consent and sexual harassment doesn’t stop at the Title IX training. Just last week, campus was home to a series of events that supported the “I Will” campaign in its endeavors to combat rape culture. Events included workshops, presentations and talks, and a booth on the mall where students and faculty could sign the “I Will” pledge, a promise to raise awareness of sexual assault and promote consent. Fortunately, the UA isn’t alone in working toward this feat. Programs like “I Will” and consent and sexual harassment education are happening at college campuses all across the nation.

These sorts of events are beneficial to the health and wellness of the student body and community at the UA. They create a safe space to learn about and discuss these important topics, as well as help keep the conversation alive and strong among a demographic in which sexual activity is relatively common. In some cases, the term “consent” is introduced to an individual’s vocabulary for the very first time. Again, the topic may seem natural to many at the surface, but because so much goes into understanding true consent, it’s vital that the idea is publicly promoted.

While there may not be a solid formula for figuring out if your partner is giving consent, there’s a sure-fire way to avoid misreading a signal: just ask. There shouldn’t be any shame in making sure the other party is comfortable. You shouldn’t be worried about killing the mood by asking, “is this OK?” When it comes to sex, better safe than sorry.

The UA is doing an incredibly good thing by requiring the completion of Title IX training, coupled with campaigns like “I Will.” In fact, these events should occur with more frequency, rather than being condensed into a single week of the year. Understanding boundaries in sex is absolutely critical every day, not just around Valentine’s Day. It would be encouraging to see more events take place and more students participating – making UA an increasingly safe and non-threatening educational environment.

So the next time you hook up, make sure to ask and clearly give consent. Let’s respect each other and always keep each other safe during sex — not just on Valentine’s Day. 

Follow Rhiannon Bauer on Twitter

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