Think back to your sex education in elementary and/or high school; the awkward discussions, the diagrams and in some classes, the bananas. Did you ever talk about consent? I know my classes didn’t because I can’t recall even hearing the word. I don’t know where I learned about consent, I guess it was just always common sense to me. As rates of sexual assault rise globally, it makes you wonder just how common sense consent is.
During Reading Week, I went out dancing with a friend to celebrate being done midterms. I generally dance on my own when I go out because first, I want to and second, I find men coming up behind me and grabbing me extremely creepy. I usually tell them to go away nicely but that night, the feminist in me had a few questions.
This specific man kept trying to get me to dance with him by grabbing my waist. I said no several times and yet he persisted. He was on my last nerve so I asked him if he knew what consent was. He told me that he knew what it was and I told him he didn’t have it here. To my surprise he told me that yes; he did have my consent here.
What?! I just told you to go away several times but you think you have my consent to dance with me? Are you kidding me? I wish this was a rare tale but several people think that being on a dance floor or having a drink equates with consent. This specific young man either does not know what consent means or he just doesn’t care. Either way, that’s not good.
If this young man doesn’t understand consent on the dance floor, he probably doesn’t understand it when it comes to sex. It’s time to talk about consent; what it is, why it’s important and why on an individual level we should care. Our sex education curriculum is outdated and not doing us any favours. Let’s talk about issues around sex such as what is consent, what do healthy relationships look like and the prevalence of sexual assault. My sex education classes were divided by gender and I recall the long spiels about date rape drugs and how girls are often the victims of these crimes. They told us to not leave our drinks unattended, not to accept open drinks from others and how to cover our drinks to avoid someone slipping something in them. I wonder if the boys’ class was being taught about consent and that it’s wrong to spike girls’ drinks or if it was omitted from the curriculum.
We have a really big problem here. Sexual assault rates are high, we still live in a rape culture where the victims are blamed, 4/5 university students have experienced abusive relationships and it’s getting worse. How are we supposed to change this when people come out of school not even understanding what consent is? How are we supposed to explain sexual assault without the basic understanding of consent? Revamping the sex education curriculum needs to happen soon. It needs to reflect the times we live in and the times we live in are rape culture. All of the issues I’ve mentioned need to be talked about even if it’s uncomfortable. We’re more than willing to tell young people not to drink and drive so why not don’t rape?
It’s time to talk consent.