12 Tips for Honoring Consent

Consent

Over the last few months, we’ve had a lot of women come forward and share stories of how (and in some cases, who) they were sexually harassed or assaulted. The response to the #MeToo movement…varied, to say the least. Some negative responders opted not to leave their vacation home in DeNile. Others vocalized Mike Pence’s rule of women, which is to not be alone in the room with a woman without his wife holding his hand. Neither of these responses are helpful. Denial and shaming are exactly why victims don’t come forward, and the “all women are sexual pieces of meat, so don’t catch yourself alone in a room with them” theory doesn’t help women in their careers.

People, if we want the assault accusations to stop, then we need to get better at teaching consent and respect. To get the conversation started, I would like to offer twelve tips for accepting the word “no.”

1. If they don’t want to have sex with you, don’t have sex with them.

If you ignore this rule, you are committing a crime. Plain and simple.

2. Don’t try to blackmail or persuade someone to have sex, especially if they’ve already said no.

Despite what bad chick flicks and horrible fan fiction will tell you, the cat and mouse chase isn’t romantic. When people say no to sex, they mean it.

3. Ask.

Even if you don’t think it’s romantic, ask for permission before plowing through. Even if you think it’s okay to move forward, just ask. Better to be safe than sorry.

4. Don’t make the other party feel guilty for saying no.

Sex might be fun, but it’s not the only way to pass the time. And if you are that upset, try the Scream into the Void app. It’s actually quite therapeutic.

5. Catcalling isn’t flattering.

Drooling over a stranger’s body parts doesn’t make you look like a cool dude, it makes you look like an entitled prick. So stop it.

6. Work is not an appropriate place for sexual activity.

Most workplaces see romantic relationships between coworkers as conflicts of interest anyway. So contrary to what Michael Scott will tell you, the workplace is neither a dating website nor a mating ground.

7. If they’re underage, DON’T EVEN GO THERE.

It’s illegal. It’s disgusting. It’s illegal. It’s emotionally scarring. Did I mention it’s illegal? Bottom line, just don’t.

8. If they’re drunk, unconscious, or otherwise incapacitated, they aren’t in a great position to give consent.

True, we haven’t quite worked out the “what if both parties are drunk?” problem yet. All the more reason to start the conversation now.

9. Regardless of what gender you are, you’re allowed to say no to sex.

Even if you’re halfway through, you can say no. And if you’re asked for sexual favors you’re uncomfortable with, you can refuse.

10. If you are guilty of assault or harassment, don’t lie or make excuses.

Despite what some might think, human beings aren’t allergic to humility. We all need to get better at making smart choices as well as taking responsibility for our actions. And sometimes, that means admitting we did something wrong, accepting the consequences for those choices, and taking steps to make sure we don’t do it again. The more we work on it, the better we can get at it.

11. Don’t support people who’ve been accused.

Not only does it make you look bad, but it enforces an environment where victims can’t come forward. If there’s no weight to the accusations, then there’s no harm in investigating them. Better to investigate a hundred potential lies than to ignore one undeniable truth. He might be the nicest person you know, but if he’s guilty of a crime then he’s guilty of a crime.

12. Bottom line, don’t be a jerk.

Enough said.

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What Abstinence Only Doesn’t Teach

Image result for sex education

When I was in high school, I took a Family & Relationships course. At one point in the class, we talked about intercourse, protection, pregnancy, STDs, and pretty much almost everything else connected to sex. While the teacher did believe that abstinence was the best choice we could make, she acknowledged that it wasn’t the only choice. As a teacher at a Christian school she also pointed out that, even though God had a lot to say about sex, that didn’t mean we couldn’t enjoy it.

It was a great class, and I got a lot of questions answered. But I didn’t take that optional class until I was eighteen and in my last semester of high school. Until then, I was subjected to both my church and my school giving me the abstinence only view of sex. In that time, all I knew about sex was that I should avoid it as much as possible—even talking about it if I could.

We Americans have a weird way of talking about sex no matter where we go. Some communities like to avoid the topic altogether. As a result of the way we refuse to acknowledge the subject, America’s teens will often go into high school—even college—without a full understanding of sex. Sadly, this leads to unanswered questions. And in some cases, the consequences of letting these questions go unanswered are too severe not to address. Here’s just a few of those questions.

  1. What is sex?

John Oliver discussed the lack of sex education in America’s sex ed programs (link to his segment below), summarizing that it’s easier to find out what kids aren’t learning than it is to find out what kids are learning. And…yeah, that’s the best way to summarize abstinence only programs. They’ll tell you that it involves getting naked, but they don’t usually teach about protection, getting pregnant, or even what consent looks like.

  1. What’s the Appeal?

One of the questions I never got answered growing up is “if it’s so wrong, why have sex at all?” The media in particular has a strong fixation on sex. There are several factors that could explain the phenomenon, including but not limited to a) you can make almost anything appealing by forbidding it, and b) it’s a human drive—not a need, but a drive. Point is, there’s truth to the phrase “knowledge is power.”

  1. Is Shaming Okay?

On one hand, we believe that the “old-fashioned” notion doesn’t exist anymore. But it does, and it’s weird that we’d gloss over the idea of saying no. The other day, I found an ad from dating coach Matthew Hussey saying the best reply to a new acquaintance asking for a naked photo is “I think you’re mistaking me for a future version of myself who’s been on more dates with you.” Okay, but what if we don’t want to exchange naked photos at all? Come on, Hussey, let’s forget about my love life and talk about the legal and emotional importance of consent for a minute, shall we?

But on the other hand, people still make fun of you if you’ve had sex outside of marriage, whether you chose to or not. When I was in high school, a girl in my youth group was pretty popular with boys. To my knowledge, she never went beyond casual kissing. Yet my youth group leader made it seem perfectly acceptable to humiliate her for her “suggestive behavior,” turning our group into a hierarchy and saying she needed to earn her place in the clique despite already being part of the small group. That kind of non-virgin shaming isn’t just appalling in Christian communities, it’s commonplace. The sex education programs at Christian schools give students the right to compare non-virgins to dirty shoes or walking STDs.

As mentioned before, there’s a lot of other things about sex we don’t learn in sex education. The John Oliver segment—again, link below—is both funny and informative, so please check it out when you have the chance. But the point is, sex is more than just getting naked and experiencing bodily pleasure. So if we want to prepare our youth, then maybe we need to be more candid and willing to talk about it in a safe environment where kids can ask anything without fearing paranoid criticism.

Photo source: http://act4entertainment.com/issues/human-rights-civil-justice/sex-education/