Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Importance of Consent

Reading this article by Hugo Schwyzer reminded me of the importance that consent has for everyone in maintaining a healthy sexual relationship. Honest and enthusiastic consent should be something that all participants of a sexual experience seek to ensure; unfortunately, as Schwyzer mentions, there is often a more gray area between "YES!" and "NO!" that leads to serious issues for people.

Men, in particular, are often given harmful messages about pursuing sex. One such message is that all women generally want sex, they just need to be convinced of it. This in turn leads to various degrees of pressure that are put on their partners; while I think most men are acting with good intentions fueled by a screwed-up message, the fact of the matter is that any sort of coercion used in having sex is by definition a lack of consent since it goes against a partner's wishes. No one should ever have to feel pressured into a situation in which he or she is not comfortable.

Another unfortunate message that men receive is that unless a partner flat-out says "No," then they are giving some form of consent. This is a dangerous idea to instill in men because oftentimes a partner might not feel comfortable expressing a firm rejection. As Schwyzer says, "It’s tougher to say 'not yet, I’m not quite ready' or 'slow down' or 'maybe later' to someone to whom you’re genuinely attracted." Part of maintaining a healthy relationship is open and honest communication, and being able to confidently give or not give consent is something that is part of that necessary communication.

In my capacity as Men's Outreach Coordinator, I try to educate men and women about consent and what it really means, whether it is at a Healthy Love Party, part of Violence Awareness Week, or any other Women's Center function related to healthy relationships. I know that the overwhelming majority of men are good people who are disgusted by the idea of sexual assault; the mixed messages about sex that are sent to them by our society or by the media are the real issues that I am targeting when I talk about consent. By better understanding the mechanics of consent and putting them into play in our lives, we can all be one step closer to reducing instances of unwanted sex in our society.

Remember, consent is SEXY!

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