Widgets Magazine

Campus groups unite to promote sexual consent awareness


A group of student organizations and University offices have collaborated on a campus-wide campaign to educate the University community on issues surrounding sexual consent.

The student-initiated campaign — led by the Women’s Community Center (WCC), Men Against Abuse Now (MAAN), the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse (SARA) and Sigma Theta Psi Multicultural Sorority — was launched at the start of this quarter to facilitate an active discourse on the subject, according to MAAN Co-President Jake Winkelman ’15.

“The idea behind it was that there are conversations had about sexual assault on campus but there isn’t always space for discourse just about consent, or having a more positive constructive conversation about consent,” Winkelman said.

To date, the campaign has mainly consisted of a brief emailed survey that asks what it means to give consent, and what it means to ask for it.

Surabhi Nirkhe ’13, social justice outreach coordinator at the WCC, said the survey has received 40 to 50 responses for each question.

“We’ve been getting a diverse range of responses,” Nirkhe said. “Initially [there were] a lot of responses that I guess you could say we support based on the stance of the Women’s Community Center and MAAN has on the issue.”

Responses are subsequently uploaded to a WordPress site, where students can read and comment on posted responses as well as add their own perspectives on consent.

“By asking students how they give consent, how they ask for it, it really encourages them to think critically about how they engage with consent and sexuality,” said Sarah Roberts ’16, a WCC staffer.

Angela Exson, director of the SARA office, pointed out that survey responses might have applications beyond simply encouraging student discourse and reflection, through allowing staff and administrators to assess progress and determine areas for improvement in dealing with consent-related issues.

“If we don’t have this common understanding or common ground around what consent is and what it entails, then it makes it more difficult for us to understand when boundaries are being crossed,” Exson said.

In the future, campaigners hope to add more content and interactive material to the website in addition to hosting some events.

“Hopefully this is the spark that starts the conversation, and we’d like to do more forms of outreach later on,” Nirkhe said.

  • Student

    This is great. I’d like to see more of this.

    To give an analogy, right now it seems like the work going into sexual assault is primarily focused on the equivalent of preventative psychology with little on the equivalent of positive psychology. As in psych, much important work is to be done on the preventative side, and perhaps the biggest problems lie in this area. However, I would also posit that more clearly explicating what healthy relationships look like deserves work too.

    Sharing intimacy with someone can be some of the high points of human experience. The sex-positive side of me would like to see more discussion and development of how to engage in a process whereby people can reach a point of mutual consent around sexual activity. To be honest, the approach I’ve taken in past relationships is just to get super slow and be kind of awkwardly explicit about it all. I conjecture that there are ways to improve this.

    Basically, I’m hugely supportive of the work that goes into preventing sexual assault, and would also like to see more work, like this event, touch upon goals relating to sexual flourishing.

  • Radioedit

    How specific must sexual consent be?

    Does each individual gesture need to be explicitly consented to, in advance? Does a man need to stop and ask in between every thrust during intercourse?

    Can’t someone just consent to the broad strokes of sexual activity? For instance, isn’t it alright to just ask if petting is acceptable? Or ask if intercourse is acceptable? You don’t honestly expect a man to stop and ask for consent every half-second, do you?