Opinion

Let’s talk about consent

The Vanguard would like to commend Speak About It, the organization behind the sex and healthy relationships presentation juniors and seniors watched on February 12, for an effective performance. The presentation attached positive connotations to consent, presented helpful solutions to risky situations, and felt accessible.

Speak About It characterized consent as an empowering opportunity to make decisions about one’s body rather than an opening for a verbal shutdown to be voiced during an awkward or unwanted sexual encounter. One skit featured a woman whose sexual partner continuously asked her if she would like to go further instead of making progressively more intense moves without checking in. This scene connected consent to positive terms and reframed it as an opportunity for someone to say “yes”—a better approach than the negative “no means no” mantra traditionally taught.

While some may consider asking for consent difficult because it could ruin a moment, create an awkward situation, or make the inquisitor vulnerable to rejection, The Vanguard believes that Speak About It’s positive characterization of consent alleviated some of the stress surrounding asking. The performance encouraged students to view consent as a chance to improve a hook-up by ensuring that both partners are satisfied—and consequently made seeking consent feel less intimidating and more mutually rewarding than waiting for a partner to indicate that something is off-limits.

The Vanguard also appreciated the presentation’s focus on how to be an active bystander. Speak About It portrayed situations in which peers were too inebriated to engage in wholly consensual sexual activity and provided examples of how to intervene in non-judgmental, relatively casual ways, such as asking the vulnerable friend to go to the bathroom or distracting them with an engaging story. The different lines mentioned to extricate friends from potentially dangerous situations were perhaps the most useful part of the performance. Now and in college, students can use this dialogue in their own lives to feel more comfortable navigating otherwise confusing situations.

Speak About It was also especially effective because it felt relatable. The troupe read true stories submitted by anonymous high school and college students, connecting the presentation to real life. Additionally, it dramatized party situations involving the possibility of sex, providing audience members with scenarios that felt more accessible than a lecture aimed at the same points. The performance also served as a common experience that we could all reflect on simultaneously.

Following Speak About It, let’s continue the open dialogue with our peers about healthy relationships so that giving consent and helping friends avoid potentially risky sexual encounters can start to feel comfortable. This practice is one kind of college prep we could actually use more of.

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