Discussing consent is not as easy as education videos pretend
By LAURA MAKOLANDRA
At the beginning of each school year, the Title IX office holds a session on how partners should consent to sex. They show videos that roleplay how students might have conversations about consent. These videos instruct students to have open conversations about sex and make sure that both partners agree verbally.
Students surveyed about the process of consent in their own sex lives say that their conversations are not as open and explicit as those seen in the videos and demonstrations they’re told to watch. The reasons: nervousness and taboos about discussing sex.
“A lot of times consent is talked around because people don’t want to seem too eager to have sex in the beginning of a relationship,” said a female UMW student. “I think it should become a social norm with people hooking up or in actual relationships.”
Students say this is especially an issue when students engage in relationships that are undefined, whether that means hooking up at a party or seeing someone regularly but not exclusively.
“I think it makes people more cautious when they hook up because you hear so many he said/she said stories,” said a male UMW student. “It starts to become really hard to tell what’s true and what’s not. It makes people really cautious about who they decide to pursue as a partner.”
A female student was also asked about the issue of discussing consent with a person with whom they have an undefined relationship.
“It all depends on the person and the type of relationship you have with them, but the more you discuss consent the more comfortable you become,” said a female UMW student. “I feel like it depends on the precedent you set with the relationship. If you have already jumped in bed with them it makes it hard to go back and set boundaries.”
Another issue students face is the way that technology plays into relationships. On dating apps, such as Tinder and Bumble, participants may believe the expectation of sex is implied. As a result, using these sites may discourage students from discussing consent.
Another contributing factor to less conversational openness is that these relationships tend to move faster sexually than those that begin in person.
“Technology can increase and decrease relationships in my opinion,” said a male UMW student. “These apps help people meet and get together, but also place a social barrier behind the screen.”
These dating apps are meant for introductions and starting relationships, but how many people actually meet up with the person they are messaging? According to many students interviewed, the apps are still not widely used for dating on a college campus.
“I have a Tinder but I don’t use it to meet people. Just to make fun of the people I know on there,” said a male UMW student. Another male student said, “I have met up with one person from using Tinder, but I kind of already knew the girl before we matched on Tinder.”
“I just feel like because we are college students it’s more casual to use dating apps. Because it’s easy to just talk over a screen than face-to-face using Tinder and Bumble,” said a female UMW student.
The University of Mary Washington has a Title IX office to educate and prevent sexual assault on the campus. The history of Title IX offices on college campuses started in 2011 with the Dear Colleague Letter, which states that all universities must have an office to provide students with services, education, prevention and remedies for sexual assault.
“Education through different, creative ways is how we prevent sexual assault on campus,” said Tiffany Oldfield, the University of Mary Washington’s new Title IX coordinator. She explained the many services provided to students and how students help spread the word about consent.
“Obviously [consent] is advisable to have in healthy relationships where two partners are committed to each other,” said Oldfield.
At the end of the day, whether people actually have conversations about consent or not, it does make them think more carefully about having sex.
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