April has been designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the United States. This April, the focus of the campaign is healthy sexuality.The campaign encourages communities and individuals to join the conversation on how we connect and respect one another in order to prevent sexual violence.
We all know that sex in college can be a tricky business. Should you have sex or not? Do you want to or not? Often people feel like this “choice” is taken away from them through pressure from peers, partners and/or society at large. If you do have sex, the actual experience might not be so great – is the other person enjoying themselves? Are you? Did you feel pressured? How can you tell if they like it or not? How can we find the answers to these questions if we don’t talk about it? So let’s take a moment and talk about consensual healthy sexuality, shall we?
What is consent?
Consent is active permission for sexual activity – not just the absence of the word, “no” or lack of a struggle. People often hear that consent must be active and clear and then think they must specifically and robotically ask for permission (e.g. “can I kiss you?”, “can I touch your breasts?”). While those are certainly effective ways of asking for consent, there are other ways as well. Pay attention to your partner. Are they kissing you back? Are they initiating any action themselves? Are they enthusiastic or do they keep mentioning the homework they need to do? Are you getting mixed messages and confusing signals? THAT is the time to check in. Try the following questions:
“Does that feel good?”
“Do you want me to keep going?”
“Are you having a good time?”
“It seems like you’re distracted – maybe another time?”
“Where do you want me to touch you?”
When sex is consensual, it means everyone involved has agreed to what they are doing and has given their permission. Non-consensual sex, or sex without someone’s agreement or permission, is sexual assault.
Drugs and alcohol blur consent. Drugs and alcohol impact decision making. When drugs and alcohol are involved, clear consent cannot be obtained. As per Pacific University’s Sexual Misconduct Code, an intoxicated person cannot give consent.
Consent does not have to be something that interrupts sex; it can be a part of sex. Checking in with your partner throughout sexual experiences can be a great way to build intimacy and understand your partner’s needs and desires. It can help partners create a healthy and satisfying sex life.
Get involved. Here are some of the events at Pacific this month in recognition of SAAM:
The RHA is hosting the Clothesline Project. Look for tables in front of the U.C. and wear your teal ribbons. The CGE is putting on Take Back the Night on Friday, April 13. Meet in front of the U.C. The Campus Wellness Office is hosting a screening and discussion of the film “The Accused.” Friday, April 20 at 7 p.m. in the CLIC lobby. Snacks provided!
Joselyn Perry is the Campus Wellness Coordinator at Pacific’s counseling center on Cedar Street.