Written by Team Optimity
(2 min read)
As the school year comes to a close, many students will celebrate the completion of what we colloquially call ‘Zoom University.’ From at-home tests, to virtual lectures, to forgetting you’re on mute for the umpteenth time — young students traded the classic university experience in favour of community health and safety. Their tenacity, ingenuity, and commitment should be celebrated! Congratulations to the blooming scholars in our lives!
While public health guidelines are beginning to shift as more and more people get vaccinated, prospects of reopening campuses in September still remain uncertain. But there’s no reason we can’t be prepared. Over the next few days, we will cover topics that address some of the more difficult aspects of the university experience and will attempt to provide some advice on how to handle the more challenging parts of student life.
The first subject on our roster? Sex. More of us should know about it, but not enough of us talk about it. We’re here to dive into safety, pleasure, and consent.
Content Warning: This blog post discusses sexual assault and/or violence, which may be a trigger for some readers.
The image of post-secondary institutions as bastions of casual sex, alcoholism, and general debauchery has been a constant for decades, with the exception of our exceptional year, of course. Although the prevalence of hook-up culture turned out to be more fiction than fact – a 2015 study of Canadian University students found that 71% had 1 or fewer sexual partners in the past 12 months – the repercussions of this culture are very present.
A study in Maclean’s magazine found that 1 in 5 female students will experience sexual assault in their lifetime; half of those will occur during their university career. 1 in 3 Canadians don’t know that the legal definition of sexual assault includes unwanted sexual grabbing, kissing, and fondling as well as rape, which suggests that with more education instances of sexual assault could be significantly reduced.
To help address this issue, a greater understanding of what “unwanted” means is incredibly important. Consent is defined as the voluntary agreement of two adults to engage in sexual activity. It must be given, never assumed, can be taken away at any time, and does not continue into the next encounter. A memorable way to grasp the concept is by using the acronym CEO. Consent needs to be Clear, Enthusiastic, and Ongoing.
The core of consent is to ask. If at any time during a sexual interaction consent is even remotely unclear, just ask. This concept may seem overly simplistic, but there are far too many instances where it is overlooked. Here are three examples where a blurry situation can be clarified simply by asking.
The Scene: On the Dance Floor
While dance floors seem like a distant past, they will return with passion. Many people don’t understand that touching or grinding on another person without their consent is sexual assault. This type of interaction has become so normalized that many people assume inappropriate advances are a natural and acceptable part of being at a club or party. FALSE.
Before dancing with someone, just ask if they want to dance with you. If they say yes then they will appreciate you asking, and if they say no, you can both go your separate ways, and boogie with someone else. All you need to do is ask.
If you’re the recipient of unwanted advances, clearly state your lack of consent. Not working? Move away immediately. Still can’t shake the person? Let security know right away. This behaviour is inappropriate and unacceptable, and security is there to assist in precisely such situations.
The Suggestion: Let’s Get Out of Here
So, you meet someone at a party. You’re really hitting it off and decide to leave together. You’re excited, nervous, and unsure of what’s going to happen. The key is to ask. Just because someone agreed to leave a party with you, does not mean they have given consent to engage any further. Again, the answer is to simply ask.
The Situation: Change of Mind
Has the person given consent and is engaging in the interaction, but it seems that they are unenthusiastic about it? Instead of ignoring the signs that you are perceiving, just ask if they’re OK, or if they want to do something else, or if they want to stop. Again, the solution is to ask.
There are countless stories, metaphors, abbreviations and analogies about consent. They all try to make the message memorable, to clarify the concept of consent so clearly that everyone will not only remember it, but consistently apply it. The easiest thing to remember is to always ask and be respectful of the response you get.
While we had a year-and-a-half without parties, socializing is slowly but surely becoming more permissible. We hope these tips help you stay safe and have fun. Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog series.
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