In the wake of the Steubenville rape case, in which an unconscious teenage girl was carried from party to party and repeatedly assaulted and humiliated by members of the Steubenville High football team (who bragged and joked about it on social media sites), a quote has been going around the Internet.
It’s from a boy who witnessed the assaults, but didn’t report them. He’s quoted as saying, “It wasn’t violent. I didn’t know exactly what rape was. I always pictured it as forcing yourself on someone.”
I really hope that gives you pause.
Ideally, because it’s horrifying.
Not only could this kid not conceive of rape as something other than the “stranger with a weapon” stereotype, but he also couldn’t see that taking advantage of an unconscious girl is the same thing as forcing yourself on someone.
I don’t want to write about sexual assault today, though. Type the word “Steubenville” into a search engine, and you’ll find a wealth of commentary that’s far better than anything I could produce. You can even walk into the Bartlett Atrium to see the t-shirts that have been hanging up all week that show different stories and statistics about sexual assault from people on campus and in the community.
Right now, though, I want to talk about something a little more positive.
I want to talk about consent.
You might have heard the phrase “consent is sexy” being thrown around. It’s a popular adage at the moment, largely because of high rates of date rape and cases like Steubenville.
It’s not just a way of saying, “It’s cool not to sexually assault people,” though. It’s just as much a way of saying, “Know what your partner is comfortable with.”
There’s a good chance that, as a college student, you’re either having sex or are in relationships where sex is a possibility in the future. High school students and younger students are starting to have sex at drastically younger ages. We’re often taught about the dangers of sex, and we’re often taught about safe sex.
Thankfully, just like there’s a good chance that you’re sexually active, there’s a good chance you have at least have a semi-decent knowledge of how to do so with minimal risk.
One thing we’re not really taught, though, is how to talk about sex.
It’s often seen as something that you just do or something that just happens. Couples on TV fall into spontaneous fits of passion until it fades to black and cuts to them lying in bed together. You might reach a certain number of dates and assume that sex will be a part of that relationship within that range. It’s almost like it’s an inevitability, something that you’ll just stumble into when the moment’s right.
For the sake of having honest, safe relationships and for the sake of people like the student mentioned above who allegedly couldn’t tell the difference between consensual sex and rape, this needs to change.
This is one place where we can look to people who choose to remain abstinent as examples: they’re aware of what they want and what they don’t want, and they know how to express that to their significant others.
This idea should be extended to those of you who are sexually active, as well. Talk to your partners about what you’re interested in and what you’re not, so you can find out the same. If you both know beforehand what the other likes, you’ll not only know how to make them comfortable and safe, but you’ll both be having mutually better sex.
Also, the creation of parameters that you set with the inclusion of consistent, enthusiastic consent starts to create a culture in which that consent becomes a way of life.
Consent is sexy because it’s about creating the best possible situation in which to have sex. There’s nothing hotter than being well-informed, guys, and it’s such a great way to start changing the kind of environments that allow for people to say things like “I didn’t know exactly what rape was.”