Consent in sexual situations can be complicated to navigate, especially for undergraduate students who may not have much experience with physical intimacy.
Consent requires both parties in a sexual encounter give explicit permission for a particular sex act to take place, students learned during a presentation Monday called “Get Sexy. Get Consent.” Voices Against Violence, a program of the Counseling and Mental Health Center, hosted the performance, where actors demonstrated cases in which sexual consent might become an issue.
For example, a one-night stand in which partners have only just met might result in intentions becoming unclear, a situation that could be dangerous if both partners are unable to openly discuss their consent.
Jane Morgan Bost, Counseling and Mental Health Center associate director, said she created the Voices Against Violence program because people don’t typically discuss the issue of consent in an open manner.
“People in general find it very difficult to really address and it’s at the heart of a lot of interpersonal violence,” she said.
In order for there to be consent, both partners must be able, both physically and emotionally, to directly express their comfortability with sexual activity taking place without pressure from their partner. This includes not only intercourse, but also situations such as when one person wishes to practice safe sex while their partner does not. Consent to one type of activity does not guarantee consent to others, and participants must understand their own boundaries before being put into sexually charged situations as well as know how to clearly articulate those boundaries.
Lynn Hoare, Theater for Dialogue specialist for Voices Against Violence, created the “Get Sexy. Get Consent.” program.
She said the program is targeted at younger college students because of their lack of exposure to the issue.
“It’s really [targeted] at all undergraduate levels,” Hoare said. “Students often come to college without any opportunity to have honest conversations about sex, and this gives them a chance to talk about it honestly and hear other people talk about it honestly in a low-stake environment without actually being in the moment.”
Students should feel comfortable discussing their needs in a sexual relationship, said Meghna Joy, biology freshman and actress in the “Get Sexy. Get Consent.” program.
“People just need to be okay with talking about it,” Joy said. “In sexual situations where other people get pressured, they don’t want to seem un-cool or seem like a prude and so they need to know it’s okay to say no, and it’s okay to state what you want and [your partner] should be okay with it too.”
Bost said she hopes to bring about real change on UT campus with upcoming performances of “Get Sexy. Get Consent.”
“Our hope is that this will be something for both men and women that will make a difference in changing behaviors and attitudes,” Bost said. “We want to provide the skills they need to start conversations around [consent] and creating healthy relationships.”