Argus consents to sex education in new campaign

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It’d be hard to miss the large posters that are popping up all over Illinois Wesleyan University’s campus with one clear message: Consent is Sexy. The campaign is a result of the Sexual Assault Task Force, an institutional collaboration co-chaired by Vice President and Dean of Students Karla Carney-Hall and Associate Provost Frank Boyd.

One need only look at the sobering statistics of sexual assault rates to realize there’s a national problem. According to the National Center on Domestic Violence, an average of one in four women and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 18. Fifty-one percent of sexual assaults against women happen between 16 and 21 years old.

Sexual violence is an epidemic. But the battle against it isn’t hopeless, and that is what the Consent is Sexy campaign aims to help change.

“We need to empower all students to expect and demand that consent is a requirement for healthy sexual relationships,” said Carney-Hall.

Sexual education is sorely lacking in the American school system. Sex has been stigmatized as an inappropriate topic, making adults reluctant to have open conversations about the risks of STIs, the meaning of consent and the emotional impact of sexual relationships. Young adults need to understand all of these aspects of sex to be able to make decisions about it.

“I think it has invited an opportunity for students to talk about sex and sexuality and choices and limits with one another through the lens of consent,” said coordinator Matthew Damschroder.

Understanding consent is a major problem in sexual relationships. There are simply a lot of misconceptions about consent, and many of these are addressed in the posters. An example of this is that consent is necessary, even if the couple has been in a committed, long-term relationship and had sexual contact before.

The posters, which are eye-catching in their frankness and bold appeal to the student body, have  raised some concerns.

“While I agree with the concept and understand the necessity of the campaign, I feel as if the students are now making a joke out of gaining consent, which is an obvious issue,” said senior Caitlin Arrington.

Other students are encouraged by the message, “I think it’s awesome. With consent, sex can be freeing, fun and allow two people to get closer. The more that people ask if what is happening is okay and respect boundaries, the more freedom is actually there,” said senior Connor Hughs.

There is also some concern that the campaign doesn’t fully cover all of the options of consent.

“I believe that this campaign is great because it brings to light lines that are often blurred and misunderstood. What this campaign lacks, however, is the reminder that it’s okay not to have sex,” senior Rebekah Smith said. “Yes, consent is sexy, but so is abstinence. It’s a choice and whatever choice you make about your sexuality is your choice.”

What is maybe even more important than the specific message is the concept behind the campaign: the idea that we need to open up in communication about sex. We need to talk about how to be healthy and happy, sexually active or not. The Consent is Sexy campaign is a great step forward in opening up that communication, and making it easier for students to voice their feelings, and concerns, about sexual intercourse. Hopefully the future will hold even more dialog, and about different aspects of sex from the emotional to the spiritual, for IWU.