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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hot Topics: Consent

This past Friday, SMART Youth kicked off the new season with a discussion series called “Hot Topics,” where we talk about current event issues that affect youth. For our first meeting, the discussion topic was Consent. Whether it’s about new laws changing how we define sexual assault or the recent complaints about the way colleges deal with sexual assault on campuses, we’ve been hearing a lot about consent in the news and from our peers.

We talked about consent on a policy-level and used California as an example; the state passed new legislation known as “Yes Means Yes” which redefines the way sexual assault accusations are determined in the state. This means that in order for sexual activity to be considered consensual, there needs to be an affirmative “yes.” This is different than the current standard “No Means No,” which requires a person to say “no” for sexual activity to be not be consensual. This new law is important because it clears up many ambiguous situations that occur when a person is unable to say “no” to sex. 

It’s also important because it will apply to all colleges in California and set an example for colleges across the country. One college that we highlighted was Columbia University, where a college student name Emma Sulkowicz is protesting her school’s decision not to discipline her alleged rapist by carrying around her dorm mattress. Laws like this would help reshape the way college campuses and law enforcement deal with sexual assault.

So how can we apply consent to our lives?

We discussed that consent has many layers beyond just saying “yes” to sexual activity. Many of our youth added that consent should not only be expressed, it should be enthusiastic. We also discussed that consent isn’t something that is said once and applied to all sexual activity. Not only should we check in with our partners along the way, but we should also realize that consent can be taken back at any point, and that decision should always be respected. Consent should be an integral part of our sexual lives because it contributes to healthy sexual relationships. Consent is all of our responsibility.

If you think you may be a victim of sexual assault, below are online resources:

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