Valuing a women’s consent over her own body is an integral step towards ending violence against women. This means providing women the power to say “no” to sexual encounters, and for the word “no” to be respected in all situations. Myths depict rape and sexual assault perpetrators as strangers. However, two out of three rapes are committed by a person the victim knows. This occurs because sexual consent is either not understood or not respected.
Education is necessary to ensure everyone involved in a sexual activity is consenting, comfortable, valued and safe. Sexual consent education includes talking about how and when to ask for consent, how to say no, what constitutes consent, and the importance of respecting another person’s decision. Assault laws and consequences for a lack of consent should also be included in sexual consent discussions. These lessons will help end the countless sexual assaults that occur every day.
In this “16 For 16” article, we present 16 innovative ideas for educating children, young adults, and other members of your community about sexual consent.
Written by Rebecca DeLuca
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #1: Team up with local organisations
If you are assuming the responsibility of educating your community about sexual consent for the first time, it will be beneficial to connect with local organisations that focus on sexual consent and violence against women. Many organisations have already developed material and messaging that will help engage your audience and direct you in your educational messages. Speakers, educators, and classes may also be available.
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #2: Conduct appropriate research
Sexual consent education will fail if the audience misinterprets, forgets, or ignores the message. Conducting research will help you prepare and construct a successful educational campaign and ensure message retention. Research can be done first-hand through interviews and surveys with your target audience. Information can also be found online. For example, Julie S. Lalonde conducted a Twitter survey about teaching male youth about rape culture. The responses – which can be found here – can help craft successful messages and sexual consent curricula.
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #3: Start an online newsletter
An e-newsletter is an easy and inexpensive way to keep your community updated and involved in sexual consent education. Publishing, professional templates and contact maintenance are available free of charge on various platforms such as MailChimp. The e-newsletter, which can be sent daily, weekly or bi-weekly, can include upcoming events, recent stories, educational tips, advice, and questions and answers to ensure your community is always up-to-date.
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #4: Include consent-based education in school curriculum
Challenging school boards to alter curricula is difficult and education about sexual consent may not be allowed in certain classrooms. However, obtaining consent and respecting the word “no” are skills that can be taught in numerous other environments and to all age groups. For example, using consent-based education to help children negotiate the use of toys will help them develop the mentality necessary to understand sexual consent when they are older.
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #5: Make yourself a visible advocate
Making yourself or your group a visible advocate for sexual consent demonstrates to your community that discussing consent is not embarrassing or taboo. It is also a continuous reminder that you are available for discussions, assistance and advice. Tips for remaining visible include having booths at community events, sharing information about consent through your social media accounts, developing business cards with “Sexual Assault Advocate” listed on them, or speaking at events.
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #6: Create an anonymous question box
Though asking questions about consent is nothing to be embarrassed about, some people will feel more comfortable remaining anonymous. Creating an anonymous question box will help ensure more people get the answers they are seeking. You can place the anonymous box in the classroom, at your school, at various events, on community websites, or at your community centre, then either answer the questions via a general FAQ sheet that can be distributed to the community or contact the asker directly to answer his/her question.
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #7: Skits
Theatrical skits and performances are a creative, non-threatening way to discuss sexual consent. Scripts can be developed to discuss topics that affect your audience most, such as having sex for the first time, going away to college, or talking to teenage children about consent. While writing the script, acknowledge crucial moments in the plot to survey your audience on ways they would act. You can then discuss the correct and incorrect ways to proceed.
Research suggests people are more likely to retain and listen to messages if the sender is similar to them and faces similar concerns. Thus, an important strategy to educate youth in your community about sexual consent is through peer education. This may include introducing youth-developed campaigns such as The Girl Code Movement, Party with Consent, or Campaign4Consent to your community to show teenagers how their peers are getting involved. Other tools include peer groups and guest youth speakers.
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #9: Partner with bars, clubs and other local events to remind youth about consent
Reinforcing your messages about consent is integral, especially in high-risk situations. By identifying and partnering with organisations that have high-risk environments, you can help youth remember the importance of consent when you are absent. Partnerships with local bars, clubs and other events can include washroom poster campaigns, door stamps or wristbands easily-remembered reminders about consent on them.
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #10: Monitor the media
Media can be consumed anywhere: on television, radio, social networks, and through messaging and face-to-face interaction. As a result, youth are consuming more media, quicker than before. Monitoring the news and other popular culture makes you proactive in spotting news stories and headlines that are teachable moments for helping children and other young people understand what they see and hear, and answer important questions they may have. Conversation starters can include “The [event here] that happened yesterday scared me. What did you feel?” or “Why do you think [he/she/they] acted that way? What would you have done?”
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #11: Hold bystander intervention events
Bystander research states people will make judgements about their behaviour based on the reactions they receive from the people around them. Through proper bystander intervention education and training, bystanders learn how to prevent and ease potentially violent environments and become confident enough to intervene in various situations. Bystander intervention events are integral for both youth and adults, and can be held in school, as part of after-school activities, or as a prerequisite for team sports and other community groups.
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #12: Create and distribute visual content
Discussing consent should not be boring, overpowering or embarrassing. While facts, statistics and research are useful, they can often be overwhelming. To encourage youth understanding, use visuals. These can include bumper stickers, bracelets, or “What is Consent” pocket cards. Valentine’s day cards, for example, circulate messages about consent in an nonthreatening, creative way.
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #13: Develop safety slogans
Slogans increase retention and recognition for brands. However, they are not exclusive to advertising and marketing. Developing and utilising slogans in your sexual consent education will help individuals recall information about consent. As slogans are easier to remember than facts and statistics, they will remind community members to make safe, smart decisions. Some examples of consent slogans are: “Yes means yes,” “consent is sexy,” and “a dress is not a yes.”
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #14: Introduce youth to available technology.
As mobile phone usage increases, young people can carry and access sexual consent information in their pockets. Developers have designed applications that emphasise the importance of consent, provide communication advice, answer anonymous questions and more. After researching mobile applications that are appropriate for your audience, location and goals, share them with your community. Or, if you cannot find an application that meets your unique needs, develop one with the help of your community.
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #15: Start a Popular Culture Club.
Popular music, books, television and movies can help reinforce lessons about sexual consent by providing springboards for discussion. Through the sharing of books, movies and other media, a popular culture club allows community members to consume consent-positive media. The club, which can be developed online or in person, should also include a discussion section for members to share thoughts, insights and lessons learned with others.
Sexual Consent Education – Tip #16: Encourage community event participation. Encouraging participation in events that other organisations hold not only reinforces your messages, but also provides another outlet for engaged community members to support. Contact local organisations, look on your community’s event calendar, or connect with non-profits on social media to find upcoming events you can participate it in as a community.