Consent Education at McMaster University

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In April 2012, SACHA -the Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton & Area – in partnership with the YWCA Hamilton, initiated a project at McMaster University focused on engaging students (ages 17-24) in the prevention of violence against young women on campus. The information gathered through the “It’s Time” project informed eight key recommendations that could be addressed to better prevent violence against young women on McMaster’s campus.

For the past year, the Student Wellness Centre in partnership with Human Rights and Equity services have been leading the development of an annual, campus wide Education and Awareness Campaign intended to engage all aspects of the McMaster community on issues of violence against women and gender based violence (Recommendation #8). With much appreciated support from the Anti-Violence Network, the Women and Gender Equity Network, the Student Health and Education Centre and many interested students, the first component of the campaign is ready to be launched. This year as McMaster welcomes the first year class during Welcome Week (#MacWW2015), there will be messages about #consent on posters, brilliantly buttoned billboards, banners, buttons, condoms and even in some of the programming.  

Consent is NECESSARY in every sort of sexual encounter whether it is a hug, a kiss, a cuddle or penetrative sex.

Without consent, it is sexual assault!

And, consent is applicable for all situations that include sexual encounters such as a one night stand, a long term partnership, a date, a fling, a marriage, and no matter the gender or number of participants involved.

It is important to remember that everyone has different boundaries around sexual consent: some people may not want to have penetrative sex but may be okay with other activity,  some people may be unable to move into different positions because of physical abilities, some students may be unwilling or unable or opposed to engage in certain sexual encounters whether as a result of personal beliefs, culture, religion, familial expectations—or a combination of these things. All of this must be kept in mind when discussing consent. But, most importantly, it must be discussed with everyone!

 “NO” MESSAGES TO LOOK AND LISTEN FOR:

LOOK FOR NONVERBAL MESSAGES

  • silence
  • lack of eye contact
  • turning their body away
  • sleeping or pretending to sleep
  • pushing away
  • crossing arms
  • not responding

LISTEN FOR VERBAL STATEMENTS LIKE

  • I’m not sure if I’m ready.
  • I’m uncomfortable.
  • I don’t know if I want to.
  • That hurts.
  • I think I’ve had too much to drink.
  • I’m scared.

HOW TO ASK?

  • Can I kiss you?
  • Could I hold your hand?
  • Would you like a hug?
  • Are there things that are turnoffs for you?
  • Are there things about your body that you would like me to be aware of?
  • Are you interested in exploring a sexual relationship with me?
  • How far do you think you would be comfortable going?
  • Have you ever done…? Would you like to try this with me?
  • I’d really like to…what do you think?
  • You seem quiet…are you sure?
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