Consent, an important conversation

    (Book Kara Alexa\The Aquinian)
    (Book Kara Alexa\The Aquinian)

    The day after St. Thomas University had its first report of sexual violence, a workshop about consent had no attendees.
    Jenn Gorham, program co-ordinator at the Fredericton Sexual Assault Centre, said consent is hard to talk about because we think we already know everything about it.
    “We’ve heard these messages [about ‘no means no’] so much that we’ve started to tune them out,” said Gorham. “What we haven’t heard is how do you get consent? How do we have these conversations?”
    Gorham feels what goes into consent is common sense. It can be as simple as reading body language or checking in with your partner periodically, asking if they’re okay. Consent also includes the after-sex pillow-talk.
    “You learn, and you chat with each other about what you do and do not like, and that’s how you build trust,” said Gorham. “It’s mind-numbingly simple, but it’s awkward.”
    The problem with educating the public about consent is those who need it most are those who aren’t coming to discussions and workshops.
    “I don’t know how to change that,” said Gorham. “You’re always going to have those kinds of people who are like, ‘What are you saying, I have to get consent to touch your elbow?’ Then I’m like, you don’t have enough common sense to be having sex, I’m sorry.”
    She said if you assume you have consent, you don’t have consent.
    “Consent is an absolute, you know it in your core,” said Gorham.
    She said drugs and alcohol make for a tricky situation when talking about consent. The law is very black and white—someone who’s intoxicated can’t give consent, but the real life human application isn’t as cut and dry. There’s no concrete blood alcohol level when it comes to consent. She says common sense applies in these situations.
    “If your date is barfing, they’re too drunk to be having sex,” she said.
    She blames contemporary sex education in part.
    “We teach people the biology of sex, then we tell them not to do it, and then they enter into relationships and they have no concept of how to negotiate sex.”
    She said there’s no way around the fact that asking for consent is awkward, so you laugh about it.
    “We have to embrace the fact that sex is funny,” she says, listing off common occurrences like accidentally clanking your teeth together or weird noises. “[But we’re taught] there’s no permission to laugh ever. There’s never any permission to just recognize that, ‘We’re about to engage in a super awkward physical activity.’”