A one-hour program for students ages 14-18 or 18 and beyond

Affirmative consent is a great idea whose time has come. Students have embraced consent — even owned it — because it is a reasonable idea. We all have a right not to be acted on by someone else in sexual situations unless we give clear permission. Affirmative consent replaces antiquated ideas about force and resistance which really don't have the same relevance today.

So, consent is simple, right? Not exactly.

Even the term "affirmative" consent needs explanation, because consent IS affirmative, by definition. If we really understood what affirmative consent is and how it works, we'd just call it "consent." Myths and mis-information abound. Students leave orientation programs thinking that drunk sex is a form of assault, rather than getting the right information about how law and policy really work. And, we don't want students to have a stilted view of consent that makes sex awkward. How do we align messaging about sexual health and sex positivity with the sexual ethics of consent? How does it really work? This program gets into the details on how.

If consent is both a reasonable and respectful norm, it's also an imperfect concept. What works in theory can be messy in practice. You think consent is black and white? Ok, try getting and giving consent to kiss someone without speaking or using gestures that are word substitutes. Not possible, right? But, consent is not meant to make it impossible to kiss someone. Some things go unspoken, but some things must be made clear. How do students know which is which? This program will provide guidance in terms students can easily relate to and understand. Here are ten key questions this program will ask and answer, with an overarching theme of sexual ethics, focusing on how we need to separate behavior that is just sex from the goal of "Just Sex":

  • If someone touches your chest, can you touch theirs back or do you have to ask first?
  • Why do some people "freeze up" in sexually uncomfortable situations?
  • Do you have to ask verbally for every sexual action you want to engage in?
  • If you let someone touch your breast, can they touch both, or just one? What is implied and what must be expressed to truly have consent?
  • How do you withdraw consent, and if you do, how must your sexual partner respond?
  • Is consent the same for everyone, or does sexual orientation somehow impact consent?
  • Under what circumstances does drunk sex cross the line, and how do we know when someone is incapacitated?
  • What if you don't know whether your partner wants to engage in a specific act, but they participate when you start it? Is that consensual?
  • What happens if you agree to protected sex, but then your partner doesn't wear a condom?

Is the program graphic? Sure, it's for mature audiences, but it's not gratuitously graphic. It will resonate with high school audiences and college audiences, whether students are sexually active or not. It's engaging and encourages students to examine a variety of sexual interactions from multiple perspectives. There is plenty of dialogue and Q&A to ensure that students benefit from the expertise of the presenter.

Ideas like reciprocity and ratification are essential to understanding affirmative consent. And, the audience will explore how consent works like a video game, with a very big difference between earning an achievement and leveling-up. Don't know the difference? Then you need "How Consent Really Works" for your students.

We preach consent at students, but then shy away when they really need the nuts-and-bolts of how it truly works. This session will leave the audience with a better understanding of the give and take necessary for healthy and consensual sexual interactions.

Worried that this isn't a primary prevention program? Don't. Primary prevention requires a solid foundation of understanding to build upon, and consent education is an essential foundation for any primary prevention effort. We'll help you lay the foundation you need for deeper primary prevention efforts. Training on bystander engagement? Great, but students need to know what non-consent looks like so that they know when to intervene. We'll reinforce your primary prevention messaging, bystander engagement efforts, normative marketing, climate survey results, or other data that you'd like us to integrate. Tell us your overall prevention strategy, and we'll customize the content of this program to be sure that it validates, reinforces, and boosts the other messages you are sending to your students. Between "abstinence-only" and "affirmative consent," there's a lot of distance. "How Consent Really Works" helps to lay the foundation for healthy, respectful sexual interactions between students.

To learn more, contact Kate Halligan, Vice President of Client Relations at 610-579-3725.