Sex requires consent, but do you really understand what that means? A group of University of Calgary students want to make sure you do.
The Consent Awareness and Sexual Education Club is a newly sanctioned club at the U of C that seeks to clarify and educate campus and community members about sexual assault and the meaning of consent.
“The mission of our club is to fill in a missing piece of the puzzle in terms of people’s education about sex,” CASE president Ellen Bolger said. “We’re trying to bring awareness to what consent is to try to prevent sexual assault.”
Canadian law requires clear consent of all individuals involved in a sexual act. Consent means that someone who is high, drunk or unconscious is not capable of giving his or her consent. Any type of coercion through a position of power or privilege cancels the possibility of sex being consensual and not saying “no” to someone performing a sexual act does not mean the other person is consenting to it, as they must give verbal approval. In the words of a CASE pamphlet, consent means an “enthusiastic yes.”
CASE plans on getting their message out through campaigns on campus and a presentation they have put together for junior high students. Bolger said the club plans to take this presentation to junior high schools in the upcoming year, as they hope to educate kids about sexual assault before they are sexually active.
“It’s good to [educate] them before that starts,” Bolger said. “Also, it’s a pretty awkward time for people. Everyone is kind of figuring everything out and there’s also a lot of sexual harassment during that period.”
CASE’s presentation will concentrate on the potential perpetrators of sexual assault, instead of likely victims. According to Bolger, most preventative education about sexual assault she has seen concentrates on what women should do to avoid being assaulted — an approach she disagrees with.
“A lot of the kind of preventative measures that have been taken against sexual assault in the past has been focused on the victim. You hear advice like bring a whistle, make sure you travel in pairs, don’t go out at night, don’t wear short skirts,” she said. “We think it’s more effective trying to educate people about what consent is and what sexual assault is so that people won’t become assailants.”
The idea for CASE emerged during a February meeting between Bolger and CASE vice-president external Emily Leedham. Following the meeting, the pair looked at recruiting for the club’s executive staff and getting the necessary signatures to be sanctioned by the Students’ Union.
Leedham said the club first became active on campus during Bermuda Shorts Day through a sexual assault awareness campaign done in partnership with the Women’s Resource Centre.
“We worked with the WRC and got a bunch of buttons that were about consent and sexual assault, then we made these little flyers just going through what consent looks like and how to act on and respect consent,” Leedham said.
According to Leedham, the club will talk to new students during orientation week.
“For orientation week and frosh week, we want to have a huge campaign. We’re trying to get money for that right now,” she said. “We want to print off a bunch of posters and flyers and make buttons. Our goal is to have 5,000 flyers about consent, similar to what we had about BSD. We want to have a large visibility for orientation week.”
Bolger encourages anyone interested in the club to make contact with one of their executives.
“If you’re interested in the club and want to get involved, don’t be shy. The club isn’t just for women to join; it’s for anybody. Sexual assault is not just a women’s issue,” Bolger said.