Conversation about consent is necessary for safe campus climate

Leah Kashar

In Texas health classes, teachers are required to give students a basic understanding of the benefits of abstinence. The health curriculum covers everything one needs to know about being an adult in the real world, except for the most basic concepts involving sex, including protection and most importantly, consent.

UT’s freshman orientation includes a long program on consent. The point is that consent is an enthusiastic “yes,” not an absence of a “no.” Freshmen also learned that legally one cannot give consent if a person is intoxicated. Orientation attempted to start a conversation about consent with those who may not have heard about it in high school, but this week-long program is not the end-all-be-all of talks about consent. A campaign called Not On My Campus continues the conversation from orientation and encourages students to know and understand the facts behind sexual assault.

Sexual assault is less prevalent on UT’s campus than the national average, however, it still affects a large percentage of the student population. Eighteen-and-a-half percent of UT female students and around 5 percent of male students reported being sexually assaulted. Regardless, one sexual assault is too many, which is why a continued conversation about consent must be encouraged.

A recent article on The Tab, a UK publication, challenged the need to continue talking about consent. George Lawlor, the author of the article, said he does not believe he needs to be included in the conversation about consent because he “doesn’t look like a rapist” and understands “basic human interaction.” He said he finds it personally insulting that one would insinuate that he needs to.

No one should find the conversation about consent offensive. Many people get defensive about the subject of consent, as if the conversation is an accusation. But if everyone is knowledgeable about consent, the entire student body will feel safer. Establishing a culture of understanding consent could make reporting assault feel like less of a risk.

Not On My Campus co-president William Herbst said he hopes the campaign will help to break the silence surrounding sexual assault and will educate students on the resources available at UT.

"Since last year, students have begun talking about sexual assault as a real issue in our community,” Herbst said. “Student Government is passing legislation regarding sexual assault within our community. We have broken the silence and now as a community, we are trying it make it safer.”

Ultimately, this conversation cannot be detrimental to the campus in any way, and we should continue to facilitate talks about consent. Those who find it personally offensive need to understand that this conversation is not a personal attack. It is a necessary conversation to have for the sake of victims of sexual assault, and for preventing sexual assault in the future.

Kashar is an English freshman from Scarsdale, New York. Follow Kashar on Twitter @leahkashar.