AASRJ talks consent

The Alabama Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Justice taught students about consent on Thursday night in Manly Hall. The presentation entitled “What is Consent?” was given by AASRJ President Sarah Banning.

Banning, who admitted that some things that were said may make people feel uncomfortable, made an effort to make the environment as comfortable as possible.

She started the evening by having everyone introduce themselves. Students were encouraged to give their name, gender pronouns, major, year and say what kind of people they enjoy (cat lovers, nature enthusiasts, etc.). Banning also declared the event to be a safe space and encouraged students who didn’t understand any terms that were said to make the “jargon giraffe,” a hand symbol that would signify to her that clarification was needed.

“I really like creating spaces where people can talk about sex,” Baron said. “If you can’t really think about it or talk about it to yourself and to the people around you when you’re not doing, it it’s very difficult to talk about it when you are doing it.”

Banning considers people’s uneasiness about talking about sex to be one of the biggest hurdles of consent.

According to AASRJ consent should be verbal, mutual, affirmative, continuous, asked for and not expected, sober, unpressured, voluntary, enthusiastic, active and it should involve equitable power and relationship dynamics.

“Hypothetical consent is a no go,” Banning said.

About halfway through the event there was an activity for students present. It was called “Yes, No, Maybe” and involved students going through packets and marking what sexual acts they would, wouldn’t and might feel comfortable with. There was a general, polyamorous, kinky and queer packet, as well as one for people figuring out if they’re ready for sex or not.

The importance of communication was discussed throughout the night. Banning showed the room a slide of phrases and questions to start conversations about consent and comfort.

After going through the packet(s) of their choosing for a few minutes, the room discussed the activity. Students said they found the activity to be helpful, noting that it helps set boundaries before being in the heat of the moment.

Banning went over Alabama’s definition of consent, as well as The University of Alabama’s definition, which she commended for using bigger and inclusive terms that looked for affirmative consent.

Sexual violence was discussed as well. The presentation highlighted different laws regarding sexual violence, the University's definitions of sexual assault and harassment and resources for survivors of sexual violence.

On the way out students were offered free condoms, both male and female, and given the option of supporting AASRJ by buying condoms that were made into flowers or condoms in a cupcake wrapper.

Events like this are important to Banning because she said she really believes in education.

“Policy is very important to me, but...I think [education] is more likely to touch people and they’re more likely to spread it," Banning said. 

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