Every freshman at my college is obliged to go to five “wellness seminars” throughout the course of their first year. Many of these speakers address the issue of sexual assault, gender inequality, and male entitlement.
This is a great initiative. However, through a skeptical lens, I must ask does this make a difference?
How much can having a 30 or 40-something speaker talk to a bunch of 18 year-olds about sex for an hour on a Tuesday afternoon do?
I’ve compared these seminars to going to the dentist. After I have a dentist appointment, I have my dental health at the forefront of my mind. I’ll brush, floss, rinse, two times a day, everyday for about a week.
But then the next weekend will come, and maybe I’ll just brush one time before I go to bed, maybe I’ll just stop flossing, and this lazy trend typically continues until the next time I go to the dentist.
I find wellness seminars to have the same effect. Communities pay a lot of money for experts to come check the sexual health climate of communities and remind us what we’re supposed to be doing (as a dentist does). And these messages resonate with us with a couple weeks afterwards, but slowly start to fade as we are not consistently reminded of the messages and the significance (similar with going to the dentist).
Party With Consent gives up the educational lessons that a speaker touches on. Party With Consent does not directly address gender inequality. Party With Consent does not directly address male entitlement. Party With Consent does not even directly address sexual assault prevention.
But what it does do is it keeps consent on your mind. This starts with the work of the Party With Consent team, but what I’ve noticed about Party With Consent is it continuously perpetuates a conversation amongst people in a fun way that no speaker I’ve ever listened to does. Every time someone sees a Party With Consent tank or a Party With Consent cup it puts consent in their face and even if they think the message is dumb, it forces people to address their understanding of consent.
Party With Consent serves as a consistent reminder. It’s not as professional as a speaker. But maybe that’s a good thing?
As I noticed that my dental health needed more attention, I simply placed a post-it note on my mirror that read, “Take the 3-minutes to brush, floss, and rinse, you lazy guy.” I saw this every day; it served as a daily reminder of what the dentist had told me.
Party With Consent is this post-it note. It’s not as fancy as a speaker or a consultant, but people in our communities are able to take something away from it that they are reminded the message daily or weekly, both physically and mentally, every time they see a Party With Consent tank, every time they wear a Party With Consent tank, or every time they hear the words Party With Consent.
An important theme to notice here is that sexual assault is such an incredibly emotional issue, one that leaves you wondering “How could someone do that to another person?” or “Why does this still happen?”
This leaves those who take on initiatives to try to make it stop ponder, “How can we prevent this from happening?” While this is such an incredibly altruistic question to take on, it is somewhat limiting.
As I’ve move past the emotion interlaced with this issue, and developed a rational, pragmatic understanding, I notice that a less finite question is, “How do we make preventing this cool?”
To all of the strong, powerful, beautiful people who take on solving this problem, at this point in time, answering “Why?” is no longer good enough. We need to develop our action plans and answer “How?”
Just because it’s an amazing cause doesn’t mean we are allowed to forget about the way we get the message out to people and the way we have people join our movement. And if we want to get this message out to our generation, we need to make the message fun and we need to make it repetitive.