How To Help Spread Consent Culture On College Campuses, Even If You Graduated Years Ago

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The #MeToo movement is galvanizing an important discussion about sexual assault and the issue of consent. Finally, we've started to have a more honest discussion about power dynamics, about sexism, and just how prevalent sexual assault is. But there's still plenty of work to be done. And now, during National Sexual Assault Awareness month, it's important to keep the conversation about sexual assault and consent going strong.

That's why Trojan, the popular condom brand, and Advocates for Youth, a national non-profit that helps educate young people about sexual and reproductive health, are working together. They've teamed up to help spread consent culture with their "Consent. Ask For It." campaign. This is the fourth year that Trojan has run the campaign and the third year that they've teamed up with Advocates for Youth — and, together, they pack a really impressive punch.

The campaign consists of on-campus events at over 100 colleges around the country, complete with an activist toolkit, posters, giveaways, and free Trojan Brand Condoms. They'll have student advocates around the country answering questions and running events to get the conversation about consent going. And in the wake of #MeToo and #TimesUp, it feels like awareness around sexual assault and sexual harassment is rising —and it's especially important on college campuses, which have a particularly bad history of sexual assault.

"Young people have been at the forefront of building a culture of consent long before the #MeToo Movement," Debra Hauser, the President of Advocates for Youth, tells Bustle. "#MeToo helped put the importance of consent on the national agenda and spurred additional interest from school administrators, policy makers, parents and other young people. This heightened awareness helps propel both the 'Consent. Ask For It.' campaign and the work of these committed activists. The efforts young people are making on these 75 campuses, and across the country, to promote honest communication about sex and sexuality, and to champion the values of bodily autonomy and mutual respect, hold promise for this generation and those that come after it."

Hopefully, in the wake of #MeToo, students will be even more open to conversations about consent — and able to see that their voice can make a difference. And this campaign wants to show people that consent is not just about someone saying "yes" or "no", that it's not a quick question that happens early in the night and then anything goes. The issue is more complicated than that. So the campaign is calling for consent that is "active, informed, enthusiastic, and ongoing" — which is just how it should be.

If you're no longer in college or not at one of the campuses where events will be taking place, you can still get involved. Share your support with #AskForConsent on social media or go to their website and pledge your support.

And if you want to know other ways you can help spread consent culture, there are so many ways to get involved.


Educate Yourself

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Maybe you're a consent expert, maybe you still have a little left to learn — that's OK, the important thing is to educate yourself. There are basic things we all should know about consent, like the fact that you can revoke it at any time or that consent for one sex act doesn't automatically mean consent for another.

You can check out AMAZE, an amazing YouTube-based sex ed resource, you can ask a sexual educator, or you can just do research. Just read up as much as you can.


Open Up The Conversation

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Whether it's with your friends, with your partner, or with your classmates, spreading consent culture is all about opening up a conversation.

"Everyone has a part to play in promoting a culture of consent," Hauser says. "Parents can talk with their children early and often, setting the stage for conversations about consent even when their children are very young. Exploring concepts such as what makes someone a good friend can help children to understand later what makes someone a good partner! Learning to ask before taking someone's toy or 'borrowing' money from someone's wallet are precursors to teaching about communication, respect and consent."

And you can initiate a discussion with other adults. Bring up the issue of consent, be honest about any areas you feel unsure about, and try to spread the word that consent should be enthusiastic and ongoing. Consent culture is all about raising awareness, so talking about it is key.



Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

There are a lot of amazing charities that educate people about consent, so if you really want to spread the word you can always think about volunteering. Keep an eye on the Advocates for Youth volunteering page, Planned Parenthood volunteering page, or find a local group in your area that could use your support.

And if you're on or near a college campus, there are always lots of opportunities for activism. "Students and adult allies can help change the culture at their schools in a couple of different ways," Hauser says. "You can ensure your school is following the law and helping to end sexual harassment by getting involved in the Know Your IX initiative. You can also advocate for comprehensive sex education at your local schools. Quality sex education can help young people learn the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, build their skills to communicate openly and honestly about sex and sexuality, and help them to understand the importance of respecting others' boundaries."

We may have made some big strides in talking about consent and sexual assault thanks to the #MeToo movement, but we need to make sure that the discussion continues — and that it reaches the areas that need it most. So join Trojan and Advocates for Youth to keep spreading the word about consent, on campuses and beyond.