Among uncomfortable topics to talk about, sex might fall at the top of the list.
Consent is still an issue discussed on college campuses, and with Valentine’s Day approaching, Break the Silence and the Office of Gender Violence Education and Support teamed up to have “the talk” Saturday night.
Dimmed lights and heart-shaped petals set the scene for “Five Senses of Consent,” which aimed to teach students that consent can take on the form of smell, sound, taste, feel and look — not just a literal statement.
“Consent can come in so many different forms, it can be hard to know when you have (it),” said Madison Williams, ’18, a three-year member of Break the Silence.
Williams said there is a fine line between having and not having consent, therefore it’s important to educate people how to identify where that line is. The event offered ways to find the line, in addition to an atmosphere that made students feel comfortable speaking freely about sex.
“It can be an uncomfortable subject, and in order to give consent, you have to be comfortable talking about it,” said Dana Gallant, ’15, adviser of Break the Silence.
The event, held on the main floor of the Global Commons, had coloring pages of different sex positions, a station to make perfume and games relating to consent. Students were taught how to give or receive massages on massage tables. Condoms and lubricant were scattered on several tables for students to take home with them.
“Five Senses of Consent” also aimed to educate students on all aspects of sex, because not everyone enters college with the same sexual education experience, Williams said. Since sexual education at some schools only focuses on the anatomy, it makes sense that students may struggle understanding what consent truly is, Williams said.
College students, specifically college women, are especially vulnerable to sexual assault compared to other populations. According to data from the National Sexual Assault Hotline, there are five robberies for every four sexual assaults on all women, whereas there is one robbery for every two sexual assaults on college women. Students are also at a higher risk of sexual assault during the beginning of their first and second semesters of college.
The event was open to all students and faculty who wanted to learn more about how to make consensual sex a norm on college campuses. Break the Silence and Gender Violence Education & Support hoped to make the event more of an experience rather than a lecture.
“Coming to the event, I’m really surprised with the amount of variety that’s going on and I think it’s really cool that a college could be so open about students exploring sex,” Eliza Dent, ’19, said.
Break the Silence and Gender Violence Education and Support were happy with the turnout considering it was their first time hosting the event, Gallant said. MSNBC attended and brought a camera crew to broadcast the event and interview students and members of Break the Silence.
Break the Silence and Gender Violence Education and Support are supporters and advocates for free speech and peer education on sexuality, Williams said. Members of both entities should be seen as a source of information for all of Lehigh’s campus.
“Break the Silence members are always here to talk about consent or give advice if there are sexual assault cases,” Williams said. “We also facilitate talks around campus, whether it be at a fraternity, sorority or residence hall. So we’re always here as a resource.”