We need to teach boys about consent

The #MeToo movement has brought an undeniable increase in accountability for sexual assault perpetrators.

Bill Cosby is currently serving a three to ten year sentence for his crimes. Larry Nassar will serve a minimum of 100 years in prison. And Harvey Weinstein could face life in prison, though his trial is ongoing.

However, sexual assault still remains a prevalent and largely unsolved issue, which is why groups like the proposed sexual assault prevention club are necessary.

Conversations about the issue of sexual assault are particularly important in a high school setting since sexual violence disproportionately impacts young women.

According to RAINN, “Females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.”

This is not to say that sexual assault only affects females, because that certainly isn’t true. However, without invalidating the experience of men who have been victims of sexual violence, it is important to note that women make up the highest percentage of sexual assault survivors.

The #MeToo movement is a critical step in the right direction when it comes to addressing perpetrators. However, survivors are still ignored or brushed aside, as was the case with Christine Blasey Ford. Also, America’s legal system still fails to properly deal with sexual assault cases, whether it be the national backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits, or lenient punishment for assault.

The way we talk about preventing sexual assault still has not changed as much as it needs to; unfortunately, these conversations lead to blaming women for their actions.

Women are told never to walk home alone at night, to watch their drinks at parties and bars, and to dress more conservatively so that they won’t be assaulted.

Women are also taught how to defend themselves. At our school, classes like Fit Female teach young women to be aware of, avoid, and fight back against perpetrators.

These lessons and types of classes are important and necessary. They can provide tools for avoiding or stopping potentially unsafe situations. However, along with information about preventing assault, our society and our schools need to place equal importance on emphasizing that it is absolutely unacceptable for someone to sexually exploit another human being.

While consent is talked about in our coed health classes, this conversation should stretch beyond a single class that we take for a semester during freshman and sophomore year.

The root cause of sexual assault is not that women dress too provocatively or are “asking for it.” The problem is that our society upholds rape culture, a culture where rape is pervasive and normalized as a result of societal attitudes towards gender and sexuality. Even the President of the United States has been accused by 24 women of sexual misconduct without any backlash; there has yet to be a proper investigation or any consequences.

It is also frustrating that women need to be taught preventative measures, because these measures fail to address the source of the problem. Teaching men that it’s absolutely unacceptable to touch women without their permission would more directly address the issue.

And part of the issue is that a lot of men don’t necessarily know what consent looks like. According to a 2015 survey conducted by the Washington Post, 20 percent of college aged men believe someone has consented to sex as long as they don’t say no, and a whopping 50 percent said that someone taking off their own clothes signals consent.

Both of these actions alone should most definitely not be considered consent. Consent has to be freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic, and specific.

In order to make any progress and decrease instances of sexual assault, most of the change needs to come from males. Men need to recognize that women standing up for their bodies and against sexual assault does not mean that it’s a “scary time for young men in America,” as President Donald Trump believes.

The #MeToo movement has made a revolutionary step towards holding abusers accountable for their actions and crimes. But this conversation needs to be extended and continued, as is the goal of the proposed sexual assault prevention club.

Hopefully with clubs such as this, one day we can live in a world where rather than reacting and punishing after the fact, these horrible crimes do not even happen in the first place.