Consent Workshops to Educate Students about Consent and their Rights

The first encounter I had with F.R.E.E (Feminists for Reproductive Equity and Education) Aggies was last semester when I was covering a story on their then President, Laura Reid. I had attended their 100 year celebration for Planned Parenthood and have a vivid memory of their now president, Emmalea Laningham explaining how to use a condom to me. She held no sign of discomfort or embarrassment and that is when I truly realized the peculiarity of speaking about sex.

“As I started as a freshman, I was uncomfortable talking about sexual activities,” recalls Laningham. “When I first came to A&M and I was thinking about the stereotypes of college, I expected a party environment, sexuality to be questioned and there was never really a root for me to translate that to other people. I was never given sex education and it can be a very uncomfortable conversation.”

This is why F.R.E.E started hosting programs called consent workshops.

“Consent workshops are meeting with students on campus, Aggies of any sort, in which we talk about sexual assault,” Laningham explains. “We talk about prevention, we talk about the ways that sexual assault can occur and we also talk about the definitions of Title IX.”

Title IX is a list of rights for college students who were victims of sexual assault. At Texas A&M, these rights are more stringent than the rights of those not affiliated with the university.

“A wealth of people feel more comfortable talking about about Title IX. They say at the end of consent workshops that they didn’t even really know what Title IX was and now they’re comfortable speaking about it,” Laningham said. “We know that sexual assault is not going to happen to more than half of students but we want other students to know how they can help out friends that may be affected by it or maybe even themselves. We are spreading awareness through the consent workshops.”

The workshops truly encourage destigmatizing the awkwardness associated with talking about sex.

“I feel like there’s a sense of community about the fact that we should have open dialogue,” Laningham said. “We should feel comfortable about natural activities and we should be standing up for people’s rights to have power in relationships. It’s opened up my eyes to how much more we can empower students and give them the courage to step up and stand up for themselves.”

Laningham and the rest of F.R.E.E know that the meaning of consent is deeper than just the ability to communicate sexual preferences. F.R.E.E wants to provide Aggies with the power to be able to choose for themselves.

“What consent really is is empowerment,” Laningham said. “It allows you to make decisions for yourself, say no, say yes, understand the situations that you’re in and always feel comfortable. Know that you are in control of your own destiny, your own life and your own sexuality.”

Find out more about F.R.E.E Aggies' upcoming consent workshops and events on their twitter and website