If I had a dollar for every woman I’ve become friends with because what we had in common was being sexually assaulted, I would have enough money to properly fund high school sex education courses. The saddest thing I’ve noticed as a female college student is that almost every woman I’ve met has experienced some form of sexual assault or trauma already in her life. The second saddest thing I’ve noticed as a female college student is that at this point women just expect the worst. They leave for every date preparing code words to send to their friends in case they have to escape. At this point in my life, I’m not scared of dates because I’m nervous they’ll be awkward, I’m scared because I never know if something I can’t escape is going to happen. I never know if they’ll stop when I say no. I never know if they’ll understand consent. Why do so many people not understand consent? Let's talk about it.
If you’ve been assaulted and told someone or turned on the news in 2020, you may have heard things like “but he's such a good guy” or “but he was 16 when he did it.” The first thing we need to debunk is the idea that if a person didn’t know it was wrong when they were 16 and were never confronted with it or told it was wrong when they were 16, that they would never do it again as an adult. Teenagers do not grow out of their sexuality, they grow into it. The second thing we need to debunk is the response that “they would never do that” because they are your friend or they’ve never done it to you. The media for years has taught us that rapists are gross old men who drag you into an alley, and for years, women have been raped by their friends, family members, teachers, coaches and partners.
The men who assaulted me were two of my best friends. All-stars at sports. Never heard them say a mean thing about anyone the whole time I knew them. I was in a relationship with their best friend at the time. I trusted them. Everyone I knew trusted them. And after it happened everyone I knew believed them because of exactly that. I’m not trying to say don’t trust any man ever or anything, but don’t you ever find yourself wondering, why? For a long time, I wondered why and what I realized is that they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong. No one ever told them what consent was. Because just as women were taught to fear old creepy men, men saw that and determined that rape was wrong when it was a creepy man you didn't know and not them. When you hear about a gross man abducting a young girl and assaulting her on the news you think he's gross and terrifying. When a handsome 19-year old swimmer at Stanford University does it, we defend him.
I would like to propose something: teaching consent as a part of sexual education. The problem with that genius plan is that in most states students are taught abstinence-only sex education. In my school, we were shown a lifetime movie about a girl getting pregnant in high school and then moved on to Drivers Ed. If we could move past our fear that it will make teenagers want to have sex and just accept that teenagers do or will eventually have sex, we could educate so many more people. Since we can’t add it to the school curriculum, we should take it upon ourselves. Ask your children if you can hug or kiss them before you do to show them that they have a choice and in the future, they need to give others that same choice. Stop entertaining the idea that when a boy hurts a girl it means he likes her and letting women feel like they should accept that. We do not accept that.