#WhatisYes Event explains sexual consent and rape culture

 Students are familiar with sex scenes in films. They often begin with an impulsive act — a man shoving a woman against the wall in a passionate kiss or two strangers meeting at a bar and ending up in a hotel room. These scenes are sensual, seamless and — with the exception of the film score — often silent.

As visiting assistant professor of communication Sarah Kornfield pointed out, there is no talking.
On Monday, Nov. 3, the Christian Feminist Club organized an event sponsored by Student Government and Student Development called #WhatIsYes. The event sought to define sexual consent, while explaining rape culture and the impact of a biblical understanding of sexuality on rape culture.
As students learned in the Title IX training earlier this semester, Wheaton College’s definition of sexual consent is more stringent than Illinois or Federal standards. According to Wheaton’s website, “Consent is voluntary, sober, informed and mutual. Refusal to consent does not have to be verbal; it can be expressed with gestures, body language or attitude. A prior sexual history between the complainant and respondent does not constitute consent.”
In the first part of the presentation, Kornfield explained how stereotypes, popular media and language lead to a culture where sexual assault is normal. In films, for example, one almost never sees the couple talking before having sex, when there should be defined and preferably verbal consent between the individuals involved. The interactions are often violent, confirming stereotypes about aggressive masculinity and the celebration of violence as “manly.”
These images and scenes perpetuate rape culture, which she defined as “the acceptance that sexual violence against women is normal, even sexy.” Commonly-held myths reinforce this acceptance of sexual violence. These myths include the argument that rape is the fault of the victim, that “no” really means “yes” and that women could resist rape, assault or coercion if they wanted to.
The next speaker professor of psychology and provost Stan Jones, who is also a widely published author on sexuality, affirmed the evening’s theme, saying, “Consent is the fundamental building block of healthy sexuality.” He argued that consent is necessary but not sufficient for healthy Christian sexuality because God would have us consent to the right actions, ones that conform to God’s desires for how we use his gift of our sexuality.
Jones established a broader framework for the biblical view of sexuality. “It is good to be physical, sexual human beings,” he said. Women and men equally bear God’s image in their sexuality. The possibility of reproduction, the creation of a one-flesh union and mutual pleasure and bonding are all healthy, positive aspects.
Like all of the speakers, he shared personal stories that conveyed the devastating impact of rape culture. These examples, shared by all of the speakers and students, punctuated the pervasiveness of sexual harassment and assault.
Associate dean of student care and services Allison Ash explained the resources available to students in the event of sexual assault or harassment. As the Title IX coordinator, her role is to prevent gender discrimination on campus and ensure that Wheaton is a safe environment to learn.
If a student believes he or she is the victim of sexual assault, there are several options. The Chaplain’s Office, Student Health Services and the Counseling Center are all confidential resources. They will not share an alleged assault unless the victim gives permission, in order to protect the student’s privacy.
If a student desires to report an incident to the college, the campus follows an investigation process that uses the preponderance of evidence standard to make a decision.
Ash shared a basic analogy to reiterate the importance of sexual consent. “If you were going to a movie with a friend, you would ask if they wanted to see the movie. You would never force them to watch a movie they didn’t want to see.” In the same way, there should be mutual agreement with physical intimacy — not one person forcing his or her will on another person.
Student Government believes all students should be aware of the meaning of consent. Nationally, one in four women on college campuses are victims of rape or attempted rape, and men are also vulnerable to being victims of sexual harassment and assault. The fact that men are less frequently the victims increases the stigmatization of being a male victim of sexual violence. Donna Aldridge from the Wheaton Counseling Center made it clear that all students that believe they have experienced sexual harassment or assault should be connected with support, either through the Counseling Center or through off-campus resources.
How do we address rape culture? According to Kornfield, women and men can reject rape culture through rejecting the romanticization of violence and masculinities that glorify dominance. In situations that could turn into sexual assault or rape, she urged students to “recognize your agency, speak up and communicate with your partner in explicit ways.”
As Jones said, “Sexuality is a precious, precious gift.” Rejecting the myth of the movie sex scene — and rape culture as a whole — will enable Wheaton’s campus to live out a safe, healthy and God-honoring sexuality.

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