Last week in one of my sociology classes I was introduced to an organization called Men Against Violence Against Women. I had never heard of this group before, but I was immediately intrigued by their name. Founded by a group of men in 2000, this organization’s mission is to “empower men to end all forms of violence against women by educating our selves and the community, raising awareness and creating social change.”
During the speakers presentation one thing I found awesome about this group is that they embrace and stress the role of the bystander. When I heard the speaker tell us that, it blew my mind. Imagine how big of a difference we could make if we stepped in and made sure someone was okay at the immediate sign of sexual violence or harassment in a public place like a college party? Your role as a bystander is more than just being a bystander. Who knows, you could even end up being a hero in a situation if you decide to intervene and help a person out who looks like they might be in danger.
A second thing the organization stresses in their campaigns is the saying “yes means yes.” You may have been familiar with the saying “no means no,” but MAVAW likes to embrace “yes means yes” because it emphasizes the concept of consent. Giving consent means giving permission for something to happen or an agreement to do something, so saying yes and giving consent should be the only way to proceed in initiating a sexual encounter.
Just incase there still might be some confusion with the idea of consent, I’d like to explain consent and sex in simpler terms with a short YouTube video our speaker showed my class. Take the idea of someone offering another person a cup of tea for instance. If you offer someone tea and they say yes, then great you have been given consent and they will take your tea! If they don’t want any tea then that’s that, they just don’t want your tea. Even if you were to ask someone if they want tea and they said yes earlier in the day and then when you bring it up to them later and they decide they don’t want the tea anymore, then that’s fine too! Sometimes people change their minds and if they don’t want the tea anymore than there’s nothing you can do about it, no one is obligated to drink your tea if they don’t want to. You also should never give someone tea if they’re unconscious, because unconscious people aren’t able to make the decision on if they want the tea or not, so why would you force someone to drink your tea? What about if the person is conscious when you ask them if they want tea, but when you go to get it and come back they’re unconscious? The answer is simple! Don’t give them your tea and make sure they are safe!
When our speaker explained consent with the use of the tea analogy, it seemed to make more since to our class rather than pairing consent with sex, but if people can learn to recognize what it means to actually give consent, then as a community we can make a difference in trying to stop sexual violence.