Shorewood teaches consent poorly

 If your friend walks into your house with a pizza and you ate it with them one day and then they came back the next day with another pizza and offered you a slice and you declined, how would you feel if they got upset? Do you need to accept something today just because you accepted it the day before?

In light of April being sexual violence awareness month, many advisory classrooms presented slides that walked through the ins and outs of consent by showing a video, followed by a mortifying pizza analogy that avoided the word ‘sex’ as much as possible.

Though I find this funny, anxiety kicks in when I imagine the reaction from people who never took consent seriously to begin with. Wisconsin is one of nineteen states that does not require sex education to be taught, and while the good intention of sex education is appreciated, Shorewood’s acknowledgement of consent and sexual violence is lacking the effort this subject sorely needs. The first mistake was choosing advisory as a space to discuss such a weighted topic, this half hour is where students zone out and teachers understand that their presentations are not reaching or connecting with the audience. A second misstep is disregarding that high schoolers have the ability to understand the most basic physical boundaries another person can set. Many students have dated and plenty of students have already had their consent violated before or during high school. Lastly, sex and sexual assault will never be destigmatized if discussion leaders are too uncomfortable to even say the word ‘sex.’ Using consent pizza as an alternative implies that sex is too taboo or shameful, effectively undermining the entire goal of sex education. These good intentions would be more competently realized with an annual school assembly in which professionals or organizations speak on how consent can be manipulated. Not only would this close any knowledge gaps on this issue stemming from pandemic learning, it would also create another space to discuss sex education rather than having the responsibility lay solely on the curriculum of the physical education department. 

Considering my own experience with coercion, I wish I had been educated on different manipulation tactics such as guilt-tripping and badgering. These were used to build up guilt in me so I could be exploited. When I knew that I had been disrespected, I thought a plea for respect and a definition of consent would change how I was treated. Yet in reality, manipulators know they’re manipulators, and the best thing to do is leave. I’m lucky that I have people in my life to validate my feelings, and I needed that support in order to name what I felt. Discussing sexual violence does not aim to eradicate violence itself, but to help individuals, especially those with no support, to understand what they are feeling and no longer feel ashamed of themselves.