Conversations around sexuality and consent can feel awkward and uncomfortable, but it’s essential to speak up.
Why not sit down with a cup of tea to engage in discussions, ask questions and clarify some details at the Consent Tea on BMO Student Street?
Hosted annually by the Wellness Centre, the event is based on the concept behind the short British-made instructional film Consent and Tea.
Of course, giving consent to drink a cup of tea and giving consent for sex are on different spectrums, but the metaphor is simple and gently humorous—so let’s start there, shall we?
Sexual relationships can be rife with emotional landmines, steeped in miscommunication and the misreading of signals. The highly-nuanced dance of flirtation, and the whole “will they or won’t they” kind of tension can make for a boatload of confusion. Clarity is key. Communication is everything.
No means no means no. End of story. Right?
Amber Huva, Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Manager, balances educational initiatives while supporting survivors—guiding individuals to the services they require. She believes the tea is a great way to encourage non-confrontational dialogue: “there’s so much discomfort, fear, guilt, shame that arises when talking about sexualized violence. We need to create space for these conversations about issues that are very real, and happening in our community.”
Amid sipping tea and playing games, students signed a Consent Pledge—and discussed their concerns about consent.
Conlan Sprickerhoff, WolfPack cross country runner, agrees that it’s a major concern, “it’s important that we keep an eye out for issues at parties. The subject matter is stigmatized, and it shouldn’t be—we need to talk about it.”
Trevor Jones said, “It doesn’t get talked about enough. We need to think about our mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends and wives in this context, and then ask people how big a deal consent is.”
Student Abroad Ambassador Dave Waite described how vast cultural differences can create confusion—as well as how perspectives on sexuality is “ingrained in sports culture, and embedded in concepts of masculinity.”
Alex Wilson, Wellness SWAT team member, spoke about the media campaigns that encourage and promote consent, such as the “Consent is sexy” posters seen at recent music festivals. “Never assume; always ask.”
Statistically speaking, 1 in 4 women will experience sexual violence; first-year students—generally ages 18-22 are most commonly at risk. Overconsumption of alcohol and drugs are among primary factors. Arm yourself with knowledge. Enlist your friends, have those conversations, implement the buddy system—not just for getting home safely—but for healthy practices surrounding alcohol consumption.
Consent is never assumed or implied. Silence is not consent. Intoxication or impairment is not permission. Consent can’t be acquired through threats or coercion, or as an abused position of trust, power, or authority. No matter your relationship or sexual history with the person in question, consent can be withdrawn at any time.
Amber concluded, “this work doesn’t always happen in loud, immediate, sweeping changes–it often takes place one step at a time, over a cup of tea on Student Street.”
For more information on Amber Huva, call Student Services, 250-828-5023.