I get to participate in some pretty awesome conversations as part of my work.
One of my favorites, though, is when I get to talk to college students about what makes for a mind-blowing, talk-about-it-for-years party.
I ask the question, and students just start shouting out things like:
“The perfect DJ!” “Everybody’s dancing!” “Booze.” “Drugs.” “Some non-alcoholic drinks/mixers.” “Sexy ladies!” “Sexier men!” “No drama.” “Food.” “Sex!” “Everybody’s gettin’ lucky!” “SEX!”
Let’s be honest: By and large, one of the only things that college students love more than partying and sex is talking about partying and sex.
What’s phenomenal about this conversation, though, is the opportunity it provides to extend the dialogue beyond beer bongs, booty shaking, and backroom hookups.It provides an entry into a conversation about positive sexuality and sexual violence prevention.
With rare exceptions, no one who is throwing a party spends the time, energy, and money so that people will get assaulted. Yet there is a clear connection betweencollege party culture and sexual violence.
After all, 74% of perpetrators of sexual violence on college campuses were under the influence of alcohol when they committed the assault, and 55% of survivors of sexual violence on campuses were under the influence of alcohol when assaulted.
Unfortunately, on college campuses, this dialogue translates too often into shaming and blaming of survivors for their decisions to drink or approaches to“prevention” that place the onus on potential “victims” to keep themselves from getting raped.
And to mitigate the risk, most colleges simply take a punitive approach (with varying levels of alcohol education – which is fantastic – thrown in) to alcohol on campus.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, we need to see college partying and the terrifying link to sexual violence as an opening to a different kind of conversation about the social time our young people are spending on college campuses or anywhere for that matter.
Shifting to Sex Positivity
Most of the college students that I work with have never heard of the concept of sex positivity. I know I sure hadn’t when I started college.
But in any conversation about sex with young people, when I introduce the definition I work from, the tone shifts considerably, no matter how we were discussing sex before.
Here’s the definition I’m working from:
Sex positivity refers to positive, affirming, consensual sexual relationships, characterized by open, honest communication and attention to the needs and desires of oneself and one’s partner(s).
Sounds amazing, right?
Well, most of the young people I get to work with on college campuses all over the US think so, too!
So when I tell them that it’s possible to make simple changes to your average party environment that make it more sex positive, they are pumped!
But every now and then, I have the skeptical workshop participant (usually a dude, but not always) who says something to the effect of “It sounds like one giant cock-block to me.”
But without fail, whenever this sentiment is expressed, I don’t even have to respond!
Last time this happened, a young woman explained, “Unless you’re looking to rape somebody, this sounds like the opposite of a cock block. Nothing sounds hotter than dancing with someone at a party only to learn that they are a great kisser who asks first!”
Undoubtedly, we have to spend some time and energy thinking about the worst case scenario, understanding and exposing predators, and taking preventative precautions.
But sexual violence prevention, particularly as it relates to parties, can (and must)be so much more than that!
What Does Sex-Positive Partying Look Like?
Read the rest at Everyday Feminism.