By ABIGAIL JADE KOERNER
In the wake of Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing, issues of sexual consent are especially poignant. It is our job to educate young people about the significance of consent in sexual encounters at every age. This education should start early in a person’s life so every encounter they have as they grow older is respectful. Consent education can happen at home, at school, and elsewhere but it is important that those who facilitate difficult conversations on the topic of sexual consent do so with proper tools for understanding.
Ilene B. Price—designer, mother, and author from Livingston, New Jersey—recently published “The ABC’s of Non-Consent.” This illustrated poem uses simple rhymes to tell stories of nonconsensual sexual encounters. Each event she describes in the book touches on issues of rape culture where a person is blamed for a nonconsensual encounter because of who they are, what they are wearing, prior sexual experience, or otherwise (i.e. “A is for Avery who wore a little black dress”). This book speaks to rape culture—our societal condition where rape is normalized because of societal attitudes about sexual identities and sexual behaviors. Rape culture is made evident in daily life as women’s bodies are objectified, sexual violence is celebrated, and victims of rape are blamed for their own violation.
By giving examples of non-consent, Price provides readers with tools to identify signs of nonconsensual encounters. Still, understanding of what the definition of consent actually is remains necessary. Price defines consent as the condition where “Only saying the word yes means yes.” In other words, consent is an enthusiastic, verbal agreement between partners where everyone involved gives their consent to any sexual behavior with positive reinforcement. Anything other than “yes” or a variation of “yes” is not consent and should not be treated as such. Consent cannot be given by a person’s clothing choices or perceived body language.
People start experimenting with sex in early adolescence and as such, issues with non-consensual sex can arise early in a person’s life. We can only hope that our generation will receive early, comprehensive education on sexual consent. With proper education, leaders of our generation can work towards improving our well-being having made decisions throughout their lives that maximize the well-being of others. Respect for other people’s bodies should be a given condition of life and those in power should be the first to advocate for positive ethics surrounding rape culture. It is a consequence of rape culture that rapists are often not convicted for their crimes and it is a consequence of rape culture that a man who potentially is a rapist will likely serve as a Supreme Court Justice. Regardless of whether Judge Kavanaugh did or did not rape Dr. Ford years ago, this moment in United States history is highly influential in determining the worth of any person who has been raped in this country. Understanding and empathizing with victims of non-consensual sex begins with tough conversations about consent that Ilene Price’s book can help to facilitate.
“The ABC’s of Non-Consent” is available for purchase on Amazon.com
Abigail Jade Koerner [email protected] is the Arts Editor for the Indy.