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What comes to mind when you think of university life? Exposure to challenging new ideas? Subsistence on ramen noodles? Making lasting friendships? Wild parties? All-night cramming sessions?
There’s something about bouncing between stress and elation, deprivation and excess that makes university life such a memorable experience.
But there’s one very disturbing aspect of university life that’s got to go: the staggering rate of sexual assaults experienced by students. 1 in 4 students will experience sexual assault over the course of their post-secondary career and over 80% of these survivors are women.
The sad reality is that the circumstances of university life create a culture that is not conducive to consensual sex. Too many new students have had little or no education on sex and consent, many are away from their home support networks for the first time, and to top it off, popular media constantly exhorts young people to prove themselves sexually.
At the Centre for Gender Advocacy, we think another reality is possible. That’s why we campaigned to get Concordia to open a Sexual Assault Resource Centre that is helping to bring this alternative vision of a consensual campus to life. The Centre opened its doors in November 2013. This is an important step toward creating a safer and more inclusive university.
There’s still a lot to do though including tackling rape culture on campus and getting the university to implement consent workshops for all students living in residence, all frosh participants, and as many other students as possible!
Creating a culture of consent at Concordia is essential to having equal access to education. We can’t learn and develop to our full potential in an unsafe environment.
Want to volunteer? Whether you want to learn how to give consent workshops, design popular education materials, or work with the university to make a safer campus, we’d love to have you join the campaign. To get involved, email action[at]genderadvocacy.org.
N.B. The new Sexual Assault Resource Centre is located in Room GM-300.27 of the Guy-Metro Building (1550 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.) on the Sir George Williams Campus. To contact the coordinator Jennifer Drummond, or to find out more about the Sexual Assault Resource Centre, telephone 514-848-2424, ext. 3353 or email email@example.com.
Rape Culture: What is it and how do we fight back?
Rape culture is the way in which society normalizes, minimizes and even condones sexual assault. We are surrounded by images, language and other everyday phenomena that validate and perpetuate sexual assault.
What do you mean? Everyone knows that rape is wrong!… Don’t they?
Well, not really.
We tend to have a very narrow understanding of what constitutes rape (penetrative sexual assault) and sexual assault (which includes rape and other non-consensual acts of a sexual nature including touching, kissing, etc.).
While it’s true that people generally acknowledge that raping a stranger is wrong, we also receive countless messages every day that tell us that it’s okay to expect someone we know to have sex with us under certain circumstances — whether they consent or not.
For example, many believe that if you’ve bought someone dinner, if someone flirted with you, or if you’re in a relationship with someone, you’re entitled to have sex with them. Similarly, some say if you “dress like a slut” or have sex with many people, you’re “asking for it”.
The truth is that the only way to ask for sex is to… well, directly ask someone to have sex with you! And the only thing that ever gives anyone the right to engage sexually with another person is if they give us their consent. When we make statements that support the idea that it’s ok to have sex with someone without their consent, we normalize sexual assault and perpetuate rape culture.
Consent sounds complicated!
It isn’t! While consent is a word often associated with legal jargon, getting someone’s consent to have sex is much more straightforward. Here are some examples of how you can ask for someone’s consent:
Remember that it’s the responsibility of the person who is initiating a sexual activity to ask for consent, and that “no” has to be an acceptable answer in order for there to be any possibility of a real yes. In other words, if a person says yes because they feel pressured, threatened or coerced into having sex, it’s not real consent. Keep in mind that physical force or the threat of physical force isn’t necessary to coerce someone into doing something they don’t want to do.
Consent must be freely given, and should be enthusiastic! Less than enthusiastic consent might be a sign that someone is feeling pressured to give in. Asking someone what they want to do lets your sexual partners know that you care about their pleasure… and that’s hot!
Here are some other things to keep in mind:
What can we do to fight Rape Culture?
Now that you understand that sexual assault is any sexual act without consent, you’ll spot examples of rape culture all around you. To help fight rape culture, all you have to do is call it out! Staying silent helps reinforce victim-blaming and rape culture.
Changing rape culture is about changing social norms. When people feel that they will be criticized for making victim-blaming statements, they’ll be less likely to say those things; and the less victim-blaming and rape-normalizing we hear, the less people will believe and perpetuate those ideas!