At Consent Week, students discuss sex, abuse and toxic masculinity

·2 min read
Several workshops are being held this week as part of Consent Week at Saint Mary's University in Halifax.  (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)
Several workshops are being held this week as part of Consent Week at Saint Mary's University in Halifax. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)

Saint Mary's University in Halifax has launched its fourth annual Consent Week for students, consisting of a series of online and in-person events and activities to promote an understanding and commitment to consent.

"These are conversations for everybody to be having and it isn't just limited to sexual behaviour either," said Lyndsay Anderson, assistant director of student culture and experience at Saint Mary's.

"We are trying to promote consent broadly in all aspects of life, but this week it is particularly meant to be around sexual consent, which is something everyone needs to know."

Consent Week is there to help all students but particularly first-year students who are living away from home for the first time.

Paul Palmeter/CBC
Paul Palmeter/CBC

The week-long schedule of events has several workshops that deal with a variety of issues around consent and sexuality. On Friday, a workshop titled "Consent and Masculinity" will deal with male-identified students that want to learn about how gender stereotypes and toxic masculinity influence sexual violence and unhealthy viewpoints of consent.

"Consent can be attached to so many different things beyond sexual consent," said Anderson. "We offer bystander intervention training, which gives people the tools and ability to intervene if they think something is going to happen or if there is a situation that is lacking consent taking place."

One of the events is being run in conjunction with Dalhousie University. Jungle Flower will speak about her own personal experience in dealing with an abusive relationship. She founded Reclaim Your Voice and has hosted events where people who have experienced sexual violence could share their stories.

University seeking feedback

Venus Envy, a sex shop and book store in Halifax, is another one of the presenters at Consent Week. The shop is involved in many sex education initiatives at universities in Atlantic Canada.

The presentation they'll be making this week is called "Confidence, Consent and Communication."

"I think a lot of us have this idea in our heads that consent is like a yes or no question, but it's really much more than that," said Rachele Manett, education co-ordinator at Venus Envy.

"There are so many ways to communicate, whether it's verbally or non-verbally or if it's through body language, all of those things are very important if you are going to have a sexual relationship with someone."

Consent Week will wrap up on Friday. Anderson said the university will be seeking feedback from students to see if there are tweaks that should be made to how Consent Week is conducted.

"We want to give students a chance to come forward at the end of the week and share some reflections with us," said Anderson.

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