This Viral Tweet Perfectly Nails What We Get Wrong About Preventing Rape on College Campuses

May 2nd 2017

Almie Rose

"Colleges are doing a shitty job of teaching consent" declared a tweet by TONIC, the online health publication from Vice. 

But it's not just colleges, as one Twitter user seemingly points out — and this point about consent edcuation has gone viral.

A tweeted response from Jasmine Sanders on Monday struck quite a chord.

Her tweet earned over 95 thousand retweets, 186 thousand likes, and lots of discussion.

First, there was the "but women rape too" discussion:

Then the discussion that teaching not to rape shouldn't even have to be taught, but should be automatically understood by all:

But, teaching children and teenagers that "no means no" and "yes means yes" is important — and something that hasn't been given enough attention in sex ed compared to abstinence. 

There is evidence to suggest that too much time in sex education is given to the idea of having no sex at all — when sex education is even provided

Many schools that do receive sex ed focus on "abstinence only sex education," according to a 2014 report from Tufts University School of Medicine. Twenty-seven of states "require an emphasis on an abstinence only approach to preventing pregnancy," the report states

There are other curriculum issues: "In 41 states and the District of Columbia," the report adds, "schools that teach sex education are not required to teach medically accurate information."

Though the Tufts report does not include statistics on how many students recieve education about consent, if the focus is on not having sex at all (or just focusing on preventing STIs or unwanted pregnancy), consent can easily be left out of the equation, as Katelyn Silva wrote in an op-ed for Education Post. She continues:

"The idea of discussing sex and consent in our schools may make us uneasy as parents, but it’s necessary. According to a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll, almost half of college students do not know the definition of consent and the potential ramifications of not receiving consent. Forty-six percent said it’s 'unclear whether sexual activity when both people have not given clear agreement is sexual assault.'"

So by the time "men arrive at college," as Sanders tweeted, they're already missing a key part in learning about sex: consent.

Brown University’s student paper, Brown Political Review, posted a piece in 2013 that believes this issue is what makes rape culture so prevalent. About sex ed in high school, Brown student author Clara Beyer writes,

"[T]he current focus on those two social ills — unplanned pregnancy and STIs — completely ignores another, equally pressing problem: rape. [...] One of the most important elements of being a sexually mature adult is understanding consent: how to ask for it, how to give it, and how to understand when it is and isn’t valid. And right now, most sex-ed programs in America don’t teach that at all. Sure, they might include a lecture here and there on how 'no means no,' and if you say no to somebody, they should stop [...] 

"But the bulk of consent isn’t about saying 'no.' A lot of it is in learning to respectfully take 'no' for an answer. And a lot of consent is about learning when and how to say 'yes.'"

The tides are changing. The New York Times reported in Oct. 2015 that "California became the first state to require that all high school health education classes give lessons on affirmative consent, which includes explaining that someone who is drunk or asleep cannot grant consent."

This means school districts aren't only required to teach "no means no," but also that "yes means yes."