Consent, Choice and Ending Excuses

Our fifth workshop introduced the discussion about consent and how it relates to relationships. Some of the participants knew what the word ‘consent’ was but we still went over a definition to make sure everyone understood. Then we talked about dating practices and looked a recent graph from a study that showed that young women prefer being asked out and young men prefer doing the asking. Then I asked participants how young women usually show if they are interested in someone and they said by indirect ways such as flirting, and body language such dressing up or playing with hair. Then we looked at a video that talked about sexual consent and how it is not okay to rely on body language or silence to start a sexual activity. It is too dangerous because, without an explicit, verbal consent, the move could be sexual assault or even rape.

After the discussion, Whitney and I pulled out a flip chart paper where the girls wrote down words related to consent or choice. They used phrases they had picked from the discussion and the videos as well. This would help us know what they learned and also help them in writing their final pieces. The last activity involved the interpretation of women’s objectification when they are encouraged to stay silent or their choice is considered passive, even non-existent. Each participant went to the front of the room, picked ones of the objects Whitney had brought in and said she was not that object. There were some very clever ideas that came up and showed that the girls had a good prior knowledge of how women can be treated as objects and how they could defy it. Lastly, they went back into pairs to work on their writing pieces.  – Amna Siddiqui

Our sixth workshop further talked about consent and excuses related to violence against women. After performing our poetry pieces from the last couple of workshops, we were all handed posters that described situations of consensual sexual activity and non-consensual sexual activity (sexual assault). There were words or dialogue that would be typically said in either of the situations. We all read a line from the posters that struck to us and talked about what that meant to us and what we thought about it.

We also looked at many excuses people make when it comes to consent or even violence (and not only against women, the examples we went through applied both sexes). Whitney had prepared many strips of paper with common excuses on them for assault cases. We picked a paper and read the line on it. Then someone else had to give an argument against that excuse by saying “Welll….” For example, one of the lines was ‘well she hit him first, there was only so much he could take’. The lines created a discussion more than clear arguments against them as some of us asked for explanation about the scenarios those lines may be used in. Our cameraman Kevin also joined the conversation and provided some more insight as we explained scenarios and examples many of us have seen in our own life or through some sort of media that have had these excuses. Lastly, we discussed what a forced and arranged marriage was, and what the differences were in terms of consent and other typical common ways they are constructed. Some of the participants shared stories from people they knew. One of them told of someone she knew who was unhappy and afraid before the marriage but eventually became happy after the marriage. While this was one way a forced marriage could turn out well, we also discussed how that may not always be the case. We heard perspectives from South Asian and Somali background. As we ran out of time, our discussion of forced marriage will continue in the next workshop. – Rammya Ilankannan



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