Students should not opt out of consent lessons

Carl Zuleger, Contributor

According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (also known as RAINN), every 107 seconds, someone experiences sexual assault. On average, there are 293,000 people above the age of twelve victimized by sexual assault each year. 68 percent of those sexual assaults are not reported to the police, and 98 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail.
Each victim is a real person, one with thoughts and emotions. Each one is a person like you. What they experienced, to have their basic human rights invaded in a cruel and abusive manner, is irrefutably awful and unacceptable. Now, there are numerous articles that have been written about how one can protect themselves from rape, but recently the focus has shifted. The goal, the endgame, is to stop people from raping others in the first place, which starts with a clear understanding of the term consent.
Consent is the key aspect that determines whether or not a sexual act can be considered rape, which is why Gender Equality Club, of which I am a member, decided to take an opportunity to educate freshmen classes on what consent is and why it is important. According to the Wisconsin Legislature, consent is words or overt actions by a person who is competent to give informed consent indicating a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or sexual contact. The Legislature cites two cases in which a person would be considered unfit to give consent, the first being “A person suffering from a mental illness or defect which impairs capacity to appraise personal conduct,” and the second being, “ A person who is unconscious or for any other reason is physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act.” So essentially, if someone says no, or is unable to say yes, then the answer is no. It’s that simple.
This information is crucial to the betterment of society. It is vital for all to have a working understanding, which is exactly what club leaders were working to achieve by visiting freshmen classes. The catch, however, is that students had an option to not attend the presentation due to its sensitive subject matter. This allowance was unacceptable, for a few reasons. First of all, by allowing students to not attend, it de-emphasizes the importance of consent. It gets the students thinking “well, consent must not be that important, if we don’t have to go…” Secondly, if attending the presentation is optional, it implies that asking for consent is optional. Not only is it morally wrong to have sex with someone against their wishes, but it is illegal as well. In order to keep in line with the law, one must know what the law is. And thirdly, if freshman health can spend an entire unit talking about sex education (which only touches on consent), they can surely handle a presentation that doesn’t even last an hour.
The only reasonable instance in which it would be acceptable for a student to refuse to be educated on consent would be if they have already been a victim of rape. Then talking about the issue of consent may be a trigger to them, and it is very understandable if they would like to avoid that situation. But for everyone else, education on consent is too important to have the opportunity to opt out of it.