#350: Let’s crowdsource some feminist sex ed for frat guys.

Dear Captain Awkward,

Due to a current organizing position I hold I have been asked to deliver brief presentations to each of the Greek chapters on my campus discussing the importance of women’s reproductive health issues in the upcoming election and subsequently registering people to vote while perhaps even sneaking in tidbits about safe sex and healthy relationships. I have no reservations talking to the sororities because I figure they have more reason to be receptive to the message. I am, however, quite nervous to present to the fraternities. Standing alone in front of a room of fraternity guys is scary in and of itself. Trying to convince them to care about women’s reproductive health issues seems tricky, as does talking about consent to a group that is particularly sensitive/defensive about consent issues. How can I give my presentation in a compelling and convincing manner?

Some things I have thought of:

1.  The men and women’s sexual health on campus depend on one another. The men’s health is compromised if the women don’t have access to STD screenings/contraceptives etc and vice versa. And these dudes definitely aren’t looking to become dads anytime soon so like, SUPPORT BIRTH CONTROL HEY!

2.     The “these are your girlfriends, your friends, sisters & mothers” ploy. But that comes off to me as “PROTECT YOUR WOMEN” and that is a weird message that I don’t want to deliver.

3.     It’s just the right thing to do…

Any script ideas or talking points you can think of?


Fraternizing with the Male Vote

Dear Fraternizing:

What a cool project. I understand why it feels daunting. But it is cool and important.

I’m going to put some questions out to the readers for crowd-sourcing purposes:

  1. What’s one thing about sex, reproductive health, sexual health, etc. that you know now that you wish you knew at 18-22 ?
  2. What’s one thing that someone taught you about sex, enthusiastic consent, reproductive rights, etc. that really stuck with you?
  3. If you’ve been in one of these presentations before, either as an audience member or a presenter, what’s one thing that worked really well? Or do you have a horror story of this going horribly awry?
  4. In an ideal world, if you could talk to this group of guys, what would you tell them? Try to do it in 3-5 sentences.

As for suggested topics, I like the way you are thinking about this. One thing people have found out when talking to young men….and some current legislators… about birth control, reproductive health, STDs, etc. is that they are really fuzzy on the basic science. It’s safe to assume that at least some people in the room came through abstinence-only sex ed programs and don’t know about Scarleteen. So one thing you might do is a walk-through of safer sex and a review of various birth control methods, how much they cost, how they work, etc.


I think the more participatory you can make things, the better. You can do a very short intro where you set up the session, and then you can use the classroom/workshop technique that has never failed me:  Give people a question or topic(s) to discuss, break them into groups of 3 or 4 to talk about the topics or solve a certain problem, and then walk around and talk to them in these smaller groups to see what they came up with.

It makes them more comfortable, because they’re not being put on the spot in front of the entire room, and you more comfortable because you’re dealing with them in smaller groups and can connect more easily than if you had to deal with the Wall of Dude. You can ask them to present the best of what they came up with to the larger group, or you could select and amplify great things they said and share them with the larger group.

Some good ground rules: There are no stupid questions. No one HAS to share anything they don’t want to. Any personal information revealed stays in the room.

Here are some discussion questions that you could ask them that would get you at a lot of the issues that you are trying to cover:

  1. Thinking back to your last sexual partner or partners, what did you do to have safer sex and (for het guys) prevent pregnancy?
  2. Do you know what form of birth control your partner uses, and can you describe how it works? (This might be hilarious).
  3. Who brought it up? When did you talk about it? How did you decide?
  4. Did you and your partner(s)ever discuss what you would do in case of an unwanted pregnancy? Have you ever thought about what you would do if you accidentally got someone pregnant?
  5. Bonus question, if it seems to be going well and they are forthcoming: What do you think is the best way to have these kinds of discussions? How do you wish your partners talked to you about this?

If you got them talking honestly about that stuff (give them 20-30 minutes, and circulate among the groups), you would very quickly get a picture of what they know and where the gaps in knowledge are. You would also get them talking to each other, maybe in a way that will continue after you leave.

And then you could switch over to a bit of lecture mode and go over the different options, how much they cost, etc. You could cover the “choice” question by going over how much an abortion costs, what the rules/constraints are for getting one, what ridiculous laws are on the books to make it harder for people. There is a very clear difference in the major party platforms, and you can’t make anyone’s mind up for them, but you can present the contrasts and facts clearly and help them make an informed choice.

The ultimate thesis being that women are bearing a giant hassle/risk/financial cost for sex, so young men should meet us halfway. They should educate themselves about the science and the economics. They should share in the responsibility and the financial costs with their partners.  If sex with women, as well as the freedom and well-being of friends/mothers/future daughters/sisters/cousins is important to them, and if they don’t want to make a baby every time a penis goes inside a vagina, maybe they shouldn’t vote to limit women’s choices or make life harder for them.

I’ve been trying to think about how to best frame the consent issue. A quick phone consult with the Gentleman Caller came up with the following rough draft of one way this might go. Given that you will have limited time and can’t cover every possible angle, etc. this focuses as much as possible on positive steps that men can do to make themselves and their friends & partners safer.

1. Get The Depressing Stuff Out of the Way.

Introduce legal definition of rape and various sex crimes (assault, harassment, etc.) where you are, and talk about rape statistics both on campus and in general. Talk about the ways alcohol is a factor and college students are at risk. This is a college-sponsored event, so one of the things you have to do is make law + college policies absolutely clear. Be brief and clinical. Tone-wise, assume that the audience is on your side in knowing and agreeing that this is bad, and give them the benefit of the doubt as much as possible. You lose nothing by assuming this now because you will dig into the hard stuff later.

2. Small Group Discussions, Again.

You might prepare some scenarios, as in an ethics course, and have them discuss them. Is this assault? How could it have been prevented? What could men do for each other and for women to keep an eye on sketchy situations and help prevent rape? What can men do to support friends who have been assaulted?

One way to get at this and make it more personal is to ask:

“Thinking back to your most recent sex partner or partners, how did you know that they wanted to have sex? How did they know that you wanted to have sex?”

    • Verbal cues?
    • Nonverbal cues?
    • Who initiated? What are the scripts that people follow around the decision to have sex?
    • Is that working for you? Do you wish you could handle it differently?

You may be really pleasantly surprised, but get ready for a lot of blushing, joking, and avoidance. In fact, be prepared for some of the discussions to get downright problematic. Keep to the ground rules of no stupid questions, no one should feel compelled to share anything, and whatever gets discussed in the room stays in the room. And then let the awkwardness come. You can use it.

3. Introduce Enthusiastic Consent.

Legally, sex can only happen when both people consent. It’s not an option. It’s literally the minimum standard of human decency.

Fortunately, this coincides nicely with what you need to have truly awesome sex:

  • A partner who feels safe with you.
  • A partner who IS actually safe with you because everyone is as protected as possible from unwanted pregnancy and STDs and can be trusted to respect limits.
  • A partner who is really, really into what is happening.

I know we said “no stupid questions,” but since you are almost certain to have a devil’s advocate* in the room advancing the stoner’s gambit that there has been tons of sex in the world where people maybe didn’t sign a sexual consent form, or maybe BOTH people were drunk, or sometimes one person DOES just have sex to make the other person happy, and THAT doesn’t fall under the definition of rape so how are people even supposed to know if they are possibly accidentally raping someone? …Kill it with fire.

For one thing, the uncomfortable truth is there is a lot of sex that is coerced in one way or another that does not get called out as or meet a strict legal definition of rape. It may not be illegal, but it doesn’t mean it’s not gross and wrong.

For another thing, do you really want to be the guy who exists in the so-called “gray” areas of this? Do you really want to end up trying out those arguments in a courtroom or police interrogation room someday? Do you really want to be the guy who pressures reluctant people into having sex? Do you really want to be someone who gets people drunk so they’ll have sex with you, or who tries to find the drunkest and most vulnerable freshman at the party and take advantage of her while she’s on the verge of passing out? Do you want to be someone who is never fully sure that your partner is into what’s happening because you’re afraid that if you ask her she’ll say no? Is it worth the risks of poor decision making around sexual health and pregnancy risk, or the fear that maybe you hurt and coerced someone and did them permanent emotional damage? Don’t be that guy.

Be the guy who asks your partner what they’d like to do with you out loud with words. “I would really like to ____ with you. Would you be up for that?” You’re not ruining romance.

Be the guy who actually listens to the answer and makes refusal (INCLUDING an indirect refusal) a real option. The only good answer to someone refusing to do something with you is some version of “Right on, I hope I didn’t make you uncomfortable” and backing off.

If someone says no, freezes, pulls back, moves your hands away, goes passive or limp, or seems at all reluctant to do something or less than fully present, doesn’t make any moves towards removing clothing, stop whatever it is you’re doing. Treat “maybe” as “no.” Let your partner make the next move, if there is a next move. Trust that if “maybe” really means “yes,” they’ll find a way to let you know.

This might feel awkward and uncomfortable at first because (heterosexual) men are socialized to be the aggressors who must “perform” and move the action along, and women are socialized to be more passive receivers. There’s this (bad) cultural expectation that guys are always up for sex and will be pushy about it and women are gatekeepers and that sex is a favor they do for (or cruelly deny) to men.

Even when people know intellectually that it’s bullshit, it’s still very possible for that model to feel normal and even good when it plays out in the moment with someone you like. If you deviate from that script, you take a risk that your partner might not step so comfortably into the role of aggressor and that things might unfold more slowly than they otherwise would or require a lot more explicit communication. Trust that the weirdness is momentary. Trust that people who really want you will find a way to make it happen between you – if not Right Now, then soon. And honestly, if your partner is nervous or having second thoughts or worried about being pressured, being No Pressure Guy is the coolest and sexiest thing you can be.

Be the guy who drinks responsibly and helps other people make good decisions about that. “I’d love to, but I feel like I’ve had a lot to drink. Can I call you?” “Hey, friend, you seem like you’re really out of it. Why don’t you drink some water and go to bed.

Be the guy who walks the really drunk girl to her door and makes sure she gets inside okay. Text her the next day and ask her how she’s feeling. Can you bring her coffee? Would she like to get together (sober) sometime and hang out? She may or may not be interested in you, but she’ll know that you’re not a pushy jerk out for what he can get.

Be the guy who shuts down rape jokes. It matters.

Be the guy who listens to women when someone, even someone you like, is not acting right. It matters. Sometimes a simple “Hey, not cool, bro” is all it takes to defuse a situation when someone’s crossed the line.

Be the guy who doesn’t treat having sex as some achievement. Don’t make fun of your friends for being sexually inexperienced or pressure them to “get laid.” Don’t slut-shame women for being sexually experienced.

As a fraternity, continue the conversation. What kind of environment do you want to create in your organization? How do you want people to be treated at your events and in your house? What kind of code or policy or culture could you create around safety, especially around sex – everything from making sure there are free condoms available, encouraging regular STD testing for members, or a”drunk unsteady girls get walked home that they might live and possibly make out with us another day” policy?

It took me a while to write that, but it was so fun, so thanks for the question. You made me want to reach out to the Student Affairs office at the school where I teach and see what kind of programs they have and if I could put together some kind of workshop around this.

*I feel like the chances that this dude has a Ron Paul t-shirt, sign, or bumper sticker is extremely high. Please conduct an informal survey for me if you can, I would consider it a personal favor.

223 thoughts on “#350: Let’s crowdsource some feminist sex ed for frat guys.

  1. I don’t have anything constructive to say (well, one thing — maybe, knowing your audience, stress that enthusiastic consent is FUN, it is the maximum amount of fun sex can be) except I wish I could see this talk! Excellent advice.

  2. LW, I’ve done something similar and am about to do much more. I was elected president of the “Voices for Planned Parenthood” student organization in my university for this school year. One of our main activities is outreach on safe sex and healthy relationships (though, the upcoming elections are going to figure in our early activities). I’ve had to work with fraternities and sororities; oddly enough, on my campus, I find most of the sororities a lot less receptive than the fraternities. I hear this is quite an anomaly and chalk it up to my campus culture.

    At any rate, here are a few examples of my “spiel-list” that I give to frats (not including lots of similar stuff that the Captain already gave):

    1. “You wouldn’t want your bro to catch something right? Look out for each other; make sure you keep each other safe!” (I encourage them to encourage each other to use condoms and dental dams this way.)
    2. Playing off the previous spiel: “On that note, you wouldn’t want your bro to do something that’s going to bite him in the ass later right? If you see him drinking too much and pushing someone beyond their limits or boundaries of ANY SORT, be a good friend who takes him somewhere to sober up. He’ll be thankful in the long run.”
    3. “This is probably going to be the only time in your life in which you can get free condoms by the handful; take advantage of this. It could save you some pain in the long run.” (I do elaborate on the consequences.)

    I can’t find all of my full examples right now, but if you want them, I don’t mind sharing for a fellow good cause 🙂

    Also, as I said already, factoring in your campus mindset is very important. My university has a very heavy focus on the sciences and certain frats and sororities are for science majors. I avoid the whole STD-description-in-detail in these because we hear it often enough in our biology classes; I treat my audience as knowledgeable on that subject already because they already are (or at least are learning at the same time). As mentioned previously, I have difficulties with a lot of the sororities because they are either full of stereotype-in-the-flesh blonde airheads who believe “nothing bad can happen to me!” or conservatively-raised Asian girls who insist they don’t need to know about sexual safety because “My parents would not approve of me knowing.” I find ways to work around this, even if it takes time and lots of patience.

    1. Can you cut out the stereotyping of women in sororities? There’s no need for it and it’s a great comment apart from the last bit where you divide women into virgins and whores.

      1. She’s not “stereotyping”. She was surprised and relating an experience. In order for it to be prejudice, she’d have to prejudge! She even made excuses, suggesting her sororities are an anomaly. I bet they’re not, though. It has little to do with “sororities” and more with the way young women are socialized to believe bad things only happen to “bad girls”. That’s how so many women get to be so anti-choice.

        1. Less offensive descriptions would be something like:

          “I would always get some confident, flippant young women who brushed off my statistics, insisting that “nothing THAT bad can happen to ME!” I found it helpful to draw them into conversations about how they could help protect their friends from, or spot the creeper in their friends-groups – they left the class saying “nothing THAT bad will happen to MY FRIENDS!” On the other hand, there were more reserved women who seemed really uncomfortable with my open style of sexual education, flinching and blushing at my diagrams of vaginas and saying “My parents wouldn’t approve of any of this.” I tried to respect their values while helping them understand their sexual health, so that they left saying “My parents will approve of me being informed and healthy.” I strapped on my ass-kicking boots and convinced them ALL that sexual awareness would improve their lives!”

          Point comes across without using the following harmful stereotypes:
          “Asian girls”
          “girls” used to dismiss grown Asian women
          conflation of observed Asian physical characteristics with presumed controlling parents
          conflation of observed blonde hair color with presumed intelligence
          Asian women as virginal and uninformed
          Blonde women as willfully blind or naive and unaware of consequences
          Asian women as difficult to educate
          Blonde women as difficult to educate
          Sororities are EITHER “full of X” …. OR “y”

          We are all smart people with something clever and valuable and compassionate to contribute, and Mimi’s lived experience is important and super helpful. I’m glad that she shared it.

          1. Oh thank you so much for the correction and feedback! I need to work on language usage, especially with the “girls” thing since I forget a lot of people take it offensively! I sort of grew up in an environment where it was 100% appropriate to refer to everyone as “girls” and “boys”. To me, it has been interchangeable with “male” and “female”, “men” and “women”. I really need to remember the connotations attached to certain words. Even I refer to myself and my friends as “kids”, usually in the context of a phone call home going “Hey mom, us kids are going to go drive out to the beach, I’ll call you back later.” It goes a little further too, with my mother and her workplace friends referring to themselves as “the girls” (“Hey, the girls wanted to know how you were doing. They saved an extra tin of cookies for you.”)

            To be totally honest, I wasn’t very familiar with the potential insult of referring to women as “girls”; partially because I also always referred to men as “boys”. This is definitely something I will work hard on.

          2. The girl thing is totally a matter of context, mimi. As a lesbian I use “girls” a lot myself, as a marker of being outside the whole marriage thing (well, being a bit out of it here :-)) and mostly of being among ourselves to have fun. So sometimes it’s hard to remember the feminist background against the (mis)use of girls to refer to grown women, which can indeed be very offensive in mixed company. Sigh.

        1. And to be clear, that was “Seconded” to the wish not to be stereotyped as a “conservatively raised Asian girl.” I highly doubt that being raised conservatively is an Asian-exclusive parenting style.

          1. I’m not seeing this in the comment. No where did Mimi say that all Asians on her campus are conservative or that all conservative students on campus are Asian. She’s saying that in her actual experience as a sex educator on campus, she has educated conservative Asians.

          2. I agree with that; it’s just that there is a very specific stereotype which did spring from a very specific model. I can attest to this personally with my own cultural background. And I would also like to state that this “stereotype” is definitely very pervasive in my student population with a large percentage of Asians. Not every single Asian woman you meet will be like this, but they certainly do exist.

            I also know that being raised conservatively is not Asian-exclusive; I grew up in a predominantly Caucasian populated town that was isolated by distance, culture, and conservatism from other locations. Though my parents were definitely more moderate in some ways, growing up there was not very fun.

      2. I don’t believe she was stereotyping sororities as a whole–she states that she works with a lot of college age kids, and it was my feeling that she was talking about the sororities that she specifically knows. She even qualified in her comment that it wasn’t all the sororities she works with.

        Sometimes people fit stereotypes. I was a little sister at a fraternity where several of the guys put beer on their Cap’n Crunch at breakfast, and there was a sorority on campus that regularly held contests to see who could drink so much that they’d puke first.

      3. I’m sorry you think I’m stereotyping; as the other commentator noted, I did state that it was my personal experience and I was genuinely surprised at some of the reactions I got and that I found “stereotypes” to have a grain of truth in real life. I also don’t feel as though I divided them into “virgins” or “whores”.

        Perhaps I should relate on that point further; based on campus surveys and my knowledge of my campus culture, both of these types of girls are sexually active despite their behavior and reception during sexual health safety lectures. What honestly boggles my mind is that despite knowing their behavior can occasionally be risky. Let’s just say that chlamydia rates were alarmingly high last year, enough to warrant university-sanctioned warning. I discovered though personal talks that most girls didn’t bother with using condoms (or any form of contraceptive for that matter) for a variety of curious reasons: it ranged from “But I only have sex once a month and during specific parts of my cycle.” to “I don’t think i should use condoms because it’s something related to sex and since I’m already having sex outside of marriage, I shouldn’t make it any worse by using a condom.” I work on trying to understand these mindsets, or at least set up a situation in which these girls will end up with boys who insist upon using a condom.

  3. Not gonna lie, I don’t actually expect a sex ed lecture to frat boys is going to penetrate their hard shell of entitled douchebro-ness. However…

    Try asking them why they think women dress the way they do. Allow a couple minutes for them to provide their own answers. Then explain that it isn’t about them.

    And tell them not to ever, ever, EVER touch drunk girls.

    1. I’d say entering such a conversation with ‘assume they live up to the worst stereotypes’ quickly undermines the whole participatory angle. Assume the best, prepare for the worst.

      Something useful I saw in a sex-ed seminar: have an anecdote ready about Dick and Jane’s perception of a drunken hook-up, telling the perspectives from both sides. Show it as an example in failure to communicate. Don’t make it simple: f.ex., Jane can be willing to smooch but not go all the way, or Dick can be a bit hesitant and interpret Jane’s unwillingness to go further as a sign he’s not confident enough or something. Ask what conversations could have been had that could have prevented these misunderstandings.

      1. I think that “I’d say entering such a conversation with ‘assume they live up to the worst stereotypes’ quickly undermines the whole participatory angle” is one of the most important points of this whole conversation. I totally agree that fraternities can be a central part of rape culture, and that some of the people at these workshops will probably be misogynists and/or rapists. That’s why these workshops are SO IMPORTANT. But not everyone will be a rapist or rape apologist. Not all fraternity members are the same. Treating them all like they’re capable of not being asshats honors and encourages those of them who already aren’t asshats, and holds the asshats to a higher standard from the get-go.

        1. Thank you. There were several frats/sororities at my college that were honors-focused or environmental awareness-focused and generally not full of asshats. And there were also a number of greek-lettered associations (like, oh, Phi Beta Kappa) that would get harassed on occasion for being “fraternities” or “sororities” that were full of “asshats.” Frat doesn’t always equal asshats.

    2. If you say that to directly I expect turning them off. Probably best to reach around to it. Make sure that you don’t binary-ify it.

  4. Great topic, one thing I would love to see enthusiastic consent being presented as sexy. Maybe something like, “I want to imagine that really hot girl (or guy) the one you are really into leaning over wispering into your ear “I want to suck your cock, may I?” that is enthusiastic consent, so if someone tries to tell you that consent is boring, just imagine how hot it can be when someone invites you to there room, and asks you what you would like.

    1. I didn’t know this when I started college. I did when I left, thanks to a great partner. I would love to tell my high school self that. I think it’s a great thing to bring up, and a great image, too, to evoke.

  5. I really like the Captain’s suggestions, and even if you don’t have time to do a full participatory session, I think the questions she lays out near the beginning of her answer could be useful even in a shorter discussion without the benefit of small groups.

    And I’d add to your list of topics something about the non-baby-preventing reasons why women need access to birth control. For most men, birth control consists of a condom or maybe (though usually not for college students) a vasectomy. The benefits of both of those are pretty much limited to STD prevention and baby-avoidance. I think a lot of guys don’t realize that women use birth control for a whole host of other reasons, from controlling debilitating cramps to preventing really serious health problems from things like PCOS. A lot of people seriously didn’t understand why Sandra Fluke thought her insurance plan should cover $3000 worth of birth control, because they assumed that it was just about not getting pregnant and condoms are cheap. Ask the guys you talk to to imagine they have a health problem that if left untreated causes their hair to fall out, gives them high blood pressure, increases their risk of cancer, and can leave them sterile. Then ask them to imagine that their university health plan won’t cover the cost of the prescription they need to treat their condition because that medication has the side effect of temporarily stopping sperm production, and some politicians have a moral objection to anything that interferes with sex leading to pregnancy.

    1. Been reading here quite a while but this is the first comment. In short: THIS. In long: EXACTLY THIS.

      I have PCOS. My husband had a vasectomy and I still have to take birth control. It has zero to do with not having babies, and everything to do with preventing cysts. Not only can PCOS, over time, mess with hormones and cause all kinds of other issues, but cysts can burst. I’ve been there and it is OMG painful and potentially deadly. A good friend of mine also had PCOS and had an 8cm cyst burst. She hemorrhaged and nearly died on the way to the hospital. She was just 28.

      Of all the things most guys don’t know about a women’s monthly issues, I think the use of hormones as a therapeutic aid is one of the most important to learn. Those gals back in high school taking “the pill” weren’t sluts, they likely had PCOS, PMS problems, or had endometriosis.

      Even on birth control I will still sometimes ovulate. This is another thing guys just don’t seem to really let sink in their head (and which no one bothered to talk to me about – even my doctor – for years). If I’m on antibiotics for any reason I almost always get a big cyst these days. That means I was ovulating. And in the case of a “healthy” woman without my issues – that could have meant a baby. Guys need to understand that just because a woman is on birth control pills doesn’t mean they always work and that any time their female partner is sick and taking other medications it can reduce the effectiveness of their hormone therapy.

      The time back in college when I did get pregnant — guess what? On the pill. In that case my doctor had switched me from one brand to another and didn’t bother to tell me that during my transition months I was likely to be fertile. And, of course, the pill doesn’t cover STDs so reinforcing the fact that people in committed relationships should always still use backup birth control/safe sex procedures can be reinforced with that type of cautionary story.

      Good luck with this to the letter writer. I think this can be a great thing for everybody. And Esti, awesome for pointing out that what’s going on with hormones isn’t all about sex and baby prevention.

      1. It might also be helpful to mention that the cost of hormonal birth control for a woman/uterus-haver is the same each month, no matter how much sex (s)he is or isn’t having. Many people (guys) don’t seem to realize that it’s one pill per day for the person taking it, and that it’s a thing that constantly controls your hormone levels for a whole bunch of positive and negative results, and one of those positives happens to be birth control.

        And most people who take it don’t take it just for one reason, particularly if they start it youngish; most of the people I know who started while still in high school (one or two in middle school, the horror) did so for other puberty-related problems (off the top of my head: painful and/or long periods, long and heavy periods coinciding with vegetarianism, hemophilia, really bad acne, incapacitating period-related headaches, and PCOS).

        It’s so important for hormonal BC to be available to people who need or want it because it allows them to live the lives they want (whether that means having sex without pregnancy, holding a demanding job when you would otherwise be forced to stay home and do nothing for at least three days every month, avoiding meat when you would otherwise have to eat it to avoid health problems from bleeding out all of your iron, or just being able to time your periods so you don’t have to spend hours trying to get bloodstains out of the sheets you just washed yesterday).

  6. LW you’re a good and brave person for taking this on. It’s an important topic no matter what happens in Nov, especially on campuses. I’m still the go-to sex ed person for many of my friends, including the few still in college or in their early 20s.
    Cap’n as always, amazing advice.
    My new policy is: the only thing that means yes is “yes”. ‘Maybe’, ‘I guess’, ‘um ok’ are not consent. Period. And of course that yes can always, at any time, become a no, or a “slow down” or a “yeah not there, honey.”
    Generally those weak consents are the nos women have been trained to use so we don’t get officially “raped” if and when we do say no. And it’s the nos men have been trained to accept because “no means no” and she didn’t say no. It’s a fucked up situation and I honestly think changing the conversation from waiting for the definitive rejection to cease sexual activity to only beginning when an affirmative is given by both partners is going to help. Frankly, talking about sex and sexual activity on a point by point basis is a lot of fun. You can make it a game, or an exercise in language, who can articulate what they want the best, using just words.

    1. Yes, I think it’s super important to point out that even if she says yes, she can change her mind at any time and say no, and things have to stop right then and there.

      I think it’s also important to point out that men have to give enthusiastic consent, too. They don’t have to live up to some stereotype that they are always up for sex. And a guy has the right to stop things mid-action, as well.

      The bottom line? Nobody is entitled to sex, ever.

  7. LW, this is just awesome, I wish I could hear the talk as well.

    “2. The “these are your girlfriends, your friends, sisters & mothers” ploy. But that comes off to me as “PROTECT YOUR WOMEN” and that is a weird message that I don’t want to deliver.”

    Maybe I’m old school, but I haven’t yet grasped why this is seen as a bad thing. This doesn’t have to be about infantilizing women or disempowering them from establishing their own boundaries. But perhaps reframe it in a way that appeals to men’s sense of justice or fair play, like “I got your back, sis” (or some less sexual-innuendo-ish bro-phraseology)? These *are* their moms, sisters etc, and putting women into that perspective makes them less like objects or sexual opportunities.

    1. I feel the same way. I am someone’s wife, and as such I like to be defended by him. Does he defend me because I’m his property? Hell no. He defends me because he cares about me and wants to be a hero for me, whether he thinks I need it or not.

      I think appealing to the notion of “knight in shining armor” isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Many men like to feel needed, and pointing out that a drunk girl at a frat party may, indeed, be in need of rescuing seems (to me) like a good idea and something that might stick with them.

        1. One thing I have noticed over and over in my experience working with men for many years is, they really really need to feel needed and useful. If you can appeal to that in a context like this talk, appeal to their sense of duty rather than to their sense of entitlement, you’re appealing to their better nature and everyone wins. People of both genders need to be encouraged to look out for each other, not treated like we expect the worst of them and that they need to be guarded against or exploited. The latter attitude leads to the “feminazi” and gold-digger stereotypes as well as PUA and rape culture.

          1. You’ve really got your gender stereotypes firmly in place, there, haven’t you?
            Seriously, this is something people are taught, are trained in, not something that’s inherent. We don’t have to keep reinforcing the same old bullshit. There are other ways.

          2. Yeah, it’s taught, but our life experiences are part of who we are. Just because something’s partly a product of our life experiences and how we were raised doesn’t mean it may not be a genuine part of our personality and values.

          3. This is true, insofar as people of all genders need to feel needed and useful. It’s a powerful and underappreciated motivation.

        1. Yes, one appeals to their sense of duty and makes women their fellow humans, the other encourages their sense of entitlement and makes women their reward.

    2. Regarding ‘these are your girlfriends, your friends, sisters & mothers’- it’s not terrible. I do, however, understand the LW’s reservation to use it. I feel that it’s cliche and old-fashioned, and it would be nice to break down the idea that brothers have to defend their sisters, sons their mothers, boyfriends their girlfriends, etc. I also feel it doesn’t go far enough. If there’s a girl at a party who is drunk and wearing revealing clothes, who is not your friend or your girlfriend or any other special connection to you, you STILL need to treat her with respect. Justice and fair play doesn’t have to go any further than ‘respect other human beings’ no matter how drunk they are or how much skin is showing. Men should also be encouraged to protect male friends (like the advice the Captain gave about encouraging drunk friends to go home, not allowing them to do stupid things while intoxicated etc), and to protect themselves, by using condoms during casual sex etc.

        1. I like this. I do think there are some really good things in that old idea of chivalry that are worth keeping and nourishing; the ideas of justice, of using strength to help others, of being a defender of what’s right in the world and fighting against injustice and against people who will victimize others. Yeah, it can sometimes have a very sexist flavour to it, but it doesn’t have to, and there’s plenty of good stuff there.

          We all have some instinct to stand up for or protect others, that’s not really a male/female thing, but I think it’s something a lot of men do relate to.

          IMO, a good way of looking at it is as being a decent friend to someone, in this case a woman, by having their back. Also as helping them by helping THEM have the confidence to stand up for themselves, knowing they’ve got friends behind them who will be ready to join in if they’re needed. And I use friend loosely, in one sense you can be a friend even to someone you don’t really know.

          That’s got a different feel to it than rushing in and taking over as you might if they were a child.

          1. This ^. If we were having a discussion about bullying, and exhorting kids to stick together, to keep an eye out for the kids who get targeted, and to talk to their buddies about not picking on the vulnerable, I don’t think we’d bat an eye. That’s the context this needs to be framed in, not encouraging further objectification or disrespect.

          2. Or, if you want to frame it in frat terminology, treat ’em like bro(dette)s. They don’t need to be chaperoned or patronized, but you step in when you see them get into a bad situation or decision.

            For example, a sentiment which I’ve seen pop up a few times is that the involvement of alcohol is always a red flag. The distinction between “has had a few drinks to relax” and “too wasted to make proper decisions” is crystal-clear, and you wouldn’t constantly lean over the bro’s shoulder with “haven’t you had enough?” in the former situation. Likewise, don’t assume by default brodettes don’t know their way around alcohol. But the moment they started going wobbly, you’d offer them a glass of water in case of both genders and inform whether or not they have a driving arrangement(obviously, if you don’t know the person well enough, you tap one of their friends on the shoulder).

    3. My main objection to this framing is when it’s used in a speech to a mixed-gender group. I think President Obama did something like this a few months ago, where he exhorted the crowd to think of the rights of “our daughters, wives, mothers, and sisters” or whatever. All the women in the crowd were like, yo, I’m standing right here.

      In a case like this, where you’re addressing a group of self-identified men, if you can do it without encouraging white knighting, I don’t see so much of a problem.

      1. Considering the number of female law-makers and religious leaders etc who clearly devalue women as much as men like Akin and Limbaugh, and the conservative women who support men like that in general, or men and women who don’t question that value system, as a woman listening to that speech I felt he was addressing everyone there, not just the men.

    4. I don’t think “these are your friends/sisters/mothers” thing is the most evil discursive trope in the world, but it is sexist, because it assumes men can only relate to women by imagining themselves in the role of their male loved ones, rather than simply identifying with the woman herself and thinking “how would I feel if that happened to me?” When you assume men can’t empathize with women, you’re also assuming that men and women are too different to have any of the same feelings (like not wanting to be hurt, frightened or coerced), & maybe that all the subjectivity in the world is male, so the male point of view is the only one available.

  8. During the bit about consent and legal definitions, possibly in the part about Being A Good Bro, I think it would be worth bringing up statistics about sexual assault of guys. So not just “here’s how to not rape women” (though duh, important), but “hey, statistically a few guys in here have been raped or assaulted, so let’s make your frat safe and comfortable for them too”.

    And, though the ultimate focus is “politics and women’s reproductive rights”, a few mentions of How To Be Safe(r) Fucking A Dude wouldn’t go amiss if it’s mentioned right in the stride of things with everything else. Condoms for all genders and combinations thereof!

    I hope this comment isn’t too all about the Menz, but I feel like the Captain covered everything else pretty thoroughly 🙂 I think they stay in the “steps men can do” and probably wouldn’t add too much bulk either time-wise or concept-wise.

    1. Totally. While I think CA’s advice is excellent as usual, injecting a bit of gender-fuzziness into the discussion would have a very relaxing effect on any stray frat boys who may be starting to feel nervous about how much they enjoy oogling the next guy’s technique with rubbers..

  9. I would love some suggestions on how to phrase this in a way that will resonate. But what I’d like to see is some discussion on double-standards and slut-shaming, basically the idea that you don’t get to have casual sex with someone and consider it a ‘win’ for you and a ‘loss’ for her. That sex is both of you wanting it and having an awesome time, not some bizarre situation where guys want it, girls don’t, guys try to get it, girls try not to ‘give it up’.

    Because I feel like that attitude is at the centre of a lot of harmful thinking.

    1. There was a system of “man points” at one point where the most points you could get was forcing a girl to cheat (with anal). The next lowest option would have been cheating on your ladyfriend.

      Thankfully my friend’s house gave out points for burping and eating curry and stayed out of everyone’s sex life.

    2. I’ve occasionally tried to confront guys who are slut-shaming in this manner, but I don’t know how successful it’s been. Usually I go with a joking sort of tone, but basically the content is “uh… if you want to get laid a lot, but you go around calling any woman who does have sex with lots of guys (or “more than one guy”, or “any guy ever who isn’t me”, depending on the context…) a ‘whore’/’slut’/’ho’… are you guys just planning on just having sex with each other…? Because otherwise I’m not really seeing how you’re *going* to get laid with multiple people, unless you’re just such a stud that you’ll be the One and Only Guy I’m Allowed to Sleep With Before Being Called a Whore for a whole lot of women…”

      It might help that I’m at a university aimed primarily at engineering and science, so an exhortation to “do the math, dudes…” has some chance of success… plus the dude-chick ratio is way high (like 5 or 6 to 1), so it’s even more the case that shaming women who would otherwise be (heterosexually) playing the field directly and drastically hurts the odds* for any (heterosexual) guy who’s not lady-catnip.

      * Obviously this framing has some problems, like, uh, implying that Probability and Statistics is the most useful course for semi-casual college sex life rather than, like, Communications 101. And it kinda of necessity starts off at the “women are the handers-out of sex, which all guys want lots of from them”–but usually when I hear guys being like “oh, I hear Cathy’s kind of a whore, she slept with Joe and Rob *and* Dave…” it’s kind of a given they’re starting off there? IDK. If I could find a better way to frame the issue for a five-minute as-non-confrontational “just think about it, o.k.?” intervention, I would. So even if this method doesn’t really confront the guys-win-girls-lose casual sex thing head on, it (hopefully) gets guys thinking about the consequences *to them* (because otherwise they won’t care) of going around *talking about* how much of a loser so-and-so is because she’s had casual sex.

      Or maybe all it does is make the guys in question less likely to talk about it in public, in mixed company, and/or around me specifically, which is still a win in my opinion! Slut-shaming is definitely on my list of Displeasing Soundtracks for My Life.

  10. I’m too tired to have a suggestion, but when I read your script I can’t help but imagine how very ashamed I would be if I was one of those dudes and I happened to be a virgin (or gay or have a traumatic sexual experience…) and have a woman come in and tell me to tell my bros about the last girl I had sex with.

    1. I appreciate the feedback.

      I tried to get at that issue by having the ground rules include “Only share what you feel comfortable sharing” and using “partner” instead of “woman” as much as possible except when explicitly discussing pregnancy and gender dynamics of consent. Thinking about those questions during a discussion or having them raised in a discussion doesn’t mean you have to share your own stuff.

      My strong feeling is that getting people to engage fiercely with their own and each others experiences and perspectives in a classroom-type-setting, even if they are uncomfortable, is way better than trying to present an idea of what normal should be from the front of the room. (<3 to bell hooks)

      When I do this in a (writing/art) class, students write responses to questions in journals for themselves, and then share whatever version or details they feel comfortable aloud. So that's something a presenter could do – recognize that it's an awkward topic and make it very clear that people should share only what they are comfortable with, and ask people to write things down for personal reflection and separate that from discussion. The presenter could also say, “If you haven’t had sex, or if it’s been a long time and you can’t remember, can you think about the way you were taught to talk about these things and focus on what’s working for you or how you wish that would work?

      Something you said in your comment made me wonder, do you think that a woman could not effectively lead something like this? Does it have to be a same-gender thing to work?

      When/if you do have a suggestion for how to deal with this constructively, please come back and share it.

      1. i took an abnormal psych class a couple quarters ago, and the prof laid out very clearly on day 1 that we were not to share personal stories. period. because it sucks if you don’t want to share your stuff (pressuring), and it sucks if you do (confidentiality issues, and times when the class was unprepared and didn’t give a good response to whatever revelation).

        we used case studies instead, and the prof had mental health resources available to anyone for any reason. idk if this is the tack the lw wants to take, but she can inform them that she or a doctor from the local student health center or whoever can be available after the talk for more personal questions.

        1. Could the LW use scenes from videos? Then everyone would be seeing the same thing (“Guy hitting on girl at party”) and be able to discuss the situation.

          1. I LOVE that idea. That way it isn’t personal but it provides examples for everyone to discuss and relate to their own personal life. And there are even some great videos for things like enthusiastic consent. (I’m thinking of the American Pie series in my head but I”m sure there are also others.)

      2. You don’t need to specifically say woman even when talking about potential pregnancies. I’m trans and could conceivably get pregnant (pun not intended).

      3. Consent is not gendered. Gay men can pressure people and be pressured into sex as well, and het men can be sexually assaulted or raped especially if alcohol is involved, and it is okay to NOT be okay with that experience.

        Not every sexual experience has to count as a “score” because that is a high pressure mentality that leads to regrettable sex for everyone.

        I’d also make the point that a frat with a reputation for keeping girls safe at parties will attract more girls to parties.

        1. Oo, this. One thing I remember is a male mate of mine who was not quite jokingly talking about how he woke up with another girl from our year on top of him, having aroused him in his sleep. He was definitely not okay with it under the bluster. Trying to let him know that I understood while the other guys there was difficult.

          Also, I know a man who was raped by another lad from his school while in school. No-one believed him.

          Summary – keeping it un-gendered, or using a mix of gender combinations is very important.

          1. Yep. Do keep in mind that in frats you have very young men, but that doesn’t mean they all have a past as “innocent children”. I think it’d be perfectly OK to mention here that something like 20% of boys are actually, physically abused, and that this experience affects you deeply, that you may not just wake up a typical frat boy one day without further processing. It’d probably be a good time to mention too that it’s better for everyone (themselves included) to make very sure not to pass this abuse on, whether to future children or to current sex partners.

        2. I think the Cap meant that certain scripts around consent are gendered. Consent itself isn’t gendered, but in the sense that men and women are generally socialized differently and there’s a cultural script of Man Aggressor, Woman Submitter, it makes sense to call that out as a thing in the world to be aware of, and also a thing that is BS.

      4. As you have mentioned before in this blog, however, no answer *is* an answer. If I’m the lone silent person in a group of guys who are all talking enthusiastically about their sexual experiences, they are going to notice. And they will probably start saying things like, “What’s the matter, dude, are you a virgin or something?” Answering with “I don’t want to talk about it” really only reinforces that belief. Honestly, I’d keep personal experiences out of it, even though it would make for animated discussion.

    2. Yeah, that was my immediate thought too. Not as much about being gay, since the question was framed as “person” rather than “girl” — although obviously somebody’s willingness to be upfront about that will depend on how out they already are, the culture of that frat, etc — but definitely about being a virgin or having had a traumatic experience. It’s basically an invitation for someone in that situation to either mumble and hope not to have to say anything, or to feel pressured to make something up, and either way to get way too caught up in their own embarrassment and shame to learn a thing.

      Or at least, that’s how I would have reacted as a young college student. I wasn’t a frat boy (or even a boy) or a sorority girl, and I didn’t really feel strongly specifically pressured to have sex, but at the same time, I wasn’t exactly wild about admitting to people that I’d never kissed anyone, you know? I would have been mortified.

      I think the gist of the question would work the same without the personal experience aspect. “How do you know someone wants to have sex with you? Let’s say you’re at a party and you’re into someone — how do you know they’re into you back, and that they want to hook up?” That lets people volunteer personal experience or not, but they don’t have to feel backed into a corner if they’d rather just talk in generalities.

      1. The spouse says that in his adolescence and early adulthood, he experienced the world’s focus on sex as an unrelenting horrible pressure to do something he knew very well he wasn’t ready for. I’d be willing to bet that some of these guys are in the same boat, even though the culture tells them they have to be panting for it all the time.

        It might be worthwhile to have a small-group question on that subject: How do you say, “I don’t want to have sex,” “I don’t want to have sex tonight,” “I don’t want to have sex with you,” “I don’t want to have sex with you when I’ve had a crush on you for years but you just split up with your boyfriend thirty minutes ago and you’ve had five shots since then,” etc.

  11. LW here! Just wanted to say I love all the advice and really appreciate it. I will definitely be using this as my framework as I draft the presentation this weekend. Thank you thank you

    1. I’m so glad!

      The commenters are going to keep adding to stuff and making us all rethink how we redo this, so remember to think hard about what kind of time constraints you’re working with and what you can realistically get done. You don’t have to include even close to everything or make up for years of no/bad sex education in an hour or two.

  12. I think it would be useful to bring up analogous structures in genitalia. For a mostly het audience I think it helps people have some sense of empathy, as it were. It gives you a way of explaining where the clitoris is and why it’s important, the fact that women have erectile tissue and why foreplay is important. And benching that discussion in analogous structures lets the frat boys picture the enjoyment in relation to their own.

    CA suggests being brief and clinical about rape, etc, but I feel like quite a lot of men don’t actually understand what rape is. We don’t have good dialogues in our culture, and it seems like a lot of men think of rape as boring sex or sex that you regretted later (which makes them think rape is accidental or unimportant).
    I’ve never used this explanation, but I image it would be pretty convincing:
    The penis is a very difference size, when it is erect than when it is not. In fact, in situations of emotional distress it often drains of blood and comes in as close to the body as possible. Imagine someone taking your penis when you are not aroused and stretching it (I imagine hand motions), in every direction, until it is the size that it is when fully erect. (pause for all the looks of sympathetic pain) That’s how rape and/or sex without adequate foreplay feels.

    I don’t know if that’s the best explanation, but it occurred to me after reading a bit about female erectile tissue, and it seemed relevant.

    1. While I get the sentiment behind this, and agree that sometimes visceral explanations are the best way to get empathy across (especially in the case of rape!), I think the example you have here is a bit problematic for a couple reasons:

      1. People, male and female, DO get aroused while being raped, because arousal is a physiological response and lack of consent is a mental/social response. These people already have enough shame around this topic because of all the myths out there, and perpetuating them further is Not Good. Plus, going a bit worst-case-scenario here, this could lead some of the men in the frat to think/say “oh, well she said no but she was totally wet, so it wasn’t rape, because our sex ed lady said xyz about rape and arousal.”

      2. Men get raped. Assuming, as people so often do, that men do not get raped is a surefire way to alienate participants

      2a. Our image of male rape is usually one of anal penetration, but it is also possible for a man to be the penetrative partner in vaginal sex and still be unconsenting (see above re: arousal, consent, etc). I have no idea how common this is or if there is even any research on how common it is, but it does happen.

      3. Talking about penis-stretching as parallel to penetration in the context of analogous structures is just going to get stuff all muddled up, cause the structure analogous to the penis is not the vagina, but the clitoris.

      Most of these, I think couching it in terms of improperly-lubricated sex or some (emphasis on SOME) instances of non-consensual vaginal penetration will solve the issues. But universalizing it as “this is what rape feels like” has the potential to both alienate survivors in the room and embolden past and future perpetrators.

      Also, while I love love love emphasizing things like the clitoris and proper foreplay (and the analogous structures thing in this context, so they really understand what the clitoris is and does), it would also be good to emphasize lube. Not all women, even young women, produce enough natural lubrication for comfortable penetration, even with all the foreplay in the world. I think a lot of young people of all genders have this idea that using lubricants is somehow shameful– women because there’s a stereotype that only older women are dry enough to need it, men because it reflects badly on their sexual prowess that they can’t make a partner wet enough. But it’s something that varies from person to person, and heck, I produce enough natural lubrication that I don’t actually need lube most of the time, but I still almost always use it for PIV, because it makes things move around a little more easily, which makes things feel A LOT better.

      Another thing, perhaps counter-intuitive, that I think should be taught to young men: non-STD-related vaginal health, namely things like yeast infections, the care and cleaning of a vagina, UTIs (not vaginal, but in a similar category). Most of them won’t ever be personally taking care of a vagina of their very own (though some will, perhaps; trans people exist). But a lot of hetero guys are painfully ignorant about this stuff, and it is something important to know about if you have a female partner. Stuff like “the vagina has a natural smell and taste which you may or may not find pleasant, but if it starts to smell or taste really off, let your partner know because she may have an infection.” Also stuff like “the vagina cleans itself; if your partner’s genitals seem particularly unclean, this doesn’t mean that her hygiene is bad, it probably means that she has an infection of some sort”. And the fact that things like soap, certain lubricants especially scented ones, anything sugary, etc. can cause yeast infections in some women, etc.

      I remember a caller to Dan Savage’s podcast a couple years ago who really drove home this vagina-related ignorance some straight guys have: He said that his girlfriend’s vagina smelled and tasted funny, and he worried it was because she never cleaned it, because once he had taken a shower with her and tried to soap her up down there and she was like “no, no, you don’t need to put soap in your vagina,” and the guy was like, OF COURSE you need to put soap in your vagina! How could she be so ignorant? Please remind your female listeners to all wash their vaginas with soap! Dan, I think, rightly smacked him down, but I was cringing the whole time in the way guys cringe when you talk about getting kicked in the balls. Because soap wouldn’t cure her smelly-vagina problem, but it could cause a smelly-vagina problem. That ignorance combined with the patronizing mansplainy-ness… just ugh!

      1. Mm, yes. I’d suggest teaching people to wash their hands before sex. I had a series of mysterious yeast infections before I figured out that it was due to my partner not washing his hands before we got intimate. And oh *cringe* about the soap comment, because I’m allergic to soap and it would make me itch and hurt *so much.* We don’t use soap to clean our eyeballs, either. Not ever body part needs soap.

    2. I love the idea of talking about female sexuality (the biology and anatomy or arousal, but also things like the need to feel physically and emotionally safe), but less as a way of imagining what rape is like per se, and more just about how to be a more generous partner and care about your partner’s experience as much as about your own. Which while not ‘directly’ about rape prevention, is related in an indirect way, and gets a person putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, learning to watch how that person feels or wants, think about what makes them comfortable or uncomfortable, etc.

      And I think there’s a subset of guys who haven’t really thought of it much but who could get interested in learning more about what sexual situations are like from the point of view of a woman if there’s a hint of ‘learning how you can be good in bed’ implied.

    3. That’s a good point M, I really like the idea of making parallels between anatomies, especially as most boys seem to think that girls are so mysterious, and consequently non-functional. I’d advise a reference to Betty Dodson’s work, as she’s done so much to explain to everyone how it all really works, and not everyone is lucky enough to have a first girlfriend as well-educated and enthusiastic as her :-).

      But really, please remove any references at all to “foreplay”. The idea that only penetration is real sex and the rest of it is just foreplay is just.. wrong. So, so wrong.

  13. I would really like to see more discussion of STI prevention. There seems to have been a major trend in reproductive health circles to talk more about pregnancy prevention, apparently on the basis that people don’t like condoms, or something. But STIs can be serious, and can have serious long-term consequences, and hormonal birth control and IUDs do nothing to prevent them. Don’t want to talk about the nasty short-term effects? Fine. How about talking about syphilis driving you crazy, or the STIs that can cause infertility, and more. (Yes, the vast majority of these can be prevented by taking antibiotics, but hey, why not skip having to do that, too? And there are people who simply don’t see a doctor about it, out of cluelessness or embarrassment.) I’d like to see more talk about barrier methods — female condoms as well as male, and, yes, even dental dams, because gonorrhea of the throat is no fun, either. Oh, and now that HPV vaccines are approved for men, you might want to mention that, too.

    And to come back around to the consent issue: Consent to one activity is not consent to all activities. Consent to sex with a condom is not consent to sex without a condom, for example. Consent to oral sex is not consent to intercourse.

    Keep in mind that while none of them might be out, the chances that every guy in that room is straight is pretty low, and maybe try to keep things gender-neutral.

    1. I second a discussion of STD prevention. I know we all apparently think condoms are The Suck, but we are thisclose to gonorrhea which CANNOT BE TREATED WITH ANTIBIOTICS. We are literally down to our last gonorrhea treating drug. So sure, gonorrhea, like chlamydia can be treated with some pills, the more often we have to use those pills, the more quickly we will not be able to use that last drug to treat it. I typically use condoms with a new parter for a full 3 months plus testing at the 3rd month. And I have an IUD, a method of pregnancy prevention which is over 99.9 percent effective.

      Another topic in this vein is that HPV and herpes can be transmitted by asympotmatic people, and that there is a judicial precedent for those who knowingly transmit HSV to unwitting partners to be charged with assault.

      But I gotta say, everything in this post is pretty gold 🙂


      1. I would also like to add to the discussion around STI’s is that they are an infection, virus, etc. that are a result of an uninfected person coming in contact with an infected person. They are not a judgement/punishment from god, or as a result of promiscuity, bad morals or poor hygiene. You would not shame a person who gave you a cold — why should a person who (unknowingly) transmits a STI be treated badly ?

        Many STI’s can be completely asymptomatic, or with very, very mild symptoms. Many young people, especially ones that have come from a sheltered or religious background, may not really be in touch with how their shiny new adult genitals work, and feel, and what is normal and what may be a cause for concern. They need to be told that if they are concerned about any genital symptom that they should get it checked out sooner than later, and to communicate with any partners they have had sexual contact with — without slut shaming or blaming. Sexual health is everyone’s responsibility.

  14. I love this idea and these suggestions. My one negative reaction was to the suggestion of breaking up into small groups for discussions on particular topics. Maybe it works in some classrooms, but in my experience as a student, what happens is that, unless the group I’m in is full of people who are super-engaged and on board with the prescribed topic, the discussion sort of drags at best and sometimes just flat out doesn’t happen, as people try and get away with not doing the intellectual work they’ve been asked to do. (And in this case the audience is quite likely NOT to immediately be super-interested in the topic at hand.) So I generally feel more comfortable and productive with discussions that include the whole class, since (a) that way those students most interested in the discussion can all discuss with each other (whereas otherwise they might’ve been in different groups), and (b) the involvement of the teacher/presenter keeps everyone else involved as well. (For some people who might actually be interested in the subject matter but for whatever reason feel uncomfortable showing it (I can so imagine these topics being Not Cool in a frat house), the teacher/presenter’s involvement can even be a sort of excuse to act like a diligent student oneself.)

    1. I completely agree. I also think there are a lot of ways to make it interactive without breaking into groups.

      1. Maybe a section with a quiz-show format? (Via powerpoint or something) Like something from those surveys in mens’ magazines that showed, horrifyingly, that if you phrased the question in terms of “have you ever raped anybody” respondents would all be like “no, of course not, I’m not that kind of guy.” But if you phrased it in terms of “have you ever had sex with somebody who was too wasted to actively participate?” or even “have you ever purposely gotten a woman drunk to get her to go along with a sexual agenda you knew she’d never let you get away with otherwise?” the numbers changed dramatically. That might be a good way, too, to blend in some of the consent issues with the topics the LW’s officially been asked to discuss. (You know, by interspersing questions testing birth control knowledge, desire to be able to have sex without risking a baby every time the P goes in the V, with ones about rape/consent). (The surveys have been mentioned somewhere on this site, with links).

        I was also thinking you could talk about “what is your definition of safe sex?” (A way to segue from the birth control topic to consent culture). Guys often assume it just means “sex without getting a disease,” or for hetero guys maybe “sex without getting a disease or getting the woman pregnant,” but for women a huge part of “safe sex” means the ability to explore sexy stuff in a private setting (i.e., one that’s inherently vulnerable for her) without having it be assumed that saying yes to anything means saying yes to everything or she’ll be accused of being a “tease” who led the guy on. “Safe sex” for a woman means knowing a “stop” at any point will be respected, both physically (he’ll stop and won’t hurt her) and emotionally (he won’t verbally abuse her or trash her reputation for it). (Maybe you could gather actual definitions at the sororities, first?)

        Another good point to make about consent culture is that it is 2012, and lots and lots of women want sex (or at least to explore a potential sexual relationship with you) every bit as much as you want it and are not afraid to say so! This is not the dark ages, Victorian times, or even the 50’s, when “nice,” ordinary, mainstream women were so heavily socialized to feel self-conscious and guilty about their sexuality that holding out for a woman who would say “yes, I do want you to touch me there,” “how fast can you get your clothes off?” or “I need you inside me *right now*” might have seemed like holding out for the tooth fairy to bless your union…. but that’s certainly not true now… and the asking can be really sexy and flirty when you’ve laid the groundwork by ramping things up gradually enough for the answer (whether it falls on the continuum between “can I grope your boob?” and “can I fuck you *this* way?”) to be “yes, for god’s sake, YES!” And yet the myth persists that women (you know, that homogeneous blob WOMEN) secretly want sex but are all too coy to say so… so if you want sex you just have to wing it in the absence of actual data even if that means you risk being a rapist (i.e., seriously messing up a woman’s life ’cause you couldn’t bother getting clarity, not to mention risking your own future). Ask ’em to consider who’s going to be a more-fun partner, someone who’s willing to fess up that she *would* like you to touch her sexyparts and/or to touch *your* sexyparts herself, or someone who thinks sex is nasty (or feels some social obligation to pretend she does?)

        Another thing you might want to do is print out some cards that you could leave behind, with links to websites to explore consent culture, etc. So guys can easily follow up without having to let their friends know something you said actually resonated with them.

        Lastly, I would say when you finish drafting your presentation, go through and edit yourself for assumptions that everyone you are speaking to is a heterosexual. No matter what the rep of the fraternity you are at, there will almost certainly be guys who are gay, bi or still figuring things out… it’s just mean to talk as if *of course* everyone is straight and gung-ho to get laid by the first hot woman they lay eyes on. It also reinforces the stereotypes of what “real men” are.

        1. Thank you for mentioning “women like sex”. I was going to post it, but now I don’t have to. I think that is the thing many hetero guys don’t know/believe, and if they knew/believed it, it would make a big difference in the way they approached sex.

    2. This also nicely gets around the issue of some of them being embarrassed by being virgins and/or gay and not wanting to share that.

    3. I want to second this. Breaking into groups gives everyone an opportunity to make awkward/sexist jokes and avoid talking about everything. I think the only way it would work with this audience is if each group were moderated, and it doesn’t seem as if resources would permit this.

    4. I totally agree that breaking a class up into small groups can have big pitfalls, but I think many of these can be mitigated by having a combination of small group and whole class discussions.

      If you break the students into small groups but tell them they will have to report back to the whole class, they need to be on topic at least for as long as it takes to agree on what to say to the class. Also, if you wander among the groups as they talk, your presence will keep them a bit more on task, and by listening in on the groups, you’ll get a sense of when the discussions are starting to peter out and it’s time to reconvene the class as a whole.

      Furthermore, there are advantages to having at least part of the class time being spent in small groups. For one thing, getting a discussion going among a whole classroom of people is challenging. Even when the topic isn’t something as awkward and embarrassing as sex, it takes a significant amount of bravery to be the first person to talk. People are braver and more likely to speak up in small groups, so it’s a more comfortable way to get things started.

      I will say that other approaches may work as well. The quiz show idea that alphakitty mentions downthread is great. Another approach that leaps to mind is to pose a question to the class and then pass out notecards for students to individually write their thoughts down. It’s somehow a bit easier to share your thoughts when you’ve had a chance to collect them in written form first.

      Also, if you go the notecard route, it might be interesting to have them answer some question once at the beginning of class and once at the end of class to see if their thoughts have changed at all. Even if you don’t do that, it would probably be beneficial to have some a written survey at the end of class to ask them what worked and what didn’t. It might make them feel more invested in the class if they know ahead of time that their input will shape how you teach the class in the future.

      So basically, I think small groups can work really well, but so can other things. The LW should pick and choose the teaching techniques they think most play to their strengths.

  15. The thing I would like every guy to know is that you can greatly improve the sexual health of everyone by wearing a condom and *not whining* (I’ve never had a problem because I am scary and my partners had competent sex ed, but you hear stories). And that condoms are more effective than some of them may think they are, they’re just less effective than condoms + other birth control.

    Plus, if they want to start barebacking their partner, STD screenings are not that scary. Over here they consist of a swab and either peeing in a cup or taking a blood sample. And the nurses have seen it all before, so you could probably ask them if you can get infected from a cucumber and they wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.

    The thing I would like to hammer home to the ladies is that birth control is not just the pill. Nor is the pill a panacea. It can come with some not-nice side-effects and if you’re rubbish at remembering to take it it’s not exactly effective. Although I guess it might be the cheapest in the short run.

    1. Also, it can clash with other medications. My mood levelers make my birth control less effective. Fortunately, I don’t use it for birth control (except as a backup). I use condoms with men. Period. It was my rule before I got into a committed primary relationship, and my fiancee backs me fully and would have insisted on it anyway. (My fiancee being a woman, not too worried there, and we both get STI checks regularly, just in case.) But every time I up my lamictal dose, the pharmacist reminds me it might make my BC less effective, and I tell her again I only use it to control my hormones, I use other contraceptives.

  16. I’m wary about the “Any personal information revealed stays in the room” rule just because I don’t see how it can be enforced. I’m UK based so have no experience with fraternities, but my experience with male-dominated groups which encourage a “blokey” atmosphere is that the merest whiff of unusual sexual practice or experience is seized upon with enthusiasm and brought up again and again for years afterwards, even if the person involved clearly and repeatedly requests that it stop. It seems to be some kind of “are you man enough” test which you fail if you don’t roll with it. I’d just be worried that someone would bring something up in this situation, which the presenter has implied is a safe space, and then discover that the presenter had no way to enforce that safety.

    1. I understand your concern, but a presenter would never, ever have the power to enforce it anyway, or control anything these guys do or feel or think, ever. You get 2 hours or whatever. That’s it. LW, don’t take on that responsibility for yourself. Make a good 2 hours where something good maybe can happen.

      Rules like “what you hear here, what you see here, let it stay here” are something you ask people to agree to, and people figure out how much they want to share (if anything), and they figure out among themselves if they live in a culture where that’s safe (maybe not) and if it’s worth taking a risk in order to connect and learn something (maybe not). If it’s a bad group culture full of bullies like you describe, the men who live in that culture will know that and they’ll clam up and that will be self-protective and make total sense.

      Maybe nobody shares any personal stories at all. Maybe the questions about people’s personal experiences don’t get discussed at all out loud but are questions that they take home to think about. And maybe some dudes have a weird honest conversation about sex and pressure and expectations and consent that they didn’t know they could have. It will vary from group to group.

      My bias: I teach creative writing and filmmaking in an art school and we don’t always get down to the bones with each other we do an ok job of making a safe space for the ones who want to try. I work with a lot of 18-22 year old guys, as well as older guys, returning veterans. A lot of women, too, but I have classes that are all or mostly male all the time. You’d be amazed where writing prompts like “Tell us about a time you got in trouble” or “Tell us about something you lost or otherwise really fucked up” take you.

  17. I’ve done talks like this for high school aged boys.
    We’re lucky in Australia that abstinance only sex ed isn’t as common as I’ve found it in the states, but while STIs and pregnancy gets at least a little bit of edu-time, consent issues get none.

    I talked to boys aged 16-18 about healthy relationships, consent and sex ed. They aren’t too far off frat guys, and heres what I found helpful:

    Make it matter to them.
    Talk to them about the consequences to THEM if they wander into that “grey area” of consent that society tells them about.
    I talk to guys about how it could effect their reputation if they ‘take advantage’ of a drunk or vulnerable girl. How he will find it hard to find other sex partners if it spreads that he is a creep or a rapist. How it will impact him having a real relationship later on if thats his reputation amongst the women.

    Talk to them about the legal consequences and the wider impact of answering to the law over a sexual assault claim: damage to career prospects, restricted ability to travel, sex offender registries and how they could dictate their ability to find housing and all of that other stuff.

    I talk about this in addition to the moral issues, the awesomeness of enthusiastic consentual sex, being a decent human being and looking out for their mates.

    I feel like while the rest of my speil will work on the mostly decent human beings and stop them ignorantly hurting someone else, throwing in a bit of selfish logic for those douchey bro-types will hopefully make them stop and think before they hurt someone too…even if it is only to save their own skins.

    1. idk, in my experience the reputation damage for guys taking advantage of drunk/vulnerable women is zero.

      1. Well, in my experience with friends and family members, there is significant damage for guys taking advantage of, or being accused of taking advantage of, women – especially in frat environments. I’m not saying this is a good thing because I’ve seen a false allegation be used politically in frat culture to put political structures within the frat in motion to kick someone out etc. Though I have never seen the same response come in play when someone was accused of assault by a woman. I wish there were something to be done about it, but in my experience the damage done by being labeled “a rapist” was inflicted as a punishment for transgressions against the frat, not about women.

      2. Except those women tend to talk, and will give a guy a reputation as someone to stay away from. Especially with social media and the trend of women finally speaking up about these things online.

      3. Many dudes do seem to have a disproportionate fear of that reputation damage, though — witness the perennial What About The Menz argument of “But if we assume all accusations of rape are legitimate, some men will be falsely accused and their lives will be ruined because the accusation was taken seriously!” I don’t know that using that fear to influence young men’s actions is necessarily right, wise, or effective (are dudes who fear being accused of rape actually more careful to obtain clear consent from their partners? does reinforcing this fear risk playing into the narrative of “Women make false accusations of rape to get men in trouble”?), but my concern wouldn’t be that it’s not an accurate representation of the actual risk to men.

      4. I know of plenty of scenarios where you’re absolutely right – where a guy suffered little or no consequence. I know my rapists didn’t suffer at all. But I also know of a bunch of other scenarios where guys have gotten a reputation based on their creepiness or because a woman they have assaulted has warned her friends and been believed.

        I personally find the “don’t rape, it might make it harder for you to get laid” logic repulsive. I guess I feel like I’d rather a rape didn’t happen because the little shit who was *thinking* about doing it had second thoughts because he didn’t want to risk future conquests. I’d rather that rape not happen, that girl (or guy, or whoever was in the line of fire) walk away unharmed, regardless of the ugly thought process behind stopping it. Hopefully one day they won’t be raping for the right reasons, but until then, whatever it takes to stop it happening right?

    2. Hear hear! I think making it matter to THEM is key no matter what the topic. That he might get a reputation as a rapist creep. That he might get a girl pregnant, and have to run the gantlet of anti-abortion creeps with her to get her to the clinic. That she might insist on keeping the kid and use DNA testing to bleed his future law-school earnings dry. That his own parents might shotgun-wedding him into a loveless horrible relationship, and possibly a terrible degree-less job and children that hate him as well. That he might be so embarrassed that his case of antibiotic-resistant syphilis would be discussed at length in the campus paper. That is facebook wall might be filled with references to all those things. Shudder. Acting responsible about sexuality is so much more rewarding, for them too.

      Things have improved so much since the 50s. As long as you are kind and respectful towards women, it’s now OK for them to fall all over themselves to get into your pants, in ways only limited by human imagination, and you need to feel no compunction about it. Aaaah. The sweetness of sexual liberation! Don’t fail to emphasize that, it’s the truth.

  18. I’d mention about how the prevailing attitudes around rape paints them as unreformed assholes with no self control who can’t think when a pair of tits are in the room. College guys listen best when it is About Them. (I know it, cos I am one.)

  19. Maybe it’s because I live in the UK where sex education is required by law, but I feel like “if you have sex, you will get pregnant and die” is pretty heavily hammered in. Everyone knows that sex can give you STIs and babies. I mean, my grandmother didn’t, she thought that sex and babies were two entirely different things and that your body just made babies when it was ready, like an apple tree… But you know what I mean.

    What I find is usually lacking is the consent and emotional stuff. Like “someone not wanting to have sex with you right now is not a grievous insult. They have their own stuff going on.” or “people have sex for all types of reasons; try not to make your partner have sex for bad reasons.”

    1. Yes! I agree with that. The consent stuff is something I really didn’t know much about until I started reading feminist stuff. You grow up being fed the line that guys want sex all the time, and there really isn’t much (if anything) to say “No, men are allowed to not want to have sex too and it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with either of you.” Etc etc etc.

      I’d rather get an STI than to have another rapey experience (let alone something I couldn’t excuse as not reeeeeeally being rape), honestly.

  20. 1. Thing I’d wish I’d known at 18 – pain deep in the pelvis during sex is not normal (yay – cysts!) and that endometriosis is a thing. Having to take a day off (or more) because of the pain means things (birth control) can be tried to help. I know this is for the soroity lecture rather than the fraternity but it’s something I wish I’d known. Further to this, might be worth stressing that birth control is used for treating health issues as well as preventing babies. Might help over-come certain religious beliefs about birth control only being for those who are killing babies that don’t even exist yet… I know in the UK that Drs are reluctant to prescribe BC to under 16s because they might be having sex (!) even if it’s treat really horrible, incapacitating periods. *headdesk*

    2. Nobody ever taught me *in person* about enthusiastic consent. Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned from feminist, sex positive websites.

    Captain, this sentence is gold: “If someone says no, freezes, pulls back, moves your hands away, goes passive or limp, or seems at all reluctant to do something or less than fully present, doesn’t make any moves towards removing clothing, stop whatever it is you’re doing.”

    I would particularly stress the non-verbal clues to the guys. I personally *freeze*, like really, really freeze/tense up, like a rabbit caught in the proverbial headlights. Like, can’t even shift their hands off me. People know about fight/flight, but freeze is also part of that set of responses to perceived threat. 😦

    Also, seconding this: “It may not be illegal, but it doesn’t mean it’s not gross and wrong.”

    Slightly off tangent, further to the shutting down rape jokes matters point, how do you lot explain that when a blog post is critiquing one particular example of a rape joke, or sexist joke, that the ‘jokes’ matter because they reinforce a culture, or system, that’s hugely problematic?

    Finally, kudos to the LW, it’s awesome that you get the chance to bring this stuff up with the guys. You’re doing a really worth while thing, and I hope it goes well.

    1. For me the go-to is the double whammy of “statistically, there is a rapist listening to you. and even though you know you would never do anything, the rapist now thinks you are on their side.” and “ask yourself who you would be more comfortable with your joke, rapists or rape survivors?”

      1. I second this ^^^ I used it with some (male) friends of mine recently and gobsmacked is not the word.

    2. I think this is one of the times when you could use the petting an animal analogy without it being dehumanizing, too, for the nonverbal clues. Maybe ask them three questions:

      1. How do you know when a person doesn’t want to have sex with you? (Probably they will say “They said no.”)

      2. How do you know when a dog or cat doesn’t want to be petted by you? They can’t say no. (Elicit nonverbal responses.)

      3. Okay, now let’s revisit question 1 — what other ways can you know that a person doesn’t want to have sex with you?

      Conclusion: USE YOUR WORDS

    3. “I would particularly stress the non-verbal clues to the guys. I personally *freeze*, like really, really freeze/tense up, like a rabbit caught in the proverbial headlights. Like, can’t even shift their hands off me. People know about fight/flight, but freeze is also part of that set of responses to perceived threat. ”

      Second this. We’re always hearing ‘fight or flight’ but those are not the complete picture, not in humans and not in any other animals (we could prevent a lot of dog bites too if people were more educated about the whole range of stress responses).

      People talk WAY too little about the other two major responses to threat and fear — freeze or shut down. Freeze is like you describe, shut down looks a bit similar but it’s more about going limp and closing off your mind or pretending to be elsewhere.

  21. A few notes:
    – talking about past sexual experiences assumes that they have some. Plenty of them won’t.
    – be the guy who walks the drunk girl to her door *if she accepts your offer to do so*. A guy who pushes to walk me home “for my safety”= red flag. But if a couple of guys at each party were wearing “designated walker” badges, that’d be really groovy.

    I’m a teacher, and I get to teach some sex ed (most teachers dislike it. I Believe in sex ed), but am only teaching girls ATM. I’ve thought about writing up a dozen vignettes and getting the students to categorise the scenarios as “good consent”, “questionable consent” and “problematic, coerced or nonexistent consent”. I’d want to emphasise that the point of consent is not something you seek to get so you can tick it off – the point is to actually *find out* if your sex partners WANT to do x.

    1. I want to second your comment about walking the drunk girl to her door if she accepts the offer. Don’t go around looking for drunk girls to walk home to build your not-a-creep cred. That makes you a creep.

      Also, I like your framing of consent. You want consent because you want your sexual partner to want and enjoy the sex, not just because you don’t want to be a rapist. The two kind of go hand in hand, but I feel like, in the first one, the partner is a real human being with sexual desires of their own, and not so much in the second one.

    2. Personally I don’t think I would accept an offer of a walk home from a guy I didn’t already know somewhat. Be alone with them, let them know where I live? Very creepy. ‘Official badges’ would help, but if that’s the case I would assume the volunteers had gone through pretty rigorous screening (police check, etc).

      The university campuses I’ve known mostly had volunteer ‘walksafe’ programs, where anyone could call a number and have a pair of volunteers walk them home, e.g., if they missed the last subway or bus or just didn’t feel comfortable walking home alone.

      In every program I’ve seen, though, the volunteers were in pairs of one male and one female.

  22. Just want to say that I think it’s great you’re doing this, LW, and that there is a lot of really good advice here.

  23. I would suggest when talking about consent, addressing the fact that a girl most likely is NOT playing hard or to get/playing games or testing a guy when/if she doesn’t want to rush into sex…it’s much more likely that she is cautiously feeling out whether this guy is going to be respectful of a “no” or “let’s slow it down”. Pushing harder/being aggressive isn’t going to help and may even put the kibosh on the whole thing. It often takes a little time and establishment of trust before a woman can let go and fully express her sexuality (for a whole metric ton of reasons you won’t have time to address, but this at least gets an alternative interpretation of “women don’t like casual sex” out there). And sex with a woman who really REALLY wants to have sex/wants to have sex with YOU is so much more fun 🙂 Also, think of first-time/even one night stand sex as an audition. Involve her/ask her what she wants/make it fun for her and you’re much more likely to get a callback/recurring role!

    1. excellent point: sex isn’t just “hell yes!” or “under no circumstances would I have sex with the likes of you!” There’s pacing and exploration. But if one partner doesn’t respect the other partner’s pacing needs, s/he’s going to turn “not so fast” into “leave me alone, asshole!”

      1. Yeah, remind them that most people are WAY more comfortable trying things when they know they have the power to stop at any moment. This is true of everything, sex is just one example, but if there’s anything you’re unsure of, knowing you can absolutely stop at any moment makes it so much more likely you’ll try something.

        1. And of course actions speak louder than words. As in the thread a couple of days ago — talking the talk isn’t enough.

  24. i will never forget (and it has been over 20 years) the RA who titled his presentation, “chips, cheese, and stds!” he served nacho cheese in a crockpot and salsa with chips and went to town. the posters? hilarious. memorable. and took the edge off. also? i always think that getting more than one person on a panel to make it more conversational is a swell idea.

  25. I’ve been doing safer sex/relationships work for something like a decade now, but I’ve most often had a captive audience, so I’ll just throw out some of the things that seem like they would work that come to mind. Also, if you are already doing these presentations with a partner, great; if not, try to get some support (and frankly having at least one guy for the frats will be an enormous asset) – outside of classes, college works based on social norms (often for the first time in students’ lives), and the Greek system does as well, only moreso. So, the more people who are on the same page with you present, the more normalized it looks, and the more effective the presentation(s) will be.
    + Basic condom/barrier method demos: while being the most basic, it’s also something of a titillating icebreaker. Planned Parenthood, Women’s Resource Centers, LGBT Resource Centers, and sometimes even adult bookstores will often donate penis models (and vagina models if they have them) along with external (“male”) condoms (and rarely internal – “female” – condoms if they have them). Most of the failure rate of condoms comes from “user error” – basically, not knowing what you’re doing. So, the basic putting on(/in) a condom, taking off(/out), and if you or a co-presenter is comfortable, showing how to put on a condom with your mouth (it’s just like putting on a condom with your hands, except you pinch the tip with your lips and not your fingers). There are lots of YouTube videos to demonstrate all of these, and I think even PP or the CDC have some.
    + Consent scenarios: basically a scenarios of “when is it okay to force sex on someone?” – the answer (obviously, to you) being NEVER. You can probably find a list of examples online, there’s one in the book Reviving Ophelia as well, but some examples are “if the two people are married,” “if they’re previously had sex,” “if one party is really turned on,” “if they already started having sex” (saying no at any point before OR DURING sex is rape; it’s totally reasonable to say/think “hey, this seems like fun and a good idea… oh, actually, this isn’t comfortable/something I want to do/[whatever reason] so let’s stop” and it is totally UNREASONABLE for the other party to continue anyway). In Reviving Ophelia, something like 85% of young women surveyed believed that it’s okay for men to force themselves on women depending on scenario (and distinctly NOT the truth that forcing sex on anyone for any reason is rape, which is never okay).
    + 100 Nonsexual Things To Do: Your presentation isn’t (and shouldn’t be!) some kind of punishment, so talking about fun things will help immensely. You can vary the number obviously based on time, but… really, you can use quite a large number and get things done in about 10-15 minutes if you’re not struggling to get attention. The way my org did it was give every individual a card with numbers 1-100 on it with a pen, and simply told them that they had to list 100 nonsexual things you can do with someone you like (like REALLY like), then when they started struggling, casually break it out into a larger group discussion. And it’s real basic, shouldn’t take a whole lot of effort especially if you take some time to think a bit about it beforehand. Massages? Cuddling? Watching a movie? Hugging? Making out? Video games? (Side note: while men used to be the dominant video game players, in recent years it’s roughly 50-50 – there’s a lot of women who would love to come over and play video games!) If you present them with “here’s sex, which is the one and only thing you want” and “here’s the scary parts of sex you don’t want to talk about,” you may well come off as some scary Feminist Who Wants All Sex to Be Consensual (*gasp!*). And even if sex IS their ultimate goal, plenty of guys would be deliriously happy to get a massage and play video games with a girl, especially if they think it will further their romantic relationship with said girl.

    The Milwaukee local sex-positive feminist adult store( The Tool Shed)’s owner does a column in the Milwaukee local free and awesome newspaper here: http://expressmilwaukee.com/articles.sec-258-1-sexpress.html
    Her contact info is also on there – she does lots of different types of sex education in the Milwaukee-Chicago area and is ultra-awesome (and sex positive! and feminist! and a trans ally!), and I’m sure she’d be happy to give you some input as well.

    Good luck!

  26. IANATeacher, and give much respect to Captain Teacher’s assessment and advice. I have, however, been a college student for a long time, and am an ex-sorority girl at State U, and a chronic dater of frat boys (even married one), and I am having a difficult time picturing a bunch of barely-adult males who need the safety and assimilation of a pack participating in any intelligent or frank way within small group discussions. I’m seeing a lot of dick punches and calling each other fags. I WANT to believe that a group of 19-year-old business majors will act civilised, but I keep trying to make it my mental default and keep getting stuck.

    I realize that I am making some unfair and broad general assumptions. Obviously there are all kinds of frats within all kinds of Greek systems. I hope I’m being unnecessarily pessimistic.

    But, perhaps, much like Xians heading into the lions den, it is fantastic to be armed with faith, but it couldn’t hurt to take a whip in with you just in case?

  27. One thing that I wish I had been told in health class was about miscarriages. Our teacher talked to us as if no pregnancy ever would be desirable. She talked about how hard having a baby is and about abortion and adoption.

    But now in my late 20s, I’ve had three different friends who wanted their baby and miscarried. It’s been pretty terrible every time because they all blamed themselves and one of those friends also had her partner blaming her as well. All felt pressured to get pregnant again ASAP, even the friend who would have ended up a single mother if her baby had been carried to term (which seemed a little bizarre, but her heart really wanted that baby, I guess).

    I did a little survey of the adult women in my life and found out that miscarriages are actually really common. My mom had one. So did both my grandmothers. Nearly every woman I talked to who had children had also had a miscarriage at some point. I wish that this was more common knowledge so that some of that “blame yourself” feeling could go away. Because it is REALLY hard (read: impossible to do without derailing) to educate someone about the commonness of miscarriages after she has already had one.

    My friend who’s partner was blaming her for the miscarriage really stands out in my mind when you say this is a class for guys. If he had known why miscarriages happen and that it isn’t the woman’s fault I think he could have been a much more supportive partner, especially since what he is actually trying to say is that he really wanted the baby too and doesn’t know how to feel about the loss of it except shitty.

    Well, good luck.

    1. Yes, that’s right, it’d probably be good to mention that it’s very common. My own mother had several, including a full-term stillborn girl just before me (and my step-mother had 11 before my sister, but that’s another story). Because I’ve been very aware of it from an early time I’ve asked the question a lot, and I’ve also found that just about every women who could get pregnant also had at least one miscarriage. I’d also like to add that infertility is getting more and more common in young people, mostly because of pervasive chemical pollution, and so it’d be good to mention that so as to reduce potential guilt when the kids do try to get pregnant on purpose..

  28. I agree with the comments about not doing group work (I always find it counterproductive, and frat guys will be socially incentivized to use that time to make fun of the topic), and about doing something a little goofy to blow off steam. I’m also trying to think of a way to make it election-focused.

    Have you heard of these dinners where you draw tickets or colored chips, and based on that you get either a first, second, or third world meal? When I did it, it was pizza & ice cream vs. rice and beans vs. nothing. They keep everyone engaged and hammer home the sense of unfairness.

    What if you make some or all of the frat guys “pregnant,” only some are under the romney/ryan plan, and some under obamacare? Less of a chance to talk about consent and healthy relationships, though some of that might come through in reasons you might want an abortion, or whether your partner can help with the decision.

  29. It helps, mentally, to realize that fraternities aren’t one undifferentiated mass of dude. More decent guys go to frats than you’d think. A lot of them have gay members now. Young men have a lot of anxieties about making male friends, and frats soothe those anxieties. Yes, they encourage a lot of butch-er-than-thou behavior, but a lot of young guys in frats are interested in hearing this stuff. Find the kind eyes in the audience and speak to them if you’re nervous.

  30. LW this sounds so uncomfortable, and intimidating. I really am wishing you the best. And although I am a female with zero experience with fraternities I wanted to try & help, I think that the Captain has an excellent start for you.

    1. What’s one thing about sex, reproductive health, sexual health, etc. that you know now that you wish you knew at 18-22 ?
    Not feeling like having sex is ok. Just because everyone else seems to be thinking about all the time, it doesn’t mean you are ‘weird’ for not worrying about it. Sex when you are ready and enthusiastic is the BEST sex.

    2. What’s one thing that someone taught you about sex, enthusiastic consent, reproductive rights, etc. that really stuck with you?
    The actual facts about what happens during an abortion. That they aren’t nearly as ‘evil’ as they are frequently portrayed. That a lot of abortions are for medical reasons, and that it will always be an ‘option’ even if it isn’t legal.

    3. If you’ve been in one of these presentations before, either as an audience member or a presenter, what’s one thing that worked really well? Or do you have a horror story of this going horribly awry?
    Your group of students might be to old for this, but I had a sex-ed class where they gave us each a condom, we pulled it over our firsts (it went all the way up to my 13-year-old elbow) and passed around a feather. To prove to us that 1.) guys will not be ‘to big’ and that 2.) you can still feel plenty. It something that still sticks out in my mind as there being zero excuse for not wearing condoms.

    4. In an ideal world, if you could talk to this group of guys, what would you tell them? Try to do it in 3-5 sentences.
    That you need to take responsibility for your actions in the bedroom, and talk to your partner. If they are concerned about STDs they need to talk to their partner about it and wear condoms. If they are worried about consent, if they are being to pushy if they are doing something wrong, they need to talk to their partner about it. If they don’t believe in abortions they need talk about birth control and wear condoms. If they want to move to the ‘next step’ or try something new and awesome, they just have to talk to their partner and ask.

    Hope that everything goes well, and good luck!

  31. Also, don’t assume they’re all only having sex in the context of hook-ups. A lot of college kids, including frat boys, are in LTRs, and so they may be using the pill as their sole form of contraception. Those guys are often quite aware of how they benefit from women’s health services, and can be reached.

  32. Good job! It’s a good idea and I hope your presentation goes well… I guess I’m saying this as someone who only graduated college the first time four years ago and as a someone who has dearly loved family members who are frat boys. All of that being said I think stressing the importance of consent. Assume they are nice guys, because in my personal experience, a lot of them are – maybe not most but a high enough proportion that given enough motivation I do think they can put a huge dent in the huge wall of douchebaggery.
    Also, I think it is important to stress to these guys what a decent response to a refusal is, that just because she agrees to oral doesn’t mean you can have sex with her, etc. I know to me it sounds like “duh” but I think to a lot of young guys it doesn’t make sense. Overall I think stressing that we ALL have a right to tell people what they can and cannot do to our bodies is important. Also talk about the role alcohol plays in sexual assault on campus, I feel like it’s common knowledge but if you can throw out some real world examples trust me someone in that room will have an ah-ha moment.

    1. I like the point of “What does a good response to ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ look like?” I’m also thinking of the recent letter at #347, and the idea that it’s okay to be disappointed when someone tells you no (to anything — sex, a date, a totally platonic visit to the zoo, whatever), but it’s your job to regulate whether and how you show that disappointment, and make sure you don’t do it in a way that puts pressure on the other person to change their mind. This is a topic where I think it seems natural to bring in a discussion of consent within relationships, too — to point out that your partner still has the right to say no when you’re [dating/engaged/living together/married], and that it’s still your responsibility to respond to that ‘no’ like a grown-up.

  33. Hey LW,

    Just wanted to offer an alternative to CA’s “kill it with fire” directive, and some tips about creating a safe space. I facilitate workshops about sexual assault, domestic/dating/intimate partner violence, and stalking for campus groups. All first year fraternity members are required to take our workshop.

    These are the points we emphasize in our introduction:
    (pick and choose what works for your topic):
    1. This is a safe space. What’s said here stays here, what’s learned here goes.
    2. It’s a difficult subject, so do what you need to do to take care of yourself. If you need to leave the room or put your head down, we understand.
    3. We know that you are all already against sexual assault (in your case, maybe that you are supportive of women’s reproductive health), so this workshop is meant to give you the tools to be the best ally possible.
    4. Some of our language may be gendered because these are statistically male perpetrated crimes with female victims/survivors. Any gender can be perpetrator or victim/survivor, and these things happen in relationships between members of all genders.
    5. You get out of this workshop what you put into it. You have the choice to tune out for 40 minutes, but it will be a lot better for everyone if we all commit to staying present and being engaged.

    The first point is core. It means that we treat everything that attendees say with respect. It means that should someone say ‘Well, it probably wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t been dressing so slutty,’ we suppress our urge to “kill it with fire,” because if we do, this won’t be a safe space. (In our workshops, the exercises require the participants to use profanity and misogynistic language in the goal of illuminating rape culture/rape supportive culture/social license to operate, so we want to be really, really careful about not punishing participants for speaking.)

    This kind of outburst doesn’t happen as often as you might think. (In our organization’s experience.) But if it does, there are a couple ways to deal with it while keeping this a safe space.
    1. Repeat it, to give yourself time to cool down and formulate a plan. “So what you’re saying is that if this woman were wearing more clothing, she would be less likely to be raped? Is that right?” Sometimes just hearing it will shame the person. Sometimes they are just repeating something they’ve heard so many times before that they never thought about the implications.
    2. Ask them to elaborate. Again, they might get tripped up trying to explain it, or they may recognize the logical fallacies inherent in such a statement.
    3. Ask the other participants what they think. Sometimes this is a more widespread view than you would expect, and it can help you tailor your information accordingly.
    4. Use this as a perfect introduction to rape culture or victim blaming or the low incidence of stranger assault. “I’m glad you mentioned that, because that’s a widely prevailing idea in society and in the media. One reason for this is that people think stranger rape is more common than acquaintance rape. Stranger rape is the most widely prosecuted, but it is the least common. 90% of rape is acquaintance rape. So dressing carefully will help in the 10% of cases where a woman happens to be raped when she’s outside her house and with a stranger. But 10% is way lower than a failing grade. If we suggest strategies for violence prevention, especially of the sort that constrain women in wearing or acting how they want, we would need them to be much more reliable than that.”

    Keep it kind. Our society does a lot to misinform people (especially men) about these topics. They may not be speaking from malice, but from a genuine lack of understanding.

    Our topics aren’t identical, but idea of a safe space is generalizable across workshops. You may want to consider it. Good luck on your presentation!

      1. ” So dressing carefully will help in the 10% of cases where a woman happens to be raped when she’s outside her house and with a stranger.”

        I’m not sure even that is true. I think even with stranger rape there isn’t all that much evidence that clothing matters so much as opportunity or perceived vulnerability.

        1. I suspect the only extent that clothing really matters is that most people are aware on some level that a woman who’s dressed in anything even sort of revealing is less likely to be taken seriously. It’s not a matter of “she looked hot” it’s a matter of “she ticks a box on the ideal victim check list.” But even so it’s not an important factor – the physical opportunity (isolation, etc) is far higher priority.

          1. Clothing doesn’t matter. The poster above was quoting a potential non-factual question from a potential audience member, not making a factual statement.

    1. Stranger rape is not anything to do with how a woman is dressed either, please do not imply that dressing more conservatively would make any difference. It doesn’t, and even if it did, it is not a woman’s responsibility to dress differently, it is a rapists responsibility to not rape someone.

    2. I think numbers three and four are especially crucial to reaching a fraternity audience. A lot of programming directed towards Greek organizations on hazing, binge, drinking, etc. has a “you’re already engaging in this terrible behavior and we’re telling you to knock it off” tone to it. Once you’ve put the audience on the defensive like that they’re much less willing to listen to your message. The fraternity men I was friends back in college were on the whole respectful, decent, and sometimes even actively feminist, so I hope you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the reaction to your presentation. I know my sorority always enjoyed having someone come in and do a sex ed presentation (and lots of us were very politically involved), so at least you’re set on that front.

      To give my own advice, I would point out that a lot of fraternities emphasize things like being “men of honor” or “men of class” so you could try appealing to the values aspect of Greek life. Respecting women: both honorable and classy. It’s a little close to the “protect your women” message you’re trying to avoid, but you could probably work around it.

      I would maybe also touch on how the consequences of pregnancy affect both men and women, so both men and women should be concerned with birth control. It takes two to tango, after all. I would specifically cover things like how child support actually works, and what exactly happens when you and the girl you got pregnant want different things. I’m not a huge fan of the scare-them-straight method, but I know a fraternity man who got his brand-new girlfriend pregnant since neither of them understood how the pill works. She went back to her family on the other end of the country; he now has a child whose life he can’t be involved in, and it eats him up inside.

      I hope some of this helps, and I’d love to hear what ends up in the eventual presentation!

      1. I second this. It scares the heck out of me when people say only girls need to worry about birth control. Do these people, male and female, think diapers and 18 years of food and shelter have nothing to do with a daddy?

      2. I don’t find “men of honor” or “men of class” to be problematic, because you can easily substitute “women” for “men” without changing the meaning – respect others, protect the vulnerable, keep your word, etc.

  34. LW, congrats on doing something so awesome and needed and good luck to you. In addition to the many great suggestions here, I think this piece provides a good starting point for talking about what consent means and what consent really looks like: http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mythcommunication-its-not-that-they-dont-understand-they-just-dont-like-the-answer/ If you have time, I think it might be very accessible to your audience to talk through a situation where an indirect refusal would be immediately understood and respected (“Oh, the party this weekend sounds great, but I can’t make it.” “Oh, okay, some other time then.”) and compare it with a situation where an indirect refusal of sexual attention is construed as negotiable (“It’s late, I really shouldn’t.” “Come on, just come up for a little bit; we don’t have to stay up late” or whatever).

    1. (Tangent re: responses to indirect refusals – oh, gosh, hey! I’m just realizing that in my recently-ended relationship, non-sexual-situation refusals were almost never immediately understood and respected, and ‘boundaries’ (though I didn’t call them that in my mind & didn’t think to see them that way at the time) were always getting pushed further & further – Perhaps that could have been a sign that not all was good, rather than, (ahem, she very much cringes to admit), me feeling loved and wanted, and usually relenting. Self-awareness stings, doesn’t it.)

      1. Unlurking, self-awareness hurts, yes, but it hurts less than being bullied into things as a price for feeling loved and wanted. Those things are quite literally priceless, as I’m sure you’ll now find out in your very next relationship :-).

  35. LW, you said this was going on to inform people about the topics ahead of the elections. So you may want to speak to how the republican party has included a constitutional amendment that would have an impact on men and women, because you know, if a woman has to carry the baby, the father is also financially responsible, the plank starts: “We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” There are of course no exceptions for rape or the health of the mother. I cannot remember what states already have some form of this legislated but I recall reading that in one state they have prosecuted at least one woman for a miscarriage because she did drugs while pregnant.

  36. LW I’m so glad you’re doing this! I’m a college instructor and it’s disturbing to see such a lack of awareness – especially when it comes to issues of consent – in many of my students. I don’t have that much to add that others haven’t already said, but do want to second the suggestion of breaking up into small groups. I started using this technique, along with other active learning techniques, in my classes a couple years and it makes a WORLD of difference. Full-class discussions are difficult enough to get participation in when you’re talking about cell division, let alone STDs. Dividing students into small groups and circulating – to see what students are saying, to encourage groups that are sitting there quietly and awkwardly, to redirect groups that are getting off-topic, and/or calm groups where discussion is getting heated – is a really productive technique, IME. Best of luck!

  37. I love all the Captain’s ideas. She briefly touches upon this but I think it would be great to really emphasise the fact that if you are a man who doesn’t feel like having sex even if a woman is totally coming onto you, then that’s fine and you’re not abnormal. I remember there being a question on this blog about that a little while ago and that seemed to be how the LW felt. Also, if you don’t want to have casual sex even though you feel like you should be, then that’s fine, or if you don’t have any sexual feelings at all, also fine. I don’t want this to sound like an abstinence only thing (we don’t have that in the UK and I’ve never experienced it personally), but I hate the idea that some men have sex when they don’t really want to because they feel like it makes them more manly or they don’t want to be mocked. Perhaps introducing the idea that men can be raped by women might be a possibility, if the LW has already created a serious discussion atmosphere.

  38. It might help to explain to these guys that all of you are going to grow up, and so are the women you went to college with. Some of them might be your wife or your co-worker or your sister-in-law or that nice lady who helps out in your child’s classroom. And all of these women are going to have memories of their younger years that stay with them, and that they talk about years later with their girlfriends – and maybe, you, if they trust you very much.

    Some of those memories are not going to be so nice. They’ll be memories of that guy who walked her home after a party and then tried to push her into having sex as a ‘thank-you’ and called her a bitch when she said no; or that guy who climbed on top of her when she was passed out drunk on a couch; or that guy who groped her and then told everybody they knew she was a lying slut when she pushed him away. (Some of those memories, by the way, may explain why she jumps when you startle her or why she doesn’t like it when you have beer on your breath.)

    Some of those are going to be better memories: the guy who told his frat brother to quit grabbing the ass of every woman who walked by him, the guy who spoke up and said it wasn’t cool to call her a bitch just because she wouldn’t put out, the guy who made sure she got home okay after she had too much to drink and didn’t ask for anything in return.

    Which guy do you want to be?

  39. One thing that might help to make it more about doing what’s good for them (and their partners) vs avoiding what’s bad is to point out the getting enthusiastic consent can lead to more and better sex, not less. If they’re pressuring someone into sex, that person is going to be not entirely into it (if at all), the sex is going to be not so great and it’s not likely to be repeated. If on the other hand, they’re getting enthusiastic consent, the other person is by definition going to be into it, which makes the sex better and more exciting and it’s much more likely to be repeated if both people have a really good time.

    1. Rereading that, I realize it might be coming off wrong. My point is that consent isn’t just about doing what’s right for their partner’s sake, it’s good for them too.

    2. This! I worked as a ski instructor in Australia for a while, and we all stayed in dorm-type accommodations. Hook-ups a plenty!

      At the start of the season, the staff put on a presentation about all these topics, safe sex, avoiding pregnancy etc. And they also staged this awesome and hilarious play about enthusiastic consent. (Well, they didn’t call it that.)

      They had a guy and a girl up on stage, and he was hitting on her pretty hard, and she just stood there. Then they changed the situation and had her be very into it. Basically, the question was, which would you prefer?

      It went on for a while, and got pretty raunchy. (The ‘actors’ were a couple in real life, so they went pretty far…) But it was VERY effective.

  40. One idea for getting across just how prevalent rape/sexual assault is: number the participants off as one of 1, 2, 3, or 4, and ask everyone who was numbered 4 to stand in front of the group. Tell them that, if they were a group of women comparable to their own (use better words, have a headache, sorry) that’s number of people in the group who’ve been sexually assaulted or raped. I think the stats on college-age women are still 1 in 4 being a victim of rape or sexual assault, but you might want to double-check that. You can then number them off so you can show the number of men there who, statistically, have been raped or sexually assaulted. The effect of this demonstration will vary with group size. Either way, you can then calculate the number of women and men sexually assaulted or raped on campus each year (at my college, it’s something like 700 women raped or sexually assaulted a year, not sure on the men off the top of my head) and remind them that that number doesn’t account for repeat assaults (I believe, you should check that too).

    In talking about consent, I like the idea of vignettes, and categorizing them as “consent” or “no consent” (because ambiguous/uncertain consent should = no consent). The stretching of the penis idea that one commenter gave sounds like a very visceral way to get their attention and understanding.

    You could explain why combining birth control methods is good through a demonstration similar to the rape example, by putting the guys into groups of “pregnant” and “not-pregnant” based on the efficacy of various birth control methods. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/birth-control-effectiveness-chart-22710.htm has a good start on numbers for you (although I’ve seen abstinence rated at 50% effective elsewhere).

    Good luck with your presentation, and thanks for being willing to speak up in your community!

  41. I would love to have learned in school that condoms and other forms of birth control actually work, and how. I had abstinence only education, which was mostly of the “you will get chlamydia and die” type. I’ve since worked in a reproductive health field a bit (not any more) and became the person among some of my friends to ask about birth control. The one thing it was hard to convince them of was that they could actually just pick the birth control method that was most convenient for them, and if they used it properly, it would fucking work. You may want to hedge your bets and scare them into using the most birth control methods possible, but in my experience a lot of young people get so many anti-BC messages that they think that there actually isn’t a way to reliably prevent pregnancy.

    Practically speaking, maybe a rundown of how different methods physically/pharmacologically work?

  42. First off, well done LW for taking this on!

    I have experience with med students and teaching them how to talk with their patients about their (the patients’) sexual activity and sex history. The context is obviously different but those classes tended to be mostly dudes (~2/3rds), of roughly the same age as your intended audiences.

    I’d have to say that having “case studies” and role playing were both VERY well received by the students, and their annual evaluations of those lectures consistently showed that they felt that the lectures helped them and gave them tools they could and would use in the future. Being lectured AT was generally less well received. So we generally just provided handouts with references right at the beginning of the class, had maybe 10-15min MAX of diactic at the very beginning to frame concepts and what the students should get out of the class, and spent the remainder of the hour alternating doing role plays followed by discussion and case studies followed by discussion.

    Also, don’t know if you’ve already seen this, but PP has some great resources for educators available:



  43. One method I learned teaching sex ed at Lots of Drinking State U was to hand everyone slips of paper at the beginning. When I ask sensitive questions, they answer anonymously on the paper, hand them in, and then I can read them out myself. This would give you the ability to skip over rapey and otherwise problematic answers and only read out the ones that show engagement in the discussion. It also gets the shy people involved.

          1. I’ve done this before too (yay, High School peer sex education!). We would definitely get blank slips back, and I would use those to make up something on the spot and address that. Nobody asked if condoms can prevent STIs as well as pregnancy? We-ell, this little blank slip I just sorted through “asked” that. It helped us get around some weird restrictions – there were things we weren’t allowed to bring up in the classroom unless someone asked us.

    1. You could even set up a place for them to text questions/comments (like a randomly created email account/chat service) so that anyone shy or with a more personal concern can express it anonymously. I’ve had this done in classes to great effect.

  44. This is VERY gendered/heterocentric and has some weird “rape survivors are saints for caring about things other than rape” message in there briefly, but this is the program my husband got at his college orientation: http://www.datesafeproject.org/ciky-univ/ and I think framing consent in the “can I kiss you?” is a question that makes things less awkward and more sexy way is a really useful way to talk about clear communication and enthusiastic consent.

  45. One more thing that I’d add is to make sure to leave your contact information with them as a resource for further conversation. Probably someone in the room will have more questions that, having met you, they’ll feel comfortable asking (in a way that they might NOT feel comfortable going to a stranger at the student health center). Even if you do end up giving them more resources and sending them elsewhere, knowing that they have a person they can continue to reach out to would probably be hugely helpful.

  46. More information worth checking out is David Lisak’s study showing that 9 out of 10 college rapes are from repeat offenders. The rapists’ methods are discussed and knowing this can help guys hone their sense of when to step in to protect someone from rape.

    1. I think a good message to give would be that 90% of men are not rapists.

      90% of men are not rapists, yet they live in an environment that rapists are ruining for everyone–harming their friends and girlfriends and sisters, making women afraid to come to parties and go on dates, making campuses not trust frat guys.

      So maybe the most important message to send isn’t “here’s how not to rape” (although, yes, also important), but “here’s how to spot and stop one of the 10% who are ruining it for all the decent people” and “here’s how to make sure the 10% aren’t getting any support, protection, or validation of their actions from you.”

      1. Thank you. It can be so easy to turn this subject into a witch hunt that it helps every little bit to acknowledge that this subject might be more properly looked at as “This is how predators are making things more difficult for non-predators.” and by making the environment more consent oriented and ineffective predator hunting grounds, everybody wins (except rapists).

  47. The one bit of sex ed I wish I had gotten was role-playing around pressure. Because objectively knowing that people pressure other people into sex was one thing, but when it happened to me, I was absolutely not able to identify that was what was going on.

    I’m a woman; might be more useful for a female audience; but role-playing for guys around pressure and also maybe asshole behavior that they should not endorse might be helpful. Again, one thing to hear “oh, you should help people out or back people up if they look like they’re in trouble!” or “Don’t support rape jokes!” and a whole other thing to see a situation and be making the decision about whether to butt in.

    1. Also, I’d love an emphasis on not just pressuring people into sex, but also pressuring them into relationships. My first boyfriend basically pressured and wheedled me into turning what I wanted to be a FWB situation into a full -fledged relationship, and while I won’t claim that this caused even close to as much harm or emotional pain as non-consensual or pressured sex, it was way harder to resist, since I had the dual cultural pressures of “be nice” and “women want relationships! You should want a relationship!”. So emphasis both on “don’t do this” and “this is something someone can do to you” for both genders would be good.

      1. Ugh, re-reading this I just wanted to emphasize that I mean relationship pressure was harder for me, personally, to resist than sex-pressure, not that it’s universally harder to resist. Just to make that clear!

  48. About the idea of breaking up into small groups– Even though that often is a good idea in classes, I’m not sure if it would be in this setting. In a class discussion, unless you’re in a very small program, you probably don’t know many of your classmates, or see them anywhere besides that one class. They probably don’t care very much about your private life, and if one of them reacts badly to something you say, you probably won’t ever have to talk to them again once the class is over. With the LW’s presentation, she’s going into a group of people who already know each other, who have established friendships, rivalries, etc. and who want to be able to get along with each other in the future. That may make it harder for them to talk about things that are private or embarrassing. I think it’s definitely a good idea to ask them to *think* about their past experiences, but I’d try to set it up so that deciding not to share is as not-awkward as possible.

    The political aspect of this got me thinking. Pretty much always, things like birth control and abortion are presented in the news as women’s issues, women’s health, women’s reproductive choice, the war on women. But as the LW points out, obviously these things affect women’s partners, too (and people who have uteri but aren’t women). Your partner’s sexual health and reproductive choices are pretty much inextricable from your sexual health and reproductive choices. Maybe this is just me being oblivious to things that don’t affect me directly, but I’d never really thought about this before! So if I were you, LW, I’d really push the idea that, if your audience members are having sex with women or wish they were, then women’s health is their health. Women’s ability to choose whether or not to become a mother is their ability to choose whether or not to become a father.

  49. So this isn’t about consent or directly about STD/pregnancy safety, but it is about making sex more enjoyable for everything involved and is DEFINITELY something I wish I knew at 18, instead of something I learned around 22 the first time I slept with somebody who wasn’t a virgin before me…

    Lube is great! If you’re having PIV* sex and it’s dry or uncomfortable, well, maybe part of the issue is that the woman isn’t particularly aroused and that you might want to make sure she’s really interested and that you’ve spent some time doing nonpenetrative sexy things first… but even with an enthusiastic and aroused woman, adding a little lube (or even saliva) to the equation can really help things feel good for everyone involved.

    (Seriously, I spent my college years dating a woman where we only had PIV sex about once a year because she was convinced it would always be painful and unpleasant for her… and in retrospect, I blame the lack of lube more than anything else.)

    * This goes double for anal sex, which isn’t something I’m really into. Ironically, I think I WAS aware at 18 that lube was important for anal sex… but it didn’t really penetrate my skull that it might be nice for vaginal sex too!

    1. SUCH a great point. I didn’t know about lube. The repressed Catholic boys I was doing it with at Repressed Catholic Kid College didn’t know about lube. We knew about condoms and AIDS and date rape but we didn’t know about lube. Or foreplay. Or talking about sex before you had sex.

      1. And let’s face it, despite the hype, most of the college kids will be doing it with themselves more often than with a partner. “Stroke lube” is a real thing and it is a really GOOD thing to know about.

    2. Oh, god. Lube. That’s a grand one to tell people about. I’ve encountered the attitude of “If you need lube that means you’re doing something wrong” far, far too often.

      And, hey, sure, maybe it means the woman isn’t aroused. Or maybe it means she happens to need lube because of how her body works, in which case adding the “You’re doing something wrong!” pressure can be really vicious. As in “I can’t ask for lube without my partner feeling that this means I’m rejecting them entirely because I don’t find them sexy.” Or as in, “Things going into my vagina are always painful and that’s just part of being female.” Or as in, “I think I’m turned on, but clearly I’m repressing some sort of deep trauma because otherwise my body would be responding properly.”

      I have seen “If you need lube, you don’t actually want the sex!” nearly destroy a relationship. And that was coming from gynecologists, horrifyingly enough. So. Uh. Yeah. Indicating that wanting lube is something which is okay and not inherently a sign of some failure on the part of one or both partners is a good thing. No woman should feel like pain is an unfortunate requirement of having sex.

      1. I’m pretty sure it’s not just dependent on the V-haver, but also the P-haver for whether lube-free PIV sex works. I’ve had it work in the past when I was not super in to the sex or the partner. With my current partner, as soon as we stopped using lubricated condoms, lube was needed in all but the most sopping situations (he ate me out for a while beforehand or similar).

    3. Not only lube, but going slow at first and using condoms are doubly important for anal sex, and in my experience the ven diagram of 18-22 year old dudes who want to have anal sex, and 18-22 year old dudes who know about that stuff are not even close to perfectly overlapping circles.

    4. Yes, this!

      Reasons why I, the owner and operator of a vagina, might need lube:

      – I’m slightly dehydrated, say, from drinking booze all evening.
      – We’re having a really long, hot session and my body’s hit the limit of how much it can produce.
      – We’re doing it twice in a day.
      – My body’s out of whack for medical reasons (but not reasons that would contraindicate sex.)
      – The stars are improperly aligned.

      Possibly also worth noting: Some lubes have extra ‘warming’, flavors, or other stuff added in. Some women are sensitive to such things and find it extremely painful to have that rubbed into their privates. Doing so will result in an immediate end to the fun. (Go ahead, ask me how I know.) Unless you know your partner’s preferences, plain is safer. Or ask if they already have some.

      1. More reasons I might want lube:

        – I am on the pill, which can decrease production of vaginal fluids.
        – My vagina likes to produce lubrication after it orgasms*.
        – The lubrication has evaporated/been soaked up by clothes due to dry-humping/been licked off by an obliging partner/etc

        *It’s true. Sometimes while masturbating I used to try to get to the first orgasm quickly so I’d have lube for the second, slower one.

        1. Heh, yes to all of this, especially the second one! What my body produces during foreplay is nothing compared to what it produces just before/during climax.

  50. Personally, I’m uncomfortable about the idea of combining election politics and consent issues. I can see that in the US they are really strongly linked, so maybe it’s necessary and maybe it’s hard for someone like me who’s not American to understand, but I’d worry that if someone already has strong political views, they may be turned off from the rest of the discussion if you go too heavy on the political part, and mentally write you off as some kind of ‘liberal extremist’ or political campaigner by the time you get to the part about about healthy relationships.

    I think it’s important to somehow make it clear, for example, that enthousiastic consent is something that should appeal to EVERYONE, regardless of your views on other issues.

    1. Yep, I think this is an area to Tread With Caution. I actually see two interrelated but distinctly separate workshops here. One is on “rape culture” which will dip into social and political constructions but will remain a largely nonpartisan (Dems rape too) conversation about misogyny, power dynamics, resources, consent, and enthusiastic! consent. The other workshop is a cross between Sex Ed 203- contraception, health, advanced sex ed- with a focus on how these issues will play out in the coming elections. I am scratching my head about how the two could be productively wedded in a 1-2 hour format, although of course Sex Ed 203 issues will be framed as unfolding within a rape culture. No matter how progressive, engaged, ect. the group is, it is my experience that anything that raises consent issues will take a long time to unfold, explore, and then repack. It’s never a quick check in- rape is bad? yes? ok, and on to insurance coverage of contraception… if you’re going to go there, plan on spending some time.

      1. I think this is a very good call.

        There are so many great suggestions here, and it’s impossible to cover everything perfectly or even cover everything in one short session, so again, LW, relieve yourself of that pressure to do that. Ask yourself what are 2-3 you’d like to see happen or see the listeners do as a result of your talk?

        It could be:

        I am primarily interested in registering new voters and making sure that college aged men include women’s health and reproductive choice in their political decision-making this fall. That’s one very specific talk.

        It could be:

        I want college-aged men to understand how men’s & women’s health and access to reproductive choice is intertwined and get them to reject the framing that reproductive rights and healthcare are some fringe lady-issue that they shouldn’t care about. That’s a specific talk.

        It could be:

        I want college-aged men to become allies and advocates in making this campus safer around a variety of sexual health issues, including rape/consent, good communication, STDs, pregnancy prevention. That’s a different focus.

        Don’t try to do all three at once. If the first talk goes well and you connect well, propose follow-up sessions.

        1. I thought that, too — she started out with a mission to help frat guys understand why the candidates’ positions on contraception and abortion should matter to them and maybe influence their voting decisions in November (like, if they ever want to put P in V again with any confidence they won’t be fathering a child in the process). But of course those issues do relate to larger issues of how men see women’s bodies and men’s relationship to all that… and she wanted to slip in a little of the bigger picture while she was there… and somehow we started telling her all kinds of stuff we think the world would be a better place for having frat guys understand. Kind of a big agenda! Since what she asked is REALLY important this November, I would hate that to get lost in the rest, as important as it is, too. But a series — now that would be totally awesome!

  51. This is more a concern for the people with Vs having PIV sex, but the one thing I desperately wished I had learned about reproductive health as a college student was that if sex hurts, and you’re pretty sure you’re properly lubed up, something is up there, and it’s doctor visit time. You are not just somehow doing it wrong or weirdly shaped inside or something. (I have vulvodynia, and had a couple of years of miserable sex because I didn’t know there was stuff you could do to treat it. This was sad times for all involved.)

  52. Firs time commenter here. I’ve been gleefully digging through the archives for the last couple of weeks.

    I had a couple of comments. 1) my college health services was not terribly helpful. If you went in with a stomach ache (or just about any complaint) their first assumption was that you were pregnant. I don’t know how many pregnancies they actually dealt with, but that’s not a terribly useful question most of the time. At least every times went there. (no sex + the pill usually means no pregnancy). Just pointing out that the health services at colleges vary wildly.

    2) when I first started dating my now-husband, the single sexiest, awesomest thing he ever did was ASK before kissing, undressing, and all that other good stuff. My previous boyfriend had pushed me into sex and being asked was like a gift from the gods.

    1. Ahaha, yeah, my college comedy troupe had a whole sketch about our health services. “I broke my arm!” “Right, and we’ll get to that, just first, are you sure this broken arm isn’t the result of pregnancy?” “Pretty sure.” “We’d better give you a test to be sure.” “Okay, but can I have a cast first?”

      1. OH GOD I’m so glad it wasn’t just me who got that treatment. Even for a bad cough, the first question was always if I might be pregnant. “…Nope.” “Are you SURE?” “Uhhh, I just had my period, and also I’ve never had sex in my life. :(” “You know that we keep everything confidential, right? And there’s a remote chance you could be pregnant even if you’ve been –” “Unless you’re going to say ‘making occasional eye contact,’ I’ve probably never done it.” “Are you SURE?” “I promise I’m not lying! I’m coughing too hard to lie!”

    2. Ahahaha, mine was the same. When I had abdominal pain and needed help, I just broke out the spare pregnancy test I had at home, took it, and brought it in to shortcut that whole process. It was most frustrating the time they had me take a pregnancy test right after my post-Plan B-induced period finished. Seriously? I AM SO VERY NOT PREGNANT RIGHT NOW YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW.

      Anyways. Yes. This is why the students may be more likely to email you questions.

      1. okay, totally off topic but re: post-plan b induced periods. I did not know this was a thing! When I took Plan B, I’d already had my period for that month a week earlier, but then two weeks later (read: TWO WEEKS EARLY) I got ANOTHER damn period. I was so mad about that, lol.

  53. I’d be really careful about the term “enthusiastic consent.” The immediate connotation of it is that there’s multiple types of consent and that I can give/receive the wrong types of consent. (Basically, if my yes isn’t covered in glitter and three feet high, it’s the wrong type of yes.) Thus, it’s not enough that he (in this case) asks for a yes, he’s also responsible for making sure it’s a very specific “right” kind of yes. When in fact, what he’s responsible for is making sure that he removes any (or as much as he can) pressure to say yes/that he isn’t making it hard to say no, and also checking back in at any point he doesn’t feel that “yes feeling” (nonverbal cues the captain talked about). Oh, and giving specific places to say yes. And that he knows if he isn’t comfortable with what she’s saying vs. what she’s doing, he can stop too without being less of a man or abnormal or something.

    This is important because people in LTRs (and other situations, but that comes to mind) have sex for lots of reasons that doesn’t involve pantsfeelings (comfort, boredom – Cliff Pervocracy did a post on this) and it can be complicated to get across just because someone wasn’t necessarily aroused or into the sex when they said yes doesn’t mean their yes was invalid – as long as they feel they can say no as easily as yes.

    I would suggest having people try to define consent, as well, and then arriving at a definition so people know what you mean when you say consent. We did this in my gender studies class and it was actually really helpful and forced me to think about what consent in all kinds of ways.

    (also I know that’s not what enthusiastic consent’s denotation is, but just that it may be complicated to accurately convey.)

    1. I prefer the term “active consent” — that both parties are actively engaged and consenting to sex. There are lots of reasons one might not be particularly enthusiastic about sex, but you should always be actively choosing to have it.

  54. How many talks are you going to be able to give? I’d want to dedicate an entire one to consent and rape issues myself, just because of how MUCH I think we need to re-frame conventional thinking on it.

    I’d want to teach them about the percentage of the population that commits rape, about their modus operandi, about the reality of rape for the survivors, especially regarding the assumptions and judgement that we place on rape victims and the high cost of coming out as a survivor, and move from this into discussions of enthusiastic consent, responsible consent practice and respecting people’s boundaries. I’d want to find some way to talk about how all of this contributes to Schrodinger’s Rapist, and how they can avoid being That Guy.

    I’d talk about the studies discussed in Yes Means Yes’ Meet the Predators and other posts.

    Other studies of rapists have shown that there is a prevaling attitude amongst this minority of men that they are, in fact, normal. Rapist honestly, truly believe that all men do it. The rapist in your fraternity thinks you’re a rapist, too. And they believe that, if they are accused of rape, they can rely on their male friends to protect them from the consequences of their actions. I’d point out that, given how rape victims describe their experiences when they do come out, the rapists are at least right about that. I’d encourage a discussion of what factors might contribute to this belief.

    I’d introduce the frats to Project Unbreakable http://projectunbreakable.tumblr.com/ (TRIGGER WARNING)

  55. Former peer educator and health volunteer here! There is a great program at University of Chicago running peer education outreach on rape culture and consent, so it may be useful to reach out to them for a conversation, or some materials that can get you started on how to organize your plans: http://rsvp.uchicago.edu/

    A couple pieces of advice, focused more on process and less on content (of which there is already a great range of ideas here):

    1) It sounds like you aim to cover a lot of material (public health policy, parties’ platforms, contraceptives, general ethics of sex and consent). There is no way you can get a deep, participatory conversation going on all of these topics, with extra time to sort out derails, and to keep it reasonably compact. I would recommend going in with a tight agenda- what pieces of information are your priority? What do you want out of a dialogue with this audience? Make sure you leave yourself sufficient time to bring the session to a satisfying conclusion. While it is not possible to pull everyone in a given audience onto your page, nothing is worse than ending one of these sessions on the defensive. Budget time wisely.

    2) Do you have a friend equally conversant in this material to double team the presentation? Co-facilitation is great. You never know what your emotional triggers might be, and all of us are stumped sooner or later by one of those long and legalistic fantasy-world hypotheticals that are classic derails when it comes to sexual assault. It is always good to have a buddy to keep things moving, to bounce ideas off of, and to present a united front with. Mixed gender facilitation pairs can also be particularly effective.

    3) Have a few icebreakers at your command. Some easy ones: generate lists of synonyms for sex (give out extra points for the whacky “making the beast with two backs” and then unpack “banging” “getting laid” “screwing” and what this says about subject/object, gender roles, heteronormativity, ect.) or do “man and woman in a box” and generate descriptions of masculinity and femininity (for a more general conversation on misogyny). When you have straight facts to communicate, what is the most clear and interesting way to do so? When you are seeking to stimulate a conversation, what framework will you use to structure the experience (a hypothetical? myths and facts? responding to images, music lyrics, video clips, snippets of speeches?)

    4) Practice! Pull together a murder board, encourage the most ignorant, random, and/or angry questions and responses and practice composure and the best way to put conversations back on track. This is also a good way to catch your own prejudices and assumptions that can put audiences off- have your audiences take off points for heteronormativity, stale assumptions about who the prepetrator and the victim are (ooh, and do you use victim, or survivor, or both, and why?), and accusatory tones. Iron out the language you use- even the best intentioned can let slip language that is victim blaming, ableist, ignorant, or just plain wrong. Know the local laws in your state on sexual violence. Know your campus’s policies on sexual harassment and sexual assault. If you quote a statistic, know where that statistic comes from and the quality of the study.

    5) Now that you have faced the audience from hell, go meet your real audience expecting the best. Do not condesend, because people can smell that a mile away. Go in excited about your topic, enthusiastic about sharing your information, and open to interacting in an honest, evenkeeled fashion.

    6) It’s never bad to ask for some ground rules, and to have a favorite ground rule or two to suggest yourself. A large notepad and markers is always handy. Handouts with hotlines and local community resources are a must.

  56. Just to follow up on the “campus health centers differ” thing — I went to mine because it was hurting when I had sex, and the doctor said, well, you need to decide when the pain is too much pain.

    Dude. I made an appointment to come see you, AND any pain is not okay. Apparently I’m still pissed about this, some 15 years later.

    I’ll also second the lube comment. Lube makes all the difference!

    I was lucky enough to have good sex ed, including sex ed starting when I was around 11, so I knew all kinds of things before my social group was actually dealing with sex. But consent was never part of the equation. I would love to have had some role playing (at all different ages!) about how to respond in various situations.

  57. When I’m talking about consent, I also mention that communicating with your partner about what you or they want can actually be super hot and sexy. Being able to say, “I really want to [verb] your [noun],” is a huge confidence boost, and hearing someone say that to you can be a big turn-on as well.

  58. I just wanted to say good for you, LW, and please don’t be disheartened even if it seems to go badly. Changing these behaviors means changing the cultural norm, and every single time people hear someone talking about enthusiastic consent is a step in the right direction. My college had a strong get-consent education/outreach program, and people (including myself) tended to change their tone when talking about consent quite a bit from the time they entered to the time they left. Good luck!

  59. I think it is tough for a Woman for talk to a Frat. I reminds me of the guys at my military Guard base. Yes we have sexual assault briefings and rape / bystander prevention classes but guys still make sexually demeaning jokes. I try to do what I can when I can and when you actually talk to these guys about would they act that way to their wives or steady girl friend they have a different tone in their voice and their view changes.

    I would say it would be good to have a male role model to speak as well.

    And get connected with this organization


    they are all about men using their strength for good and respecting women, from a man’s perspective.

    I hope this helps

  60. Three things come to mind that I wish I’d known or thought about earlier:
    One is that sex != PIV. More to the point, what one person thinks of as sex may not be what the other person thinks of as sex. This basic idea has lots of connotations and permutations surrounding it, but the biggest one for me is that a couple can have awesome, mind blowing, “real” sex and still not have the P anywhere near the V (this is heteronormative, so YMMV).

    Another thing that helped me is when I was finally able to get away from the “Woman as goalkeeper” vs “Man as goal scorer” paradigm. Knowing that women have desires and men don’t always have to be horny was great. Thinking in terms of cooperation towards a fun goal (think, making music) as opposed to opposition overcome (scoring a goal) was huge.

    And finally, the BS idea that, once a guy “gets going” he can’t stop. Ask the simple question: would you stop if your mom walked in the room?

  61. One thing that would have helped me a lot in sex ed was linking safe sex to consensual sex to pleasurable sex. My high school sex did an okay job with the mechanics of everything and at least touched on consent in the “no means no” format, but there was some mechanical information that was missing that would have been super helpful that I didn’t get until I started engaging with the collected works of Dan Savage and Cliff Pervocracy.

    Stuff about what actually happens to clitoral tissue as you get aroused and why foreplay helps, why some women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm, how to put a penis in a butt without causing anal ruptures and so would have been really useful for me to know when I first started having sex. I muddled through a lot of pretty terrible sex before I got a non-Cosmo based handle on what things were supposed to feel like, and which prescriptions were important so that things were safe and consensual and which should vary based on your preferences and your partner’s preferences. Once I got some clearer guidelines on the basics a good sense that communication helps with both pleasure and consent things got infinitely better.

    I think that making the link between pleasure and consent and safe sex really clear and maybe throwing in some how-to tips could be a great way to get the attention of any guys in the room who are less than interested in the consent and safe sex stuff on its own. Plus you can get more consent info in there with tips like, “one way to tell if your partner is relaxed and fore-played and ready for penetration is to ask them.”

  62. Well, now that we’ve turned your quick presentation into a weekend retreat…. Is it worth breifly mentioning age? In the town I grew up in there were plenty of high school kids who got pretty talented at crashing local frat parties. When chatting up the cute slightly drunk girl, try to establish that she actually graduated high school and is old enogh to be there. ” cause if that goes bad, it’s really bad. Husband had a friend that spent six months in jail for dating a minor. ( not a pedophile, just an idiot. He was in his early 20s at the time.)

  63. Haven’t looked at the comments yet (140, yar, I love this site), but I’m going to put on my teacher hat for a sec and suggest that open-ended questions (what, when, how) are better at eliciting real discussion than yes/no questions.

    Right, back to reading.

  64. N’thing this: “It may not be illegal, but it doesn’t mean it’s not gross and wrong.”

    When I was in freshman orientation, we all attended a play on consent in which a sort of ‘grey area’ consent situation was presented (can’t remember exactly as it was a while ago – I think it involved drinking?), followed up by group discussion. I still remember this experience as hugely frustrating because the whole conversation revolved around “was this officially rape, was it illegal, was it right for the woman in the play to accuse the man of rape and ‘ruin’ his reputation, etc.” I think it would have been so much more productive to have not tried and define what exactly (legally or technically or morally or whatever) differentiates rape from sexual assault from shady grey area, etc…and instead focused on the idea that whatever you call it, this is not a situation you want to be in or put someone else in! We know that a LOT of people would not call a lot of situations rape that really are, etc., and furthermore I think many women have been in sexual situations that aren’t rape but still made them deeply uncomfortable (i.e. saying ‘yes’ but being unenthusiastic/freezing up, etc.). So I think focusing on actively seeking out enthusiastic and positive consent is way more empowering.

  65. While sometimes breaking into groups really works…if you don’t have experience facilitating and/or you have such a large group you can’t be on top of every group quickly to intervene if you need to I would suggest giving it a miss. Ideally, if you’re doing some group work you’d have at least one other person with you to help facilitate. Small group work generally works better when you have some familiarity with the larger group in question (and they already respect your authority), the majority of the people in the larger group are there because they want to be and really want to make it work, or you have enough facilitators to keep everyone on track.

    I can’t find the original article (http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/02/04/why-i-am-an-abortion-provider is an excerpt), but I was shocked at how common botched abortion health complications and DEATH were for people. It drives home 1) you can make it illegal but you can’t make it go away and 2) how real the actual risk is for the human being already realized who is your sister/girlfriend/mother/person-who-sits-in-back-of-you-in-world-civ vs the embryo/fetus.

    1. That’d be ILLEGAL abortions being frequently botched and potentially fatal. Legal ones are actually far safer than pregnancy (and pregnancy in bad conditions is a real killer).. Another point which would be good to make to the frat boys, as clearly the anti-abortion propaganda jerks are effective at getting their false doomsday messages across.

      For reliable data:
      6 deaths/825,564 abortions (<1/100,000) vs 15+/100,000 for pregnancy (nearly 35/100,000 for black women..). Enough said.

      1. Also the US has one of the highest maternal death rates in the Western world (/OECD), mostly due to how difficult it is to access healthcare. (Though I’ve also heard some things about the high rate of unnecessary caesarians.)

        1. Totally right Chris, and the US I don’t think has ever risen above no19 on the world-wide ranking of infant mortality, which is pathetic. And I don’t need to point out the inequities in having maternal and child death rates for Black people that are below many developing countries. Shame!!

          1. U.S has different definition of infant mortality than most western nations, for example any baby who breath after birth but soon died afterwards are counted as “live birth” in the U.S where are most other countries call it “stillborn” and therefore not recorded as infant mortality, same for premature babies who live at least 7 days are counted as “live birth” in the U.S while most European counties don’t so it’s not recorded as infant mortality.

      2. Right, that’s what I was trying to say! I was trying to hook it into Why Legal Abortions are Necessary as a political point. The original article was by a physician who performed abortions, and basically why he did so. Because if the only access you have to abortion is illegal…people are still going to access it. But it’s not going to be safe.

  66. I haven’t read all the comments so forgive me if I repeat someone. But one time a male friend of mine (adult, well educated) commented about how he didn’t understand why his sister was complaining about her husband wanting sex all the time. He said something to the effect of, “I mean even if you aren’t particularly in the mood, it still feels good once you’re having sex, so why not just have a quickie?” I had to explain to him that when a woman isn’t in the mood, it DOES NOT feel good, and in fact can be extremely painful. I was stunned that he didn’t know this, as he is well versed in things like contraception and STDs and such. So perhaps it’s good to let guys know that if a woman isn’t aroused, he can cause her pain and even physical damage. It seems like a no-brainer, but apparently it’s not.

    1. Though this also depends on the woman– personally, I (a cis woman) tend more towards the “once you’re doing it, it feels good” thing, and I’m sure there are (cis) men who tend towards the “sex when not in the mood hurts” thing too.

    2. I think it’s not about mechanics. If that friend of yours thinks it’s okay to say something like that, it means he doesn’t understand the least about basic consent and arousal. This is not about ‘hurting’. It’s about the difference between rape and not rape. Rape does not need to hurt to be rape. Please let us forget about the mechanics, it derails the conversation. Also, ‘having sex’ is not equivalent to penetration. Having sex can mean oral, anal, manual, cybersex. And rape can take all those forms and others too. Your friends needs to learn the lesson Women Are Human Beings 101, not biology.

      1. The friend was encouraging her to have sex with her husband even when she wasn’t in the mood, not encouraging her husband to rape her. She would be consenting. I sometimes have sex with my husband when I’m not in the mood, because I love him and want him to feel good, and it definitely isn’t rape.

        I do think there are a lot of good conversations to be had about how often to have sex in a LTR when each partner’s ideal frequency of sex is very different. Post baby number two and nursing, if I only had sex when I was in the mood, that would be basically never, and my husband would be so bummed. And that would be fair. So I occasionally have sex when I would rather read the internet. It’s not worse than doing the dishes when I would rather read the internet! It is also not rape.

        I’m not saying this lady should have sex with her husband whenever he wants with no consideration of her own interest/libido, in fact, it is totally correct and appropriate for her to not have sex except when she has crazy pantsfeelings. But, negotiating a marriage/LTR often involves compromise, and sometimes people agree to have sex when they would maybe prefer not to, and that doesn’t mean they were coerced. You can of your own free will decide to have sex that you’re not all that excited about. It’s not all that different from watching the dumb movie your partner wants to watch, or your partner going on the beach vacation you love when they would rather ski. And while all that sounds sort of sad and depressing, it’s not at all. Sometimes that’s the love part.

        Aaaaannnd I am totally off topic and will stop now.

  67. I forgot to mention this in my comment above. There are so many great ideas here, and you could definitely do several presentations to cover them all. If that’s something you’re interested in doing, it could be really really easy for you to arrange. Most sororities and fraternities have a weekly meeting called chapter, and there is some officer in the fraternity or sorority whose job it is to plan activities for chapter every single week. They’re then graded by their national headquarters based on how good they were at planning said activities. I would recommend having a card or something and giving it to the president and somebody whose title is probably something like VP of chapter development, and mentioning that you’d be happy to come back and give another presentation sex-ed/reproductive politics/sexual assault/etc. Some organizations might be genuinely interested, some might want to have a ready-made chapter for oh-no-it’s-finals-week-I-have-no-time-to-plan time, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at least a couple invited you back. You can also give your information to the university Greek office, Panhelenic Council, Interfraternity Conference, and National Pan-Hellenic Council (historically African American fraternities and sororities), although sometimes they don’t communicate with individual sororities and fraternities as well as you would think.

    I know this goes into a lot of detail about the minutiae of Greek life, but I figure the more information that’s out there, the more likely there are to be extra discussions and presentations, and the more information college kids have on sexual health the better.

  68. The Most Important Thing that I really, really wish the college boys I was acquainted with as a college girl understood: If you’re coming on to a lady, and she graciously accepts your advances and gives you what you wanted and asked for, and that makes you lose respect for her, then 1. what does that say about YOU, that your touch makes a woman gross and slutty and more importantly 2. you never respected that woman enough in the first place to be having sexual contact with her, and you shouldn’t have asked, and don’t ask women you don’t think you’ll respect the next morning in the future. Also, telling all your pals what a total easy slut she is and encouraging them to fuck her too is a sleasy, cruel way to behave and could potentially put the woman in danger, so perhaps you shouldn’t add that to the shit she’s already dealing with where someone fucked her and then treated her like garbage for it after hinting what an uncool prude she’d be if she didn’t. How would you feel if someone treated you like that? How would you respond if someone treated a friend of yours that way? DO NOT DO THIS EVER.

    Now that I think on it, honestly if you think “slut” is a real and okay label to put on any person (especially if you also think “stud” is a real and okay thing without any thought of the double standard or irony there) you probably really aren’t ready to have actual sex with real people with feelings yet.

    Er, but that’s something that can hopefully be covered under the heading of consent and not leaving one’s human decency at the door because one is dazzled by sexual hormones and shitty social messages… you might not be best served by such a specific example, but it’s a mindset/attitude I ran into SO MUCH in college, from women as well as men. One set of rules for the girls, another for the boys, the boys could more or less do no wrong, the girls had to walk a fiiiiine line of behavior and woe betide her if she walked it wrong.

    1. Seventhbard: what you have said is so important !

      What does it say about how a person views themself that they have to label anyone who has sex with them as a slut, skank, ho, etc. ?

  69. The most exciting group I’ve ever heard of working with fraternities was organized by frat boys for frat boys and called “Men Against Rape Culture” at NC State University. This may not be useful to the letter writer, but from the outside of frat culture it seemed like an incredibly valuable way to change the dynamic and culture at the school. They did workshops on consent and provided some really stron role models in the community.

  70. On lube and condoms: really important discussion, but if you’re covering those areas, it’s really important to point out which lubes are OK to use with condoms, and which aren’t. As a general rule, oil based lubes will weaken condoms and vastly increase the possibility of them breaking, compared to water based lubes which are designed to work with condoms. It’s also important to use lubes that are actually lubes, not face moisturiser or thrush cream or butter or whatever else is handy when you’re randy.

    Visual aids can be useful, for example, when I was a med student I used to teach sex ed in high schools, and we inflated condoms and used a single drop of massage oil to burst them. The putting-a-condom-on-a-banana demonstrations were always fun, because I’m clumsy and have never had to do that in real life, so I frequently botched it and had 15-year-olds laugh their asses off at me.

    Do you have to do the teaching session alone? We always used to teach in pairs, because that can feel safer for us and for the class when you’re talking about something sensitive, and we used to try to pair male-female if possible because it makes it easier for people to identify with the issues, although I mostly taught mixed groups. If you can find a buddy to come and teach with you, or even just to do stuff like getting the condom demo right, that’s handy.

  71. I agree with many of the great suggestions above, but on the more political side I think it’s important to talk about where the different candidates stand. While you don’t want to go the route of “Protect Your Property/Women”, the relating issues to their mothers/sisters in some cases would be (I think) very effective- such as talking about the different anti-abortion laws.
    I’m sure some of the guys will be against abortion, but would they go against it even if it meant that their girlfriend/sister would die? Paul Ryan had repeated supported such bills, where hospitals wouldn’t be allowed to perform an abortion to save the mother’s life. (http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2011/10/congress-anti-abortion-law – though I’m sure there are better sources, if you want to look further)
    He has also supported bills that would ban types of birth control, and those same bills also would ban in-vitro fertilization- so what if they (the frat guys) want a kid down the road but they or their partner is sterile?

    It’s important for them to look into where the politicians stand on many issues and how it could effect them and their partner. It’s also important to vote for the person, not necessarily the party. Give them the link isidewith.com -where it asks your stance on different issues and you can also note how important that issue is to you (and you can leave answers blank if you don’t really know much on that issue, though it would be good to look into the ones you don’t know) and then it tells you how much you side with each candidate (such as 87% with Jill Stein, 65% with Romney)

  72. Just a random assortment of thoughts on this topic:

    1. Start the discussion with the concept of this being a Safe Space. I think this was mentioned above, but how I envision this happening is basically saying that you are going to have a discussion on sensitive topics that people are going to be approaching from a variety of angles, it’s necessary to be respectful and even if you disagree to not make it into a personal attack. You would also hope that this sense of respect would last after your speech, especially if people learn new things about each other.

    2. When I was in college I presented a little devised scene with two frat bros and a sorority girl about rape. Basically we talked about how two people can view the same situation very, very differently especially because of social pressures. The upshot was that you’re not necessarily a bad person if you don’t know you crossed a line, but that you need to apologise and use your words better in the future. I think this has the great effect of empowering both sides of the issue which leads me to number three…

    3. One of the frat bros was really concerned with the idea of being labeled a rapist undeservedly. To his credit, we were pretty good friends and I have never known or heard about him ever mistreating women. But I think this really speaks to the importance of not putting the frat bros on the defensive. Maybe if you say, you may have made mistakes in the past but here’s how you can be a better person in the future. Emphasize the fact that personal change is possible and that no one is perfect but a little humility and enthusiastic consent go a long way.

    4. Remind boys that girls and their bodies are not gross and most of us slough our uterine lining once a month and it is not that disgusting. I kind of wonder how many boys know the difference between a pad and a tampon. Ask them if they’ve ever bought either for a girl they know.

    Lastly, it seems like there is also a political element to this? I liked the idea I saw a ways up about having everyone envision what their sex lives will be like under different health care plans or abortion laws.

    1. “The upshot was that you’re not necessarily a bad person if you don’t know you crossed a line, but that you need to apologise and use your words better in the future.”

      This reminds me of an HR presentation on sexual harassment that went really well because it turned into a discussion of variety in comfort zones. There was a sort of boilerplate exercise where we broke out into smaller groups to discuss scripted scenarios and decide whether or not they constituted harassment. One of them was “So-and-so a photo in his/her cubicle of a model in a bikini in a sexy pose.” Everyone agreed, ‘Inappropriate for the workplace,’ but one person said, wait, what if it’s not a model? What if someone has their vacation photos in their cubicle and no one is posing provocatively, and they just want to look at the photos to remember a relaxing vacation? Ie, what if it’s not intended to be sexy? What if two people have different definitions of sexy? We reached the conclusion that in some cases, reasonable people might disagree about whether or not something is appropriate, and that’s ok. Maybe someone else in the office is uncomfortable with that much nudity under any circumstances, and maybe someone else thinks it’s a great segue to conversations about travel destinations. The person who’s uncomfortable always has the right to ask the other person to take it down with being labeled Unreasonable, and owner of the photos can do so without being labeled a Bad Person. We all agreed that some things, like intentionally sexy photos in cubes or off color jokes in office emails, are unequivocally always not okay in the office, but for questions about comfort zones, Use Your Words.

      So for consent, something analogous would be, it’s easy to agree that if someone says, “No, I don’t want to have sex with you,” that means they don’t want to have sex. Trying to have sex after that is as unacceptable as sexy bikini photos in the workplace. But if, say, two people are making out and one of them gets very quiet and holds very still, then the other might not know if the other person is uncomfortable without asking. A person can not know what their partner is thinking and still be a good, reasonable person; similarly, if a person is uncomfortable, it’s because they have a different comfort zone, not because they’re being unreasonable. If a person is uncomfortable, they might not be able to vocalize what they’re thinking, so it never hurts to ask. However, not asking could cause a lot of hurt.

      I’ve had really scary experiences with guys who thought that asking was emasculating, or being bad in bed, or some other nonsense. Apparently part of the whole ‘men must take charge sexually’ trope is ‘men must be mind readers and know exactly what their partners want.’

      tl;dr: The frat brothers might feel less accused and defensive if consent is couched in terms of ‘it’s okay to not know what your partner wants, and that’s why it’s always ok to ask.’ Not knowing doesn’t make them a bad person. Knowing and not caring, or not knowing and not asking–that’s the part that’s not ok.

      1. “Not knowing doesn’t make them a bad person. Knowing and not caring, or not knowing and not asking-that’s the part that’s not ok.”

        Yes, exactly!

        Sometimes it can feel like people are always trying to pin down a black and white definition of what rape is and isn’t. But in a way it really is subjective because you always get to decide. Although once you decide it’s not up for debate. And that’s where communication becomes important.

  73. Something I wish I had known in college is that it’s ok to have feelings! It’s ok to have needs! It’s ok to want a relationship! My campus’ culture was big on casual sex and not so much for the dating. If you talked about going on a date or having a significant other people looked at you weird and said things like, “I don’t know anyone with a boyfriend or girlfriend. Isn’t that for, like, Republicans, or people from the Midwest?” (Actual quote!) I ended up in some really unhealthy FWB situations when I would have been much happier getting to know my sexual partners outside of sex. In retrospect, it was really gross and controlling how people acted like wanting to give and receive affection was a character flaw, as though it meant you were clingy and needy. And god forbid you have needs! Obviously casual sex needn’t be inherently toxic or disrespectful, but under the wrong circumstances that kind of environment can enable some really ugly things.

  74. I just want to add that when I pointed out to some of my fratboy-ish friends that being the guy who respects boundaries gets you laid more often, better, and with hotter women, and gave examples of why I would want to sleep with that guy/why would that woman want to sleep with me (yay bisexuality!), they were suddenly much more interested in enthusiastic consent and being a respectful partner. Part of that was pointing out that girls DO talk to each other and compare behaviours, and guys who had a reputation for being pushy were likely to get frozen out. Some of that was probably Nice Guy-ism but I think respecting boundaries is a good thing no matter what the motivation is.

  75. I don’t know how many men are poking around here, but here is a condensed version of information I have spent significant time sharing with male partners and friends, all stuff I figured out on my own and thought others should have been told in younger days:
    1. Is somebody drunk? Not responsible sex. Is somebody high? Not responsible sex. Is somebody really emotional? Not responsible sex. That includes anger, sadness, grieving, in pain, or even severely uncomfortable.
    2. Communication is important. Not only is verbally asking for consent a safety practice for both partners, it can be a great way to establish yourself. It’s direct, it’s clear, and it can be hot.
    Nothing says respectful and sexy like being confident asking for consent. The “I’d like to [verb] your [noun],” format is a pretty good starting point to build up long-term verbal skills for the bedroom (that means dirty talk, y’all). If you’re too uncomfortable to get or give consent, you aren’t ready to have sex.
    3. Card your partners. If they act weird, shrug it off, wave an unopened condom and say, “I believe in safe sex for everyone.” If they refuse, shrug it off, accept your loss, and say, “Maybe another time, then.” If your partner reacts by throwing a tantrum or questioning your judgement, you didn’t want to be attached to them anyhow, they’re clearly immature.
    4. And use condoms. USE. CONDOMS. Use condoms. Buy fresh condoms. Throw out old ones. If you’re throwing out more than you’re using, buy smaller amounts. This goes for anyone with a penis. It doesn’t matter if he says he’s been tested, it doesn’t matter if she says she’s on the pill. You have a penis? You want sex? Condom. Carry more than one. Do not reuse condoms. Know they have expiration dates. Educate yourself on which lubes work with which condoms. That’s actually important.
    5. Don’t assume a “no” is all about you. Maybe he’s having a bad day. Maybe she’s on her period. Maybe he just ate Indian food and doesn’t want to spend the evening burping on a really cute guy he met at a great party. Take it gracefully, give them a smile, your number, and say, “It can’t hurt to ask. Let me know if you ever change your mind.”
    6. Stop believing in a grey area. There is no such thing as “grey rape;” there is absolutely no way that lack of consent = consent. The current federal definition of rape is “The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” I actually think this should include objects for oral rape, but I’m mincing. This definition applies to men and women. Consent is safety, and safety is sexy.
    7. Don’t be weird about transsexuals. There’s no reason to. They’re people, and people you can have sex with if you ask and they say yes. Use condoms.
    8. If your partner changes their mind,if you change your mind, THAT’S OKAY. You get up, you say, “I’m really sorry, I seem to have more going on than I thought I did, maybe we can get a rain check?” If they’re the one leaving, you help them find their coat, you say, “I had a great time, I hope we can continue this sometime, give me a call if you wanna hang out,” and then you get on with your evening.
    9. Print cards with your name and number. Your real name, your real number. This is much smoother than scrambling for a scrap of paper and a pen, and could actually help you out in a safety issue. I promote men and women of all kinds doing this.
    10. Understand that sex doesn’t work like it does in Hollywood. Understand that being an adult means being disappointed sometimes. It means being interrupted. It means sometimes you can’t make time for sex. That’s okay. Remain confident and relaxed. You’ll get sex later. You can actually function without it. Life is your ice cream, and sex is just the cherry on top (or on the bottom, depending on your cherry). When you learn to enjoy life in other ways, sex will be even more fun.
    11. Don’t just talk to your friends and people your own age about this stuff. Ask older people, ask people you wouldn’t have sex with, ask people of different genders, ask doctors and nurses. It’s okay to want more information. Plenty of people have made seeking information their whole career, and the better educated you are, the safer and happier everyone can be.
    12. Know your body. Know what you like. Know what you don’t like. How can you respect someone else’s boundaries if you don’t know where yours are? If you find you’re into things that are a little less mainstream, that’s okay, other people are, too. If you want to keep things private, that’s okay, other people do, too. If you want to find somebody to share these activities with, you need to be upfront about this, and confident. You aren’t weird, you’re just different, and it’ll save you a lot of heartache to weed out people who aren’t interested from the beginning, but keep in mind that your partners might spread the news. Either don’t seek partners in other college students, or own your identity publicly. For some people, this may cause a safety issue, in which case, your choice is your own, educate yourself, know what risks you’re taking, but always be proud. As long as what you’re doing is legal and consensual, you aren’t doing anything wrong.

    There’s no real way to cover everything all in one go, but encouraging men to take charge of their sexuality the way women are encouraged to should help everyone.
    Two suggestions:
    1. Have a frat policy of No Photos or Consent-Needed Photos (that goes for people in the background AND the foreground). I didn’t go to college, but I know plenty of people who could have been saved a lot of trouble if they’d had their privacy protected by something like this. I’d suggest having a phone/camera check at the door, but unless everyone in the frat is 100% devoted to enforcing the idea of a Safe Space, this could cause more safety issues than it solves. I do suggest doing a Key Check, in which everyone’s keys are labeled. This prevents drunk people from slipping out unnoticed or accidentally taking someone else’s keys.
    2. Have a person who is designated to operate a phone in case of an emergency. This should be someone who is NOT the Designated Driver, but someone who is there as back up for the DD. Ideally, you should have more than one person for each of these, because being the Only One Not Partying is not fun for everyone. Someone who fails in their duties is not allowed to be DD again, but everyone should have a turn being DD (and phone guy). This policy should be well-known, and these people should not be the only ones sober. This can save your frat a lot of trouble.

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