Members of the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Student Group (#RSVPatUGA) at the University of Georgia sat down with students across campus to talk about consent. Here is what Simran Jadavji (she/her/hers) and Josh Dunn (he/him/his), In The Fight Executive Board Members, had to say…
Simran: “We have this discussion [on consent] a lot in terms of what we do as an organization. For me, personally, consent is really the freedom to choose. In the work that we do, we talk a lot about how that choice is often missing. Even when you think it’s there, it’s really not. In our work, human trafficking is a result of coercion, and that’s a lot of what we talk about in terms of consent. Just because you said ‘yes’ doesn’t mean you truly wanted to say ‘yes.’ Intention has a lot to do with that.”
Josh: “I think a lot of what goes into consent and actually giving consent is not necessarily what’s going on in the moment but all of the different factors leading up to that moment, like where they are, who they’re with, why they’re there, what else is going on in that relationship with the person that’s asking for consent or not asking. Power dynamics are important.”
Simran: “Right now, in one of my classes, we are doing work on sexual assault, and we are talking about the affirmative consent policy and how a lack of a ‘no’ or a silence does not mean ‘yes.’ You have to actually say ‘yes.’ I think that becomes iffy with the kind of work that we are passionate about, because ‘yes’ doesn’t always mean ‘yes.’ Like Josh said, it really is taking into account all of the factors that lead up to that ‘yes.’ And sometimes, and this gets complicated, but even taking a step back culturally can be eye-opening. If you’re studying femininity and masculinity, women don’t always have the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ It’s so ingrained in us to believe certain things. Consent is a very difficult thing to nail down.”
Josh: “We talk a lot about commercial sexual exploitation as a whole, and one of the big parts of that is prostitution. There is a very big conception that people that are prostitutes are choosing to do that. They are willingly selling their bodies, and of the biggest things we talk about that is what true consent looks like. Even if someone is making the choice to do that, if there are very limited options to take care of themselves or family or if there are threats of violence against them, threats of blackmail, it might appear that they are doing that willingly but it’s not a choice they are making without outside influence.”
Simran: “That’s a big thing for us. You might have the opportunity to choose, but if your options have already been selected for you, you’re not really choosing.”
The Relationship & Sexual Violence Prevention and Advocacy Services office at the University Health Center provides free and confidential services to UGA students. The office can be reached during business hours (M-F, 8am-5pm) at 706.542.8690, or 24/7 via the RSVP Hotline: 706.532.SAFE (7233). RSVP services are made possible by The Fontaine Center.