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For many freshmen around the country, college orientation this year will include more than learning to manage a meal plan or figuring out when to declare a major. It could also mean sitting through lectures about sexual behavior on campus, sexual assault and affirmative consent. Some also will require students to fill out honor code forms agreeing to behave in a sexually appropriate manner. Among the schools that have incorporated sexual assault and consent awareness into their freshman curricula in recent years are Elon University, George Washington University, Indiana University, Rutgers and Stanford.
Cindy Pierce is a New Hampshire-based sex educator, the author of the soon-to-be-released book “Sexploitation” and a popular speaker on campuses around the country. And while some argue that the programs are overkill, since students today have access to more information than any generation that preceded them, Pierce argues that it’s exactly because there’s so much information out there that today’s students need more guidance.
Pierce joins Here & Now’s Robin Young from the studios of Dartmouth University in New Hampshire to discuss her work.
On how to effectively teach young adults about consent
“This is really about reorienting people, because teaching people that ‘no means no’ hasn’t worked. We all know young women who have not reported being sexually assaulted, and we all know women who have been sexually assaulted, who have gone through the process.
“So instead of a checklist, instead of thinking of that as a checklist, it’s not that unreasonable to ask people to say, ‘Is this OK? Do you like this?’ And the question is ‘Do you know this person well enough? Are you connected in a way well enough not through text? Did you meet through text, is that how you interact?’ And now the reality is there’s no app to get you through the face-to-face naked place, so you’ve gotta communicate and you’ve gotta communicate clearly.”
On male involvement in the consent movement
“This is what’s shifting. I almost gave up speaking on some campuses, because I felt like there wasn’t a lot of change. But here at Dartmouth, these young men came to me, and asked me to speak at an event, and I thought, you know what? This is the first time that young men have come to me and said ‘come and speak.’ Because I think that there’s a lot of fear that they’re gonna be scolded and blamed and that we’re gonna wag our finger and, you know, that has traditionally been the case.”
On porn and sexual education
“I want educated viewers, I want viewers aware of what’s real, what’s not real, so my feeling is when I talk to young guys about porn they have so many questions, because it’s not working. When they try to convert what they’re learning into a sexual encounter, it’s not working. And they’re confused about female pleasure. They ask, ‘So women really like to be raped, is that true? So women really like to be tied up?’ They ask you that straight up. They’re looking for answers and the first place they go is porn. I tell young women: be the GPS, guide them in, but once again, so many women say ‘If he asked, I’d tell him everything,’ and the guy said, ‘I don’t want to ask, because I think I’m supposed to know.’
And there’s the biggest problem: not being comfortable not knowing. I think around sexuality that’s the key: asking questions, getting help…I think not knowing being able to fail and stumble, I think that’s something we need to instill.”