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The Overcast: How We Learn About Sexual Consent

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love by Johnny Lai is licensed under CC by 2.0 http://bit.ly/2DhYaD7

The #MeToo movement has sparked near-daily conversations about sexual harassment and assault. One of the central issues in those conversations is consent.

When Seattle Times education reporter Paige Cornwell wrote a story about what local schools teach kids about consent, she began hearing from readers. That prompted her to ask them how they first learned about consent.

She received 25o responses from men and women, ages 15-80. Some said they were never explicitly taught about consent. Others said they learned about the concept from the internet or TV shows like 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.'

Cornwell sat down with her colleague, Seattle Times political reporter Jim Brunner, to talk about what she found. The conversation above is an excerpt from The Overcast, the Seattle Times politics podcast recorded at KNKX. You can find The Overcast on iTunes, TuneIn, SoundCloud and Stitcher.

Interview highlights:

Beyond Legal Consent

"One of the teachers I spoke with said that often students want to know the legal aspects of consent, what the law says, and she wants to go beyond that. She says consent is important to have a healthy relationship, what someone does or does not want to do. And there is a gray area where someone might not be charged with sexual assault, but they still did something that made the other person feel bad or not listened to. And so the teachers really like to go into the importance of communication and not just how to not be a criminal, but how to be a good person as well."

Uncertainty Around 'Affirmative Consent'

"It is essentially 'yes means yes' versus 'no means no.' Rather than just hoping for the absence of a no, it means that each person has to explicitly say, 'Yes, I want to engage in this sexual encounter.'  There were a number of mothers who said that they were concerned about their younger sons and what that meant for them. One woman asked, 'Well is my son supposed to get a signed form each time he wants to hang out with a girl?' And I don't think the affirmative consent advocates are saying that, necessarily, but that is one of the questions."

When #MeToo Hits Home

"I went to this [Issaquah High School] seminar thinking, 'Oh, I'm older than these high school students. They're so young and naive, and I know all this already.' But while I was there and while there was a slide on power and power dynamics in relationships and how people can abuse their power, I got a notification that some men had been suspended from a news outlet I used to work for because of sexual misconduct. ...It also made me sad thinking I feel like I know so much more than these girls already, and yet I'm still experiencing the very things they're learning about." 

A Seattle native and former knkx intern, Simone Alicea has returned to the Pacific Northwest from covering breaking news at the Chicago Sun-Times. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.