Ben Privot said he doesn’t bite — unless it’s consensual.

For Privot, founder of The Consensual Project, exploring the definition of consent turned from a college pastime to a full-time job, for which he travels to various universities teaching students that consent isn’t merely “no means no.” Instead, he said yesterday in his workshop that he’s been giving for about a year and a half, consent is clear, open and honest communication between partners about exactly what they want and don’t want.

Privot shared his findings on the complicated — and often fuzzy — definition of consent at the event “Yes Means Oh Yes! Consent is Sexy” in the Nanticoke Room of Stamp Student Union. More than 50 students attended the event, which was co-sponsored by Feminists for Sexual Health, Feminism Without Borders, Sisterhood of Unity and Love, Students for a Democratic Society and the Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Program office.

Privot said his main mission is to create a culture of consent, allowing students to feel comfortable explicitly stating how they are feeling at any given moment in an intimate situation.

“The more you start talking about consent, the more normalized it is,” he said. “It builds intimacy, eroticism, as well as trust, accountability and safety.”

Aliya Mann, a senior psychology major and member of Feminists for Sexual Health, said it’s important for partners to be active participants in their sexual experiences and that saying “yes” is as important as saying “no.”
“We’re not just trying to prevent sexual assault, but [we’re] giving people the tools to have the sex they want,” Mann said.

Privot’s toolbox of consent includes check-ins with a partner, maintaining a consensual pace, discussing sex with friends and asking open-ended questions to see exactly what page a partner is on.

His favorite question: “Are you attached to your belt or would you like it to come off?

“Whatever the reason, I think that’s the best thing in the world,” he said.

Privot also said that the decision to have sex must be without coercion.

“If you’re not prepared to stop, then you’re not prepared to start,” he said.

Body language alone, such as smiling and eye contact, is not a reliable means of consent, Privot said. Instead, explicit verbal consent is needed.

“I think that unfortunately, ‘no’ is difficult to say; ‘no’ is sometimes taboo,” he said, adding that “‘no’ is not necessarily a game-ender” but an indicator that clearer communication is needed.

Tools for saying “no” as given by the audience included saying “Thanks, but no thanks,” “I’m not really into that,” “Maybe another time” or even shaking your head.

Liz Ciavolino, a senior music major and member of Feminism Without Borders, said it’s important to state what is explicitly wanted.

“[It’s] learning how to make sex better through communication,” she said.
Privot said that talking about sex not only helps indicate what a partner wants but can also help students in other ways.

“The more you start talking about sex, the better your game’s going to be,” he said.
Mann said the university community is a hotbed for sex talk and Privot’s message is directed at exactly the right age group.

“We’re a college campus. People love sex — they talk about it all the time,” she said. “Life shouldn’t be about what you don’t want to do; it should be about what you want to do.”

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