Despite the recent popularity to rebrand Valentine's Day as Consent Day, many still question: Is consent sexy? I'm not shy about expressing my distaste for Meh-lentines and I'm in favor of turning what I view to be an otherwise useless day into something more productive. Personal bias aside, I find it troubling to exist in a world where people think consent isn't sexy.
Granted, in an ideal world, the necessity to raise awareness of consent would be irrelevant—respecting others would be the norm. But until generalized permission for consent becomes a reality, why not bring more awareness to a concept that protects all involved? It could even clear up all the mixed messages we're taught growing up.
America's abstinence-based sex-ed has long been considered a running joke—at least for the portion of the public who pay attention to statistics—and our conservative state is no exception. According to the Utah Department of Health, we rank ninth in the nation for reported rapes. Even more disturbing, rape is the only violent crime where Utah lands higher than the national average. Unfortunately, such horrific stats don't appear to be as embarrassing to the powers-that-be, seeing how they struggle to take comprehensive sex-ed seriously. God forbid we provide young people accurate information about human sexuality in an effort to set the stage for a future of healthy relationships.
In addition to the lack of school-taught sex-ed, lessons on manners only further confuse a growing individual's ability to convey their wants. Last V-Day, Teen Vogue put Ogden's Kanesville Elementary on blast for the school's practice to not allow students to turn down a requested spin around the gymnasium during the sixth grade Valentine's dance. While I'm all for teaching inclusivity, I question the mixed-message of telling a tween it's impolite to refuse another's request to be in their personal space. Niceties should never come at the cost of personal boundaries, and the line between being polite vs. being prey is not always easy for young minds to grasp. Instead of telling boys and girls they have to say yes when confronted with an uncomfortable situation, why not allow them a safe space to master the art of saying no?
As we grow older, life and dating only get more complicated, while the influence of misguided information stirs more self-doubt. For many, romantic comedies serve as the next step in understanding sexual relationships. Unsurprisingly, I'm not a big fan. For years, I've held a firm belief rom-coms ruined dating for women. What I had not considered, until recently, is how the poor portrayal of dating ruined men, too. The most common plot in a chick-flick is as follows: Woman meets man; woman hates man; said man wears her down; then she falls madly in love. The same scenario in the real-world would be deemed settling on the female's part, and stalking on the male's. Neither of which result in a healthy sexual relationship, or a happily ever after ending.
The other extreme is showcased in the Jane Austen-era flicks, where the lines of consent are so formal, modern-day ladies and gents are unable to apply them to the swipe-right ways of our current dating scene. Given the inadequate and inconsistent lessons of our youth, compounded with the cinematic spectacle of what's ideal, it's no wonder we need to turn holidays into PSA announcements.
When Valentine's took a turn from silly fun to obligatory romance, I decided it was no longer for me. Not unrelated, obligation is often at the root of what gets women (and men) into situations ranging anywhere from uncomfortable to traumatic. Until we live in a world where individuals are better equipped to filter out a lifetime of mixed-messages, turning a basic Hallmark holiday on its head puts the power back in the hands of the obliged. Reminding them that even on the most romantic of holidays, their first priority is to their own comfort and self worth. As far as I'm concerned, nothing is sexier than a confident person, empowered to live life on their terms.
To claim consent kills the mood completely misses the point. Wild sex and consent are not mutually exclusive. Often times, the biggest hurdle people face is getting past the hush-hush role sex plays throughout much of their life. At its foundation, consent is simply the practice of encouraging an open dialogue between sexual partners. Think of it as the mental equivalent of pushing the reset button on years of programming—where the very act of talking was considered taboo. Sure it can be intimidating, but whether it's a one-time fling or ongoing, communication is key to understanding each others' wants and needs. Unsure of where to start? Just hit up the good ol' reliable of our day and age—Google—for articles featuring fun and sexy ways to initiate consent. After all, the saying, "different strokes, for different folks," exists for a reason, and if your partner doesn't know which strokes you're into, one of you isn't going to have that great of a time.
Aspen Perry is an SLC-based aspiring author, and self-proclaimed "philosophical genius," who loathes Valentine's Day. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org