Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh faces multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Whether the allegations are true or not, they have sparked a national conversation about sexual consent and how young people understand it.
“Too often we’re taught that sex is something that is a conquest, and we really need to talk about it as a collaboration,” Khan says.
On what consent means
“Consent is not something that you sign on a contract and it’s done, but it’s actually an ongoing conversation: Does this feel good? Does this not feel good? Do you want to do this? Do you not want to do this? And listening to your partner, not just talking over them or convincing them, but listening to them.”
On the allegations against Kavanaugh from Christine Blasey Ford
“What we know about sexual violence is that, when there’s an absence of a yes, when someone does not feel safe or comfortable to be able to say no, that is a form of sexual violence. People have to consent throughout. And with sexual violence, what we know is that sexual violence isn’t something that is the guy behind the bush, or the guy in the alley. It’s someone we usually are in relationship with, either as a friend, a classmate, a coach, a parent, a teacher. We have to push back on these rape culture myths that kind of teach us that, it’s that stranger. It’s not. It’s somebody we know, and that’s what makes the conversation harder.”
On what she tells young people about how to deal with consent when either or both parties are somewhat inebriated
“It’s one of the biggest conversations that comes up. We know that 50 percent of sexual assaults include alcohol. We’re not saying that you can’t have sex when you’ve been drinking. The thing is, can you consent to something? Consent is something that is freely given, it’s informed, it’s reversible, it’s enthusiastic and it’s specific. The challenge is, when you’ve been drinking, how do you know that someone’s consenting to what you want to do, and are you communicating that with them? We know that drinking can cloud and not allow people to give their full consent. But drinking isn’t an excuse for your actions. You have to be accountable. So when people commit sexual violence, like the conversation in this case, we have to hold them accountable. Drinking or not, they’re still accountable for their actions.”
On what the discussion around Kavanaugh shows about the state of sex education
“There’s such a pushback on sex education, this idea of clutching pearls and saying, ‘Oh no, we’ll teach them in the home,’ when we know that so many young people are not learning sex ed from the home. They’re learning it from the media, they’re learning from the porn that they’re consuming or the conversations that they’re seeing online.
“We need to have comprehensive sexual health education. It’s not just about teaching people that rape is bad. They know that already. What it actually is teaching is how to have communication with your partner, how to tell somebody, ‘Yeah that feels really good,’ or, ‘No, that doesn’t.’ We’re pushing back on this idea that young men are always up for sex, and that they don’t have also the right to say no. So I think comprehensive sexual health education is the key and cornerstone to actually addressing sexual violence.”
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