NEW PORT RICHEY — In a presentation called “Nonviolent Sexuality: Making Peace With Passion,” speaker Bob Hall broke the audience of mostly students out of their comfort zones to discuss a topic that despite being taboo, is all around us in marketing campaigns and media- sex.
The presentation was one of many this past week as Pasco-Hernando Community College held its 2013 “Peace Week” with the theme of “Transformation.” In its sixth year, the series of free events was open to the public and included lectures on local food economics, the creation of a Buddhist sand mandala and several peace-themed festivals.
Hall, a judo competitor, coach and owner of a conflict education company Learning to Live With Conflict, in Kew Gardens, N.Y., talked earnestly with students and members of the community about the issues of rape, consent, sex education and interpersonal relationships, among other relationship topics.
Instead of citing rape statistics and tossing out accusations about who’s to blame, Hall said, he was there instead to have an open dialogue with students and to broaden their definition of “violence,” a term that doesn’t need to blood and broken bones for it to exist.
“Silence is violence,” Hall told the students. “I see violence as the silencing of a voice.”
By that, Hall meant taking away the ability for someone to say “no” to a potential sexual encounter.
Part of the problem, Hall said, is that there is not enough open discussion in our society about sex. Many schools offer abstinence-only education and that works for some people, but not everyone. Programs that teach about birth control and the biological aspects of sex are leaving out one key component: how to deal with everyday encounters with other people.
“I don’t know about you but the first time I found myself on the couch in a ‘Cold War,’ knowing what a fallopian tube was didn’t help,” Hall said. “There’s a little more info we need if we are going to deal with these things when it comes up.”
The key, Hall said, is “consideration of others before self.”
Instead of assuming you can take, just ask, he suggested. In doing so, you give the person the power to say no.
“It says ‘Hey, this is your body and I’d like to spend some time with it. Is that OK?’ Because I don’t care where you go, how much money was spent, I don’t care where you end up at the end of the evening, what you end up doing on the couch or what clothes are on the floor- no one has the right to force you to have sex against your will. I don’t care if you’re running around naked and winking.”
Hall stressed that drugs and alcohol take consent out of the equation. A person whose decision-making abilities are clouded by drinking or drugs, are not able to give consent and a sexual encounter should stop there.
“Forget the law for a moment,” Hall said. “If the only reason you’d stop at that moment is because of what the laws says, then we live in a jungle.”
While Hall’s lecture was peppered with humor and relatable but awkward, sexual situations in which many people find themselves, but the overall tone was serious and meant to convey to students the importance of getting to know people, asking for permission and not allowing a sex drive to make their decisions for them.
At the end, he passed out consent T-shirts with slogans like “Just Because We’re Dating, Don’t Mean We’re Mating.”