Lessons on Consent — From Dancing Cartoon Body Parts?

Consent is simple. If it's not yes, then it's no. That's the straightforward message coming from Project Consent's new campaign, which breaks down the issue to the most basic, obvious level and then takes it one further by creating cartoon genital spokespersons. Yes, a dancing hand, a breast, penis, and vagina. Disney has nothing on this series of candid YouTube videos that in 18-seconds each manages to offer the lesson that countless campaigns have been unable to nail previously.

The problem of consent has come to a head thanks to campus rape scandals at too many campuses. Project Consent, a nonprofit volunteer-based organization, was formed to bring change to sex education that undoes what they call "negative status quo of sexual assault's blasé treatment."


Mixed messages and metaphors are the norm in many sex-ed campaigns where anger and moral high ground come across before actual education. Remember the video that circulated last year by the British Thames Valley Police that compared sexual consent to drinking tea? Then there's the even weirder one from the Canadian Women's Foundation likening ignoring a women's lack of consent to putting too much gravy on your fries. Huh? 

"These campaigns are clever, but they fail to get to the heart of non-consensual sex which is a function of unequal power dynamics," says Dr. Paul Hokemeyer, a Manhattan relationship and sex therapist. "Rape is an act of aggression and violence against another human being. Instead of comparing consensual sex to a cup of tea or gravy on fries we need to compare it to a pistol or a knife." 

So is a dancing vagina saying "no" to an advancing penis the answer to stopping rape culture? Of course not. But at least the message is becoming clear.  Hokemeyer agrees: "It opens the dialogue and doesn't pretend. It's honest, direct and deals with sex as sex."