Dating is one of the most important activities early adults undertake, and marriage can be one of the biggest decisions students at Weber will make. Yet, the social norms of dating, especially when it comes to intimacy, usually go unspoken.
The WSU Women’s Center wants to help students approach and discuss these norms.
Yajanetsy Ruano and her team, Madeline Gassman and Teokjari Seefoo, dished out free pizza in the Stewart Wasatch lifestyle center for Safe@Weber’s Pizza & Consent event on Jan. 14.
Ruano is a graduate student at the University of Utah who is undertaking her graduate assistantship at Weber State. Her masters’ program is in education, leadership and politics, with an emphasis in student affairs. Ruano gained a passion for educating students about healthy relationships while working at the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake.
Gassman believes it can be hard to know the “dos and dont’s” of intimacy.
“They are big issues that nobody talks about, right? People do not actually sit down and have these awkward conversations,” Gassman said. “Events like this provide a casual atmosphere for people to have those discussions.”
A variety of students spoke at the event about how they observe and interpret casual dating and consent.
Some shared that they had never thought about it before. Others advocated for knowing what a persons – and their own – boundaries are before going into any situation.
“Different students have different views and opinions on these things,” Gassman said. “There’s just all this gray area.”
This is why Gassman believes discussion is so important.
“It means being absolutely sure you are on the same page as your partner,” Gassman said. “Or whoever you are consenting in an activity with, whether or not it is intimate.”
Humor and food analogies helped everyone in the room get comfortable with talking about intimacy at the event. The students learned the acronym F.R.I.E.S. for consent. F.R.I.E.S. stands for “freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific.”
Event organizers also taught students how to say “no” and how to respond to being told “no.” The event organizers illustrated that it can be difficult to say “no” and how being told “no” can feel like a slap in the face.
But Ruano, Gassman and Seefoo reassured students that there are many reasons someone may not want to be intimate, and setting boundaries is key to enjoying dating and having healthy relationships. They want students to avoid feeling guilty for saying “no,” and they hope no one will feel upset in the event their partner tells them “no.”
Seefoo said that a good understanding of relationships is going to influence students’ college careers and everything else in life. If students have a clear understanding of how to have healthy relationships and healthy boundaries, those valuable lessons will naturally implement themselves into other areas of life, like at work with coworkers, at home with family and at college in their classes.
She said that people experience consent in every aspect of their lives, and knowing your boundaries is always a good thing.
Seefoo maintained that hearing people and learning how to listen, know and respect what they want and do not want are important communication skills; Gassman agreed with Seefoo.
“Having as much transparency as possible in a relationship is really key,” Gassman said.
The Women’s Center hopes activities like Pizza & Consent will help the campus community burst through barriers, have fun while dating and reduce the ambiguity that students sometimes experience in relationships.
For additional tips on healthy boundaries, relationships and safety, or to reach out for support, students can visit weber.edu/womenscenter.