A Recipe for Understanding Alcohol and Consent

There has been a lot of talk about the role of alcohol in many high profile cases of campus sexual assault.

Conversations often include issues of consent and so-called “blurred lines” or “gray areas,” as well as indictments of campus party culture.The OnTap Project was a social media campaign that aimed to reframe the conversation surrounding alcohol and consent. Judging and admonishing students who drink is unhelpful – instead, we need to give them tools to navigate consent.That includes ways to ask for and give consent, and how to recognize if someone is unable to consent to sexual contact. At the University of Michigan, this is particularly important because party and tailgate culture is such a big part of campus life, and I know there are other schools facing a similar challenge.

About the Chef

I’m Rachel. I’m a student at the University of Michigan studying English and pursuing a career in secondary education. I volunteer for UMich’s Sexual Assault and Prevention Awareness Center and I’m active in the student-run theater group RC Players. Learn more about my action and my work with Breakthrough here.

Ingredients

  • Graphic design software: Photoshop is great, and so are free online tools like Canva
  • A group of students to be your focus group
  • A photographer
  • Facebook

Prep time

One month to do research, develop content, and prepare for launch.

Cooking time

One week to share graphics and start this important conversation!

Recipe:

  1. Bring together a group of students that are willing to share feedback and discuss their perspectives on the issues surrounding drinking and sexual violence on your campus.
  2. Do your research! If possible, try and access a recent campus climate survey to get your hands on some campus-specific data. Note any statistics relevant to the issue of alcohol and consent.
  3. Bring these data points to life. Your graphics – and the way you frame them when you share them – should challenge your fellow students to think about this issue in new and meaningful ways.
  4. Choose your branding. Pick a color scheme, layout, and font for the graphics. Design a logo if you’re really creative, or enlist the help of a friend who is!
  5. Prepare for Facebook launch. If you’re you’re partnering with a group on campus like a sexual health organization or an anti-violence club, then you should ask for permission to use their existing page. Otherwise, you’ll want to create your own page. Either way, you’ll need to design a cover photo and profile picture, and craft some language about your project for the description.
  6. Create your graphics! When it comes to graphic design, simple is better. Don’t clutter your images with too many words or ideas.You can always write more in the post description.
  7. Write a description for each image, including any data or additional information relevant to the post. Your goal should be to start discussions, so encourage people to comment. Post questions or ask people for their opinions.
  8. Create some buzz on your Facebook page! Invite everyone in your network – including your friends on campus, students who can share the information with other students, and people involved in campus organizations that can promote posts or the page to their own networks. Consider sharing relevant articles and news on the page in addition to your graphics to keep the conversation going.
  9. Get posting! Decide how frequently you’re going to post, and when. Schedule your graphics and repurpose them with different questions and ways of thinking about the issue of alcohol and consent. Don’t forget to check back frequently to interact with people who comment or have questions. Tag people and organizations who may be interested in sharing or engaging with posts!

Substitutions:

  • Don’t have access to campus-specific data or statistics? Use statistics compiled by national organizations, or cut them completely. You could interview students instead and create graphics out of quotes or stories to start similar conversations.
  • Can’t get a group of students together to discuss the issue? Try talking to or working with a campus organization that focuses on sexual health, consent, violence, or activism. They can support you and provide you with resources such as access to their networks (or even their Facebook page), and effective language and insights surrounding alcohol and consent at your school.

Helpful Hints:

  • Be very wary of language that can be perceived as judgmental.
    • Alcohol isn’t the cause of sexual assault – but it can be a tool or weapon used to take advantage of someone.
    • If your language is accusatory or shame-y you will push away people who need this project the most.
    • Steer clear of anything that can be interpreted as supporting victim-blaming – that’s the opposite of what you want to communicate with a project like this. Make it clear that a victim who has been drinking should be treated just as sensitively as one who has not.
  • Brevity is key, but don’t compromise on nuance! Many of these issues are difficult to distill into one concise sentence, especially one that captures the different contexts. Take your time crafting the post description language. Use short sentences where you can in order to keep things clear. If you’re worried that your tone might be misinterpreted, step back from that graphic and talk to your friends about the issue. It helps to keep your language conversational and accessible. Make sure your action is as inclusive as possible.
  • Show the project to your focus group or even to people working on violence prevention at your school. They might pick up on things you didn’t think of, or help you express things in an even more inclusive and non- judgmental way.