The women’s and gender studies program, in collaboration with Voices of Strength (VOS) and Prevention Education, hosted an event entitled “Creating a Culture of Consent” on Monday, Mar. 27 at the Hoffman House. The venue allowed for a small, intimate discussion attended by students interested in exploring themes around healthy sexuality in a safe, confidential environment. The panel discussion was led by Karmen Brown, associate director of prevention education, and two student leaders in VOS, Isabel Molettieri ‘23 and Arden McHugh ‘25.
The panel was run similar to a classroom discussion, with students gathering in a circle to tackle these topics. Conversations revolved around setting boundaries, building effective communication skills and handling conflict in interpersonal relationships. Panelists made sure to discuss how these abilities can further promote healthy sexuality overall. Concerns around privacy, navigating sexuality and increasing confidence were also included in the panel. discussion.
“When we open up conversation about things that might scare us or make us uncomfortable with the right people who don’t judge us or make us feel bad for it, the possibilities for growth are endless.”Isabel Molettieri ‘23, student leader in Voices of Strength
“It’s important to have events like this on campus because the earlier we are given the tools to healthily express our sexuality and boundaries, we are more likely to know how to protect them when something doesn’t feel right,” McHugh shared regarding the importance of the event on college campuses. “I think there’s also something about learning from peers that allows for more honesty in a conversation. I loved how [at the event] we all talked about experiencing a lack of privacy because of the small college environment.”
As per their website, VOS works “to promote healthier relationships and positive sexual interactions for all students and provide extensive training related to consent, sexual health, accessing services on and off campus, intimate partner violence and sexual harassment and misconduct.” In preparation for this essential peer education and mentoring role, VOS members are required to undergo 30 training hours and obtain a Pennsylvania state National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) certification. VOS members serve as safe and confidential resources for students across campus who are struggling with issues around sexuality and relationships.
The true passion and commitment to promoting healthy sexuality on campus is apparent from all panelists. Molettieri shared that she “is super passionate about making sure that every student has access to sex ed[ucation] that is relevant to them–especially students who fall outside of the cisgender, straight lens.”
She continued, “I love having conversations with people that may seem taboo and learning new things about sex ed[ucation] and growing to be more empowered in my sexuality and relationships through conversations with friends and peers!” In addition to carefully planning the event, Molettieri and McHugh are both currently serving as VOS interns this semester. As interns, they run the weekly VOS meetings, coordinate collaborations with other groups on campus and help VOS members schedule and plan their individual events.
Brown, who also serves as the group’s faculty advisor, emphasized that she “wanted to really open it up to talking about healthy sexuality on a broader level, not just consent. We know that consent is extremely important, period, but it also plays a significant role in the wider concept of healthy sexuality, which also comprises self-worth, values and boundaries and desire,” Brown continued. “I also recognize that, sometimes, this information coming from peers has more of an impact than it does coming from myself.”
“We know that consent is extremely important, period, but it also plays a significant role in the wider concept of healthy sexuality, which also comprises self-worth, values and boundaries, and desire.”Karmen Brown, associate director of prevention education
“The most beautiful thing about this event for me was the vulnerability we all brought to it,” Molettieri added. “I learned so much by listening to other people’s stories and advice and I loved that people felt safe enough to ask for advice on personal things they were experiencing. As humans we always have something to learn from those around us. When we open up conversation about things that might scare us or make us uncomfortable with the right people who don’t judge us or make us feel bad for it, the possibilities for growth are endless.”
“I appreciated being in this space as I have gained some newfound perspectives for how I might interact with others in terms of discussing my experiences and boundaries with sex and sexuality,” audience participant Alexa Sage ‘24 agreed.
“We know that college is a significant time for growth and we always want to encourage students to think about what healthy sexuality looks like for them, personally. We want to create a safe space for students to build knowledge and figure out what works for them and what they like and dislike,” Brown asserted, echoing Molettieri and McHugh’s comments. “To me, providing spaces like this helps to give students a sense of belonging and the opportunity to recognize that they are definitely not alone when it comes to some of the questions they have and the issues they might be sorting through.”