It’s been a tough few weeks, but until a few nights ago I was not able to fully articulate why. Yes, survivors of sexual harassment and assault are feeling unseen, unheard and unsafe, but that isn’t new for me or any survivor.

My concern, I realized, is that coverage of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh is framed as a political issue, as is sexual assault by association. Consent is not a political issue: It is a human issue. It is a moral issue that encompasses our identities, desires and experiences. When we talk about harassment, violence or assault as a political issue, we miss the point.

I am not speaking theoretically. I am a consent and sex educator who just stepped into a new role as executive director of Speak About It, a consent education nonprofit. The students we work with still experience scenes like the one Blasey Ford described.

That is certainly scary, but some are scared for other reasons. They don’t know what questions to ask or how to have real conversations, and they certainly do not want to be wrong. Right now, the national discussion is focused on fear and violence, which means that we are not talking about ideals of healthy sexuality. Everyone deserves safety and pleasure, which is why we ask for enthusiastic consent. The acknowledgment of that right is what is so missing from our conversations, our sexual encounters, even how we teach and talk about sex and desire.

I believe her. I believe that Blasey Ford experienced an assault with lasting effects. I also could believe him, to an extent. I believe that Kavanaugh was not taught that everyone involved in a sexual encounter is a full person, as staggering as that is to write. I believe that millions of people are still taught that and see themselves in him. That is not “the culture of the 1980s”: It is still the culture today. But this moment is an opportunity to change that culture.

We teach boys and anyone raised as a boy that sex is a competition and it’s OK if they break the rules as long as they don’t get caught. We teach them that every time we refer to sex as “scoring” and protect their privileged behavior as “boys will be boys.” We teach girls and anyone raised as a girl that they should not prioritize their needs and that it is their fault if someone acts aggressively toward them. We teach them that every time we ask them to wear a longer skirt, raise our eyebrows at their Tinder dates or doubt their experiences. We leave non-binary, gender non-conforming and trans folks out of the conversation altogether, along with folks with disabilities, people of color and so many others. We are all raised in this culture, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t hold each other accountable for our bad behavior.

The media characterization of Blasey Ford’s accusations as a scandal is overriding the lived experiences of the people involved. We need to talk about how to make sure that others do not have similar experiences. And if you have been on the internet recently (or have been near anyone who isn’t a straight white man), you know that too many others have had experiences of assault, harassment and trauma. But unlike the headlines, shifting focus to education and prevention in order to making actual change isn’t clickbait fodder. It’s the long game. It’s the tough conversation. Moving to a culture of consent is going to take years, if not centuries, just as creating a rape culture did.

This moment is an opportunity to build community, to see the folks who share similar experiences and to support survivors everywhere. But those of us who can must focus on how we can grow as a culture. This is an opportunity to broaden the national conversation with the sex and health educators who have been working on issues of consent and healthy sexuality for decades. It is a chance for us all to examine how we teach our young people and what we expect adults to know, and to observe where those expectations do or do not overlap and how those gaps are failing us. We cannot define consent as a political issue: We need to focus on teaching consent as a tool for humanity.

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