USC 'Consent Carnival' features bounce house sex simulation
- Gimmicks and games trumped substance at the event sponsored and organized by the school's student government.
Thursday night's "Consent Carnival" at the University of Southern California turned out to be as entertaining as expected, highlighted by the unannounced inclusion of a simulated sex experience in a bouncy house.
USC student Jacob Ellenhorn attended the event on behalf of Campus Reform, and recounted an unusual experience participating in the games—at least until he was asked to leave because organizers worried that "filming people would make them uncomfortable while they were being introduced to new concepts and terms."
In addition to games and prizes, the Carnival also featured popcorn and ice cream sundaes, as well as informational pamphlets at the end, though Ellenhorn said he doubts it actually did much to promote consent.
“For one thing, it was on a pretty remote part of campus, and most of my friends hadn’t even heard that it was going on,” he remarked. “In terms of the people who actually went, I spoke to two or three students, and they all agreed that it was a little weird that there was a carnival with free food.”
Moreover, he observed, “if you were actually willing to go to a consent carnival, you probably already knew the information they were talking about.”
The Carnival was hosted by USC Residential Education, USC Women’s Student Assembly, and Queer and Ally Student Assembly, and had received approval and funding from student government barely one week prior to the event.
Of the three co-sponsors, the two Student Assemblies directly represent students, serving as umbrella organizations for student groups dedicated to female and queer student issues, respectively, while USC Residential Education is a university department that oversees residence halls while also promoting values such as “inclusion” and “social responsibility.”
"The fair started inside a building adjacent to a courtyard, and there were various booths where you could win tickets that you could exchange for prizes at the end," Ellenhorn told Campus Reform. "The first booth was Jeopardy, next was the Matching Game, and then you moved outside, and there was a girl with darts and balloons who would ask you questions from the matching game, and for each answer you got right, you could throw a dart for a chance to win a ticket."
The Matching Game, he noted, was somewhat confusing, because it included "all sorts of terms that didn't really have anything to do with sexual consent, like 'cisgender' and 'transgender'." Photographs of the booth reveal that the game featured many other terms of dubious relevance to the topic of consent, including "pronouns," "pansexual," and "trigger warning."
"They also had this one booth where you wrote yourself a love letter," he added, "the idea being that in order to give consent to other people you have to love yourself."
The so-called "kissing booth" was something of a letdown, however.
"They had little Hershey's kisses with a piece of paper explaining what consent is," Ellenhorn recounted. "There was no actual kissing."
The front of the cards stated that the organizers were “consenting to share this kiss,” and the back defined consent, saying it must be “affirmative, coherent, willing, ongoing, and mutual,” meaning the kiss was given knowingly and freely, but could be taken back at any point, and adding that consent does not confer an obligation to accept it.
The most notable event of the evening was the bounce-house, which Ellenhorn described as an inflatable obstacle course that one had to negotiate while periodically halting until the student-carnies felt comfortable giving permission to proceed.
"They had a big obstacle course, and when you entered into it, two workers stood outside and would routinely tell you to stop, as in 'I'm uncomfortable; stop', and if you didn't stop you didn't get a ticket at the end," he explained. "It was like you were having sex with the bouncy house, and they would give you permission to go through each stage of it."
Inexplicably absent from the festivities, however, was any reference to the role that alcohol often plays in sexual consent situations.
"I thought it was interesting that they didn't have anything about alcohol at the fair, considering how often alcohol is involved in cases of sexual assault," he mused, adding, "people feel as though talking about alcohol is blaming the victim, but it's a major issue."
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