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Consent Footnotes, but Make it Musical

I love using music as a teaching tool with consent. I prefer to use “older” music. Older meaning 90s through the early aughts typically. I like to use songs we’ve all heard on the radio or playing in the background while shopping. Choose a timeframe that works for you and your audience, and don’t be afraid to mix it up.

Using music to teach sexuality or consent isn’t novel. There are a few ways you can incorporate it into your curriculum and even use them to develop scenarios. Using music at the jump might be tempting, but it’s important to establish some kind of baseline or common understanding of what we are all talking about. That doesn’t mean our own experiences can’t inform our understanding, but ultimately we need to move towards the same goal.

Having a framework understanding of the Circles of Sexuality, with the power and agency focus, plus a consent definition is a great place to start. It’s also great to have group norms or rules for participation. Think of activities using music that can be adapted or altered for different audiences or group sizes. It’s also important to make sure any musical games can be adapted for different abilities; for example, this means being mindful of movement and using closed captioning (btw, the Chrome browser allows you to enable captions if there are none: Settings > Accessibility > Live Captions). I’ve included some suggestions, but they definitely aren’t inclusive!

One last thing before you curate your playlist. Please don’t rely on tropes, bias, and stereotypes when selecting your music unless that is part of your learning objectives. Let’s not further stigmatize certain groups of people when all genres of music have bad attitudes towards consent, ok?

Suggested ideas:

Musical Consent Chairs

Directions: Create a playlist of songs. Select a short portion of each song that is either problematic or promoting consent. Place chairs in a circle facing outward, but ensure there is 1 less chair than the number of people participating. Play that portion of the song during each round of musical chairs. Participants will walk around the outside of the circle. When the music stops, everyone must find a space/chair to sit in or they are out. The “out” person will have to identify what idea you are highlighting. If they get stuck, someone from the chairs can help out. Remember, as much as it is a competition, we also want to encourage community building and bystander intervention. If the group is doing well with the material (or add it in later to make things more challenging!), ask them to offer a “correction” to make the lyrics more consensual if a problematic snippet. Otherwise, provide a correction before starting the next round. Debrief with the group when finished.

Learning Objective: Participants will be able to identify positive and negative ideas in music around consent, sexuality, and healthy relationships. They will be able to articulate corrective action for negative ideas around consent, sexuality, and healthy relationships through lecture and classroom discussion.

Accessibility Notes: Please make sure you have closed captions or live captions, or use a lyrics video from YouTube. Additionally, you do not need to create a circle with chairs folks have to walk around. You can substitute with raised hands, closing eyes, heads down, thumbs up, meowing (listen, I’m a cat lady), etc.

Group Size Remix: You can have multiple circles if there is a larger group than 15.

Soundtrack of Consent

Directions: Curate a playlist of songs where you can shape a narrative. You don’t need to use the entire song (I wouldn’t recommend playing a whole song, it’s time inefficient). Have participants share their reactions from a consent mindset - this can include reasons why the messaging is positive/negative, reflective of their experiences, misunderstood, how to correct the negative messaging, where people can do better, etc. Prepping a few follow up questions is always great, but if the group is free flowing, go with it. Be mindful of time, folks monopolizing the conversation, and providing corrective feedback when harmful ideas are promoted.

Sample ideas:

Next “Too Close” -

Oh, the slow song's on you requested

You're dancing like you're naked

Ooh, it's almost like we're sexing (oh yeah)

Yeah, boo, I like it

No, I can't deny it

But I know you can tell

I'm excited, oh, girl

Step back, you're dancing kinda close (mmh)

I feel a little poke coming through

On you

Have your audience react to this portion of the song with these 3 scenarios: A pair of people on the dance floor that don’t know each other, a newly dating couple who have not had sex, and a sexually active couple in a long term relationship. Run through each scenario individually without spoiling what’s next!

Learning Objective: Using music, participants will learn how to apply consent to different scenarios and provide corrective feedback to negative messaging through lecture and classroom discussion.

Accessibility Notes: Please make sure you have closed captions or live captions, or use a lyrics video from YouTube. Ensure there is an inclusive way for folks to share feedback.

Group Size Remix: Discussion can be completed as one group if less than 25-30 or smaller groups who have to volunteer responses from each group.

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