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Consent campaign poster

The tagline for a Missoula campaign promoting healthy relationships by talking about sexual consent is eye-catching.

“Great sex begins how it ends. With yes, yes, yes!”

The “Make Consent Explicit” campaign designed by Make Your Move! Missoula rolled out in the fall, but organizers are using April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month to spread the word by hosting a First Friday reception in downtown Missoula on April 6.

Make Your Move! Missoula is a collection of victim service agencies and other organizations formed in 2012 with the goal of sexual violence awareness and prevention. It was part of the community's response to increased scrutiny of how sexual assault cases were handled by the city and the University of Montana after a series of highly publicized sexual assault allegations involving UM students.

The consent posters put out as part of the campaign feature slogans like “We consented each other’s brains out last night” and “I’ve never consented that hard in my life” along with cartoon drawings by Missoula artist Josh Quick.

Brenna Merrill, outreach specialist for Missoula City-County Relationship Violence Services, said in designing the campaign, Make Your Move! Missoula worked with a marketing company that pitched them on a number of different approaches that ran the gamut from relatively tame to more … spicy.

“Some of those were much more naked and risque,” Merrill said, adding that she thinks the slightly racy slogans they eventually chose — which fell in the middle range of the pitches — help make the campaign more memorable.

Make Your Move! also is using social media to share its message, including designing a set of consent-themed frames that can be applied to Facebook profile pictures.

The Make Consent Explicit campaign was developed after the success of a previous Make Your Move! initiative: a series of posters and a marketing campaign promoting sexual violence bystander intervention.

Those posters received national and international recognition, with Merrill saying they were also recently translated and put up in cities around Spain. Make Your Move! Missoula also engages in other direct prevention efforts, including training Missoula bartenders on recognizing and intervening in concerning behaviors at their establishments.

“We started to look at the conversations that are still missing in the community, and we wanted to be able to engage the community in something that doesn’t get talked about as much,” Merrill said. “And, well, there are a lot of people in Missoula who are having sex.”

A criticism that Merrill often hears about the importance of having conversations about consent with your partner is that it could “ruin the mood.” She said consent can easily be a naturally occurring part of communicating with another person and checking to make sure they are OK with what is happening, and shouldn’t have to be robotic.

“Consent is definitely not a formalized contract, it’s an ongoing engaged conversation,” Merrill said. “You’re asking your partner ‘What are you into?’ or ‘Does this feel good?’”

In addition to the posters, which are being put up in the restrooms of bars and restaurants across the city, the Make Consent Explicit campaign also features a 30-second public service announcement that will be aired before movies at the AMC 12 theater, and a pair of radio advertisements.

The First Friday reception includes the unveiling of new posters in the campaign, as well as a photo booth for the public to take photos with the campaign’s consent slogans. Merrill said there will also be stickers, refreshments and “coloring page” versions of the consent posters in which the public is encouraged to shade in themselves.

The reception runs from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Western Montana Community Center — unit 202 at 127 Higgins Avenue.

The consent campaign is funded by a grant from Raliance, a sexual violence prevention organization started in 2015 with a multi-million investment by the National Football League. Missoula is one of 27 communities across the country to receive its first round of grant funding.

More information about the Make Consent Explicit campaign can be found online at explicitconsent.org.

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