Menlo News January 05, 2018

Justine Fonte ’04 pushes students to embrace ‘consent culture’

One key point Fonte hit repeatedly is that a consent culture is designed to help people have the fulfilling lives they deserve

In three sessions throughout the morning of January 4 at Menlo, Justine Fonte ’04, M. Ed, MPH, shared strategies for parents and students alike to embrace sex positivity and work toward establishing a “consent culture” around sex and relationships.

Justine Ang Fonte speaks to studenrs during assembly at Menlo School. Photo by Pete Zivkov.

In an early talk for parents in Martin Hall focused on porn literacy, Fonte explained that the vast majority of teenagers have already viewed pornography. Rather than let adolescents navigate those waters on their own and take their lessons on sex and relationships from adult media, she encouraged parents to have an ongoing conversation with their children about those topics, and shared statistics, video clips, and other media they might use as tools to facilitate those conversations.

Then, in an Upper School assembly, Fonte focused her presentation on the notion of enthusiastic consent. In a little more than a half-hour, she suggested that Americans live in a world where sex-negativity and rape culture are default modes of understanding, and proposed ways teenagers might work toward reshaping their world into a sex-positive consent culture.

One key point Fonte hit repeatedly is that a consent culture is designed to help people have the most fulfilling love lives they deserve. To that end, she said, we should move beyond a “no means no” framework in which consent for sexual activity is essentially defined by inaction and build a framework of “enthusiastic consent,” which elevates communication and reciprocal interaction.

Finally, during lunch, Fontes participated in a Community Circle discussion about issues raised in her assembly presentation.

Fonte is the Director of Health & Wellness at The Dalton School in New York City. Her website,, includes information about and links to other presentations she’s given and panels on which she’s participated.

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