Relationships 101: Learning the basics for healthy dating relations

Story and photos by Brandon O’Connor Assistant Editor

October 25th, 2018 | News, News and Features
 Class of 2022 Cadet Jeremy Good takes part in a role playing portion of Mike Domitrz's "Can I Kiss You?" seminar during the Relationships 101 Symposium Tuesday.
Class of 2022 Cadets Jackson Turner, left, and Jack Kotok take part in a role playing portion of Mike Domitrz's "Can I Kiss You?" seminar during the Relationships 101 Symposium Tuesday.

Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy are used to attending classes on topics such as physics, math and military science, but Monday and Tuesday they had a new instruction topic introduced to the curriculum—relationships.
During the Relationships 101 Symposium hosted by the SHARP program, cadets learned the basics of how to be in healthy dating and sexual relationships through a series of seminars on topics including how to talk about sex, asking for consent and the ethics of dating.
This is the sixth year the symposium has been hosted and during the two-day event each of the four classes of cadets had one talk they were required to attend that discussed a topic key to healthy relationships.
“I think what we are really hoping to do is open cadets’ eyes and awareness of how simple it is to be healthy in a relationship and how simple it is to be unhealthy,” Samantha Ross, the Sharp Program manager, said. “Our society makes a lot of assumptions about what young people know about how to navigate relationships. How to navigate building relationships, how to navigate keeping relationships, keep it healthy and strong, and when it is time to end it, do it with dignity. Those things are skills that are, one, not modeled in our society very well and, two, when you do it wrong it can be really devastating.”
The mandatory seminars were designed to build upon each other with Plebes attending a course called “Can I Kiss You?,” which talked about asking for consent in a relationship instead of simply acting on what you want to happen without regard for the other person. Yearlings and Cows attended seminars on talking about relationships and sex, while Firsties attended a discussion on the ethics of being in a relationship.
“I think it was really good to get the underlying effects of relationships, not only from a sexual standpoint, but when you are just trying to hang out with them at a party,” Class of 2022 Cadet De Lani Carter said of the seminar his class attended. “I feel like it was really good to identify some of the misconceptions of sex and bring people closer and more intimate in a relationship.”
During his “Can I Kiss You?” talk, keynote speaker Mike Domitrz walked through the responsibility people in a relationship have to make sure they are not putting their partner in unwanted situations. He also challenged the cadets to be willing to stand-up and take action when they see someone being taken advantage of, such as an incident when a potential victim is being plied with drinks before a sexual encounter.
“When I call it what it is, no one in this room can deny their responsibility to do something,” Domitrz said of calling those situations rape instead of drunk hookups. “We have to call it what it is. By the way, if we had called it what it is all through high school, we couldn’t have denied how often it was happening. Monday morning after the weekend, people bragging about getting someone drunk to do something with them sexually, imagine if everyone had said, ‘So, sexual assault.’”
Domitrz’s advice to the cadets was that even though it is not what they have been taught or what they see in movies, relationships can always be awkward and that nothing is more intimate than asking before acting. Then, he said, you know the person is interested and willing to participate instead of just guessing they are.
“I thought it was actually pretty good because it is an awkward topic for people our age,” Class of 2022 Cadet Emily Minner said of the talk. “The way they talked about it was appropriate and made it less awkward.”