Talking about consent
The following post talks about consent and makes references to some forms of sexual violence, including rape.
When we discuss consent with young people it's important that we help them to understand both the meaning of consent and the importance of gaining consent before participating in a sexual act. It's also important that young people know that they have the right to say no when it comes to a situation where they don’t feel comfortable.
Recently there has been a surge in what has been labelled, “Lad Culture” where young males have been competing for the number of sexual relations or acts they can have.
This often leads to a complete disregard of consent. This culture can be described as a group or “pack” mentality towards certain activities such as sports, alcohol, and/or sex to name a few. It often brushes aside its sexist, homophobic, or racist comments as “banter” telling those who challenge or feel uncomfortable with the “banter” that they are too sensitive or “need to take a joke”. This is problematic.
Due to this culture, young women have found themselves participating in acts of a sexual nature without giving their full consent.
If we look at “sexting” in particular, the act of sending nude or partially nude images of yourself to a partner or potential partner. Photos and videos require consent too. This is important to acknowledge and be aware of.
However, consent is often not sought or regarded, when it comes to nudes, especially when indecent images are shared among groups of other young men. Sharing intimate content of someone without their consent is a criminal offence. Threatening to share intimate images of someone is also a common source of blackmail in abusive relationships.
There’s an age-old stigmatism around consent and rape, we have all heard utterances of “she was asking for it” or “what was she wearing?”. This is victim-blaming and it's not okay. We must unpick and challenge the unhelpful, harmful attitudes that perpetuate victim-blaming and change the focus and shift the blame from victim to perpetrator.
What’s important to remember about consent, is that you can change your mind at any time. Consent isn’t something which you should feel pressured into, whether it’s your friends, partner, or even society as a whole. There’s no set timeframe for when you should be comfortable and/or ready to have sex.
We must respect individual differences and choices. It's not okay to pressure someone or make them feel uncomfortable about their decisions or their bodies.
Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees without coercion. Consent is an enthusiastic yes, not the absence of “no”.
There are a few useful tools that help explain consent to young people. For example, the FRIES acronym from Planned Parenthood (see above) or this animated video, which explains consent with the analogy of offering someone a cup of tea.
CASWA are a specialised service for women, children & young people, in Caithness & Sutherland who have experienced domestic abuse. To make a donation to CASWA, click on the following link: https://www.caswa.org.uk/support-us
Disclaimer: the views expressed in this post are those of the respective author and are not necessarily shared by the #ChangeHerStory Campaign partners.