Talking about consent.
When we discuss consent with young people it is 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 is 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 laugh”. 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 requires consent. Photos require consent too, this is important to acknowledge and be aware of this. However, this is often not sought or regarded, especially when indecent images are shared among groups of other young men. This is a criminal offence and is often a source of blackmail in abusive relationships, Please view this link for more details. https://hcpc.scot/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/sexting-and-the-law.pdf .
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 is 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.
Clothing isn’t consent.
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 time frame to when you are comfortable and ready to participate in a sexual activity. We must respect individual difference and individual choice and it is not okay to make people feel uncomfortable or under pressure with regard to decisions they make about them and their bodies. Consent occurs when one person voluntarily agrees to the proposal or desires of another without coercion. Consent is an enthusiastic yes, not the absence of “no”.
There are a few useful tools which help explain consent to Young people. For example the FRIES Acronym or the animated video explaining consent like a cup of tea.