Consent cannot be a grey area. You ether say ‘no’ or ‘yes’. But it seems some Britons have a real problem with speaking their mind, while others have an even bigger problem accepting what has been spoken

 

‘Rape’, a taboo, a poisonous word, an elephant in the room. A word that is tossed around, ill-treated and sometimes, falsely thrown. We as a society aim to better the understanding of what consent actually is. Through government schemes, university protests and social media awareness, it is clear that Britain is becoming a more consent aware nation. From not wanting to try squid to politely rejecting a hug, consent however remains a word that is frequently misunderstood.

Britain as a nation has developed a fear of saying no. An insecurity which is rooted deep in its social expectations and ideologies. For example, the idea of sending food back to a kitchen, dumping a ‘perfectly decent’ partner or blowing off a friend, are all things which are deemed rude and socially questionable.  British culture enables us to blur the lines between consent and non-consent — a problem that is rooted deep within the government and the social system.

So we the public ask: what is consent?

A recent documentary by BBC 3, ‘Is this rape?’ featuring a panel of teenagers attempted to resolve the ambiguity that surrounds the understanding of consent. The 24 teenagers were shown a video of a sexual encounter at a party and were then asked to choose if it was consensual or not. Although there was some debate surrounding the intoxication level, the lack of verbal rejection and the posts on social media, the results were conclusive. However, this does leave us wondering if perhaps consent is not as black and white as it ought to be?

Though the general public seem to agree that a verbal ‘no’ and/or physical discomfort towards sexual advances is a sign of non-consent, it does appear however that modern society can sometimes view sex as an acceptable expectation and something that provokes agitation upon refusal. This tendency is applicable to consent within relationships as well as between random people in clubs etc.

Consent between couples is often expected, however, sadly, the number of abusive relationships is on the uprise. A study of sexual victimization of college women showed that 9 out of 10 victims knew the person who sexually victimized them [1]. Another statistic states that 40-45 per cent of women are raped and or/assaulted during a relationship [2]. These shocking figures show how a vast portion of our society can fail to understand consent.

A detailed post on Blog Spot [3] also addressed the ways that society can work towards the creation of a consent culture. Suggestions included not pressuring anyone into sex, asking before touching people and learning to appreciate a ‘no’. These are all ideas that can seem obvious and somewhat basic but they form the crucial steps towards understanding consent.  The post further stated: ‘It’s important to keep talking about what you want and don’t want’. Exploring consent within a relationship is vital in creating an authentically consenting society. ‘It is [about having] a culture with an abhorrence of forcing anyone into anything’.

Examples of government schemes to aid this process include [4] the ‘Intervention Initiative’, which is an evidence-based programme for universities to develop students’ skills in recognising and responding to intimate partner violence, sexual coercion and stalking. This along with national campaigns including: ‘I heart consent’ and ‘Zero tolerance to sexual harassment’, shows the social striving towards a consent-driven nation.

As an issue, consent has been around for hundreds of years. In the 1920s women were being ordered about by their husbands and in the twenty-first century there have been all too many dismissed rape ‘stories’. Although there are thousands of pro-consent, anti-rape protesters, it seems Britain still has a long way to go before we can claim to be a ‘consent culture’.

 

Sources:

[1] www.nij.gov/topics/crime/rape-sexual-violence/pages/victims-perpetrators.aspx

[2] m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5959776

[3] pervocracy.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/consent-culture.html?m=1

[4] https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2015/09/21/relationships-consent-and-university/