*TRIGGER WARNING* We’re in education for years and years and most of us leave with a decent knowledge of Pythagoras’ Theorem and how to list what’s in our pencil case in about three different languages – without having any real-world skills. I’m serious. I’ve never once used that stuff, but taxes, mortgages, and basically anything I genuinely need to be an adult is pretty alien to me. However, you can make mistakes along the way with all that stuff. One thing you can’t mess up is sexual consent. It’s not a joke, and yet it’s rarely discussed, and as a new academic year begins, I think it’s time we changed things.
With the new student year looming, loads of students will be heading out to University. It’s a really fun time, and with Fresher’s Week and everything else around this time of year, you’re bound to want to let your hair down from time to time. Loads of people get drunk or maybe even experiment with everything – sex, drugs and rock & roll (I’m not advocating irresponsible behavior, FYI!).
I can’t believe it’s been five years since my second-chance Fresher’s Week now, and I’m sure I was a little crazy, as the picture suggests. Having fun is fine, it’s all part of the parcel. But if you’re going to have sex – be safe! – and take note of the following:
What is sexual consent?
Consent is a willing, adult person saying that they wish to engage in sex with another adult. It doesn’t matter how many of these adults, or their gender, so long as you have consent.
How is it given?
Consent must be consciously, enthusiastically and freely given. Every. Single. Time. A person who’s asleep or off their face can’t really give that, so you’ll need to bear that in mind. You also can’t pressure someone into it.
You can also take consent back at any time. By that I don’t mean regretting it after the fact, I mean that you can say stop, and people have to respect that. Without making you feel guilty, and without assuming you’re there for the taking.
What’s not consent?
Consent isn’t a short skirt or being drunk. Consent isn’t a ‘reputation’ for having already slept with several people. Consent isn’t a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband or wife title – your partner does not own you and body autonomy is still your own. You can’t assume you can have sex with someone in the morning just because you did the night before.
What happens if you don’t obtain consent?
Don’t have sex. Otherwise? You’re a rapist.
Is it rape if I know the person?
Yes. Rape and sexual assault isn’t just strangers in an alleyway. Sadly, it’s often committed by people we know, and even those close to us. Partners can rape. Women and men can be raped. Most myths you hear about it are completely untrue and it’s NEVER the fault of the victim – only the perpetrator.
Where can I find out more?
If you’re confused, have a watch of this video which has been produced by the CPS. It’s had some great input by leading rape charities, including the one I volunteer for (Peterborough Rape Crisis Care Group as part of Rape Crisis England and Wales. I wrote a post about why I do so here)
What can I do?
Obtain consent from all sexual partners. Talk to your friends about the issue so they know their rights. Talk to your community and if you have kids or you teach, talk to the young. It’s funny how we don’t teach these messages to young ones and then expect them to know when they’re off out on their own. Except it’s not funny – it’s tragic. Join in the conversation of what #ConsentIs to you on Twitter.
If someone has made you feel uncomfortable, taken advantage, or knowingly coerced you into something you didn’t want to do, there are people you can talk to. Charities help with a range of different incidents, no matter how ‘big or small’ you think they are, the help is there! Please call:
Peterborough Rape Crisis Care Group: 01733 317 899
Survivors UK: 02035983898
You are strong, and you can come out as a survivor!