Consent has become a widely discussed part of university life recently. A lot of universities have made it compulsory to attend consent workshops, or take consent surveys. After this guy from Warwick uni, George Lawlor, posed with the sign that said “this is not what a rapist looks like”, people discussed it even more.
Now firstly, why this guy was wrong. The phrase “this is not what a rapist looks like” is absolutely ridiculous, because ANYONE can be a rapist. Anyone of any gender, race, height, eye colour, different preference on the gherkins in McDonalds – ANYONE. Ever.
What this does is perpetuate the myth that a rapist is a strange man lurking in an alley with a knife, ready to pounce at you on your way home from behind some bins. And I’m not saying stuff like that doesn’t happen. But more often that not, a rapist is someone you know – a friend, a person at a party, your partner.
Recently, I read an article in Grazia by Rhian Jones that was really eye opening. “I’ve said yes when I wanted to say no” highlighted that consent is actually a total grey area. It’s not just a case of someone saying yes and that meaning you’ve got the go ahead. There are actually more intricacies to the matter that are actually very real and every day.
In the article, she talks about how she ended up in sleeping bags next to a guy at a party, who persistently was trying to get with her. She didn’t want to have sex, but he kept bugging her, so in the end she said yes. Now, many people would say that’s fine, she said yes, it’s consent. But when you’re driven to say yes cos it’s literally the easier option, that’s not consent.
This is something that’s so normal and every day and it’s actually very scary. When another person won’t give up and keeps pestering you for sex, they wear you down, and it becomes easier to just go with it, even though you don’t want to. They think it’s OK cos you’ve said yes, even though, on the inside, you’re saying no. But no isn’t an acceptable answer for them in real life. It’s uncomfortable, it’s painful, it’s humiliating, and it’s frustrating as hell. And I’m sure plenty of people just like George are culprits of this.
George was all for consent, but felt offended when he was asked to take part in a consent workshop. He felt that he was above all that, being a white, middle class, university educated guy. He thought that university students (or as he put it, “Russell Group students”, OK hun) were intelligent enough to know better, and that we shouldn’t need this. Well listen buddy, when 1 in 7 women are raped or assaulted at uni, I don’t think we do know better.
Let’s break it down with some example situations:
–Having sex with someone and then suddenly doing something really random that they haven’t agreed to = Not OK. Just cos they said yes to having sex with you doesn’t mean they enjoy throttling etc. Ask first, yeah?
–Pestering someone for sex, and/or being annoyed when someone says no = Not OK, and not consent. Respect their decision. Why would you want to have sex with someone who isn’t totally up for it, anyway? Is that actually enjoyable?
–Expecting someone to have sex with you again, just cos you’ve done it before = Not OK. It’s not a binding contract. Go home.
–You’re having sex and the other person passes out half way through, but you carry on = Not OK. Very weird. And that’s rape.
–You’re having sex and the other person is clearly in pain/uncomfortable but you carry on = Not OK. STOP. If they’re saying no, and you keep going – that’s rape.
–If someone says ‘yeah I’ll have sex with you!’ and then later on they’re like ‘nah soz not feeling it’, you’re not contractually obliged to have sex. People are allowed to change their mind. Just cos they said yes once, doesn’t mean they can’t change their mind.
–If someone is asleep, that doesn’t mean they’re “fair game”. You can’t touch them. Don’t touch someone when they’re sleeping – that’s assault.
You may think these are all ridiculous situations that would barely ever happen, but actually nearly all of those have happened to people I know, myself included.
So next time you get invited to an “I ❤ Consent” workshop, click attend. Cos you will learn something, guaranteed.