Monday, 27 August 2012

Say yes, say no, say maybe - young people and legitimate consent

This week some of the statements about rape have been seriously worrying.  Poor sexual etiquette and legitimate rape are probably two of the most idiotic phrases I have heard for a long while.  Consent legitimates sexual activity between people - it is the only basis under which all sex should take place.  Rape takes place when consent has not been given and therefore can never be legitimate. To describe non consensual sex as poor sexual etiquette is just plain wrong.

The Conservatives have rightly identified that more needs to be done to ensure young people learn about and understand sexual consent.  Brook has been keen to work with government to make this a reality in schools through an effective PSHE Curriculum.  Whilst to date I don't know much has happened to deliver on that agenda I hope that this last week will bring the issue to the fore yet again, and we will see consent feature strongly in the long awaited PSHE review and Relationships and Sex Education guidance when published. I will be writing to the Minister this week to outline my concern that the commitment is not being delivered on, and to offer Brook's experience and support to progress it.

I remember as a teenager learning about the 'red mist' that descended upon boys after which they could not control their sexual urges until sated.  I have had breakfast with friends today, one of them as a young woman learnt it would be their responsibility if they were forced to have sex if they wore a skirt that was too short. None of us were taught expressly about consent. Sadly too often young people still learn these damaging ideas. And now we have some new phrases to bust. 

These dangerous myths, the misinformation and the old fashioned lies have absolutely no place in modern society.  All of us whoever we are - parents, aunts, uncles, friends and professionals - must make consent an active topic of discussion with children and young people to ensure we protect them from harm including sexual abuse.  Lets take this week as a wake up call and up our game and start talking about consent a whole lot more.  Too often we talk about exploitation and rape without talking about positive active consent.

Brook's focus is of course on educating young people. We will continue to ensure the premise that active consent is required every time you choose to have sex, that no means no, and we have the right to say yes, say no, or say maybe and to change your mind and stop at any point.

The stark reality however is that basic fundamental education about consent clearly needs to start with some adults too.

1 comment:

Sarah says... said...

Here here! With young people growing up faster than ever before, so much more needs to be done in order to safe guard their sense of self worth and self respect. Talking openly within a safe educational environment about these issues gives permission for them to be as upfront with each other outside of the classroom, giving them the confidence to make up their own minds and sets the precedent for what is acceptable behaviour. These tired myths need to be dispelled. I'd like to see a whole new sex education scheme worked into every young persons curriculum - not enough is being done. I'd gladly volunteer my spare time as a visiting spokesperson!

Non-blusher, 27, London.