Sex: Did you really consent?

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After decades of silence around the act of rape, unfit sexual education and the ambiguity of sexual consent have started to be addressed. It’s just as important for men to know what true sexual consent is, as it is with women. Chelsea Mendez outlines what sex, rape and that ‘grey’ in-between is.

Edited by Natalie Whitmore

It is common knowledge that consensual sex is when two adults both willingly agree to sexual activity with each other. Sounds simple enough right? Well, in fact it’s not. The distortion of the blurred lines between consent and rape are becoming evermore exposed. Now more than ever, in modern society, the difference between the two acts needs to be clearly identified. So, if you do not say ‘no’ to a sexual act, does your silence mean that you have said ‘yes’?

Some argue that the clothes a woman chooses to wear is a sign that they’re ‘asking for it’. Similarly, others believe that if a man has paid for a date, he is therefore entitled to sex. This is known as ‘grey rape.’ Consent Ed explains ‘grey rape’ as “the term to describe non-stereotypical sexual assaults, where ‘grey rape’ can refer to assaults by acquaintances, those occurring on dates, where alcohol is involved, or where someone has consented to some acts, but not others.”

A participant holds up a sign during the Slut Walk demonstration in Philadelphia.

A participant holds up a sign during the Slut Walk demonstration in Philadelphia.

It is no surprise that many people hold such strong views, when you have politicians such as George Galloway and Nigel Farage spewing despicable nonsense, stating “martial rape is a myth” and that having sex with an unconscious woman is not actually rape, but rather “bad sexual etiquette”.

Unfortunately, instead of these quotes being from infamous idiots, they are just some of the societal conventions on the topics of sex and consent, and it’s dreadfully dripping down into the minds of the next generation.

A survey conducted in 2014 from the Sex Education Forum states that a third of young people confessed to not learning anything about consent during their sex education lessons, and only 43% said they learnt what a “good and bad relationship is”.

This miseducation is creating a dangerous society for young girls and guys to grow up in. There is more emphasis on girls dressing conservatively and not getting too drunk ‘just in case’, rather than educational lessons on what actually is consent and what rape is.

What is rape?

Many imagine rape as always being a graphic, Crimewatch styled tragedy, with an innocent girl being dragged off the street by an evil predator. That is one way rape could take place, but technically, according to section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 rape in any instance is when “a person commits an offence if (he) intentionally penetrates another person and that person does not consent.”

Justin Fletcher, Detective Chief Inspector of Thames Valley Police simply states: “the law is very clear. Sex without consent is rape. Awareness of that sexual consent and how to get it is vital.”

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What is consent?

Section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 defines the legal definition of sexual consent being “a person consenting if they agree by choice, and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice”.

In layman terms, if you are under the age of 16, asleep, unconscious, or intoxicated you do not have the capacity to consent.

If you fear for your life, or are being held against your will or kidnapped- you do not have the freedom to consent.

To put into perspective of how badly society doesn’t understand what consent is, a survey was conducted at the University of North Dakota and the results were shocking. 1 in 3 of the men who participated admitted they would act on “intentions to force a woman into sexual intercourse” if they were confident they would get away with it. However, the number dropped to just 13.6% when the word ‘forced’ was replaced with ‘rape’, meaning they are unaware that someone not giving their consent to sex is actually rape.

Consent vs Rape Facts: (sourced from rape crisis)

  • 1 in 5 women aged 16 – 59 have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.
  • Nearly half a million adults were sexually assaulted in England and Wales each year.
  • Approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that’s roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour
  • Roughly 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence.
  • Only around 15% of those who experience sexual violence choose to report to the police.
  • 1 in 10 men are sexually assaulted, and a staggering 60% of males in secondary schools are sexually harassed. ConsentEd
  • In the last five years 109 women in the UK have falsely ‘cried rape’ and have been prosecuted for such wrong allegations.

School children have been questioned in a number of surveys and the results are conclusive: there is a definite misunderstanding of consent and it needs to be addressed. Sex Ed Forum highlighted the lack of real life scenarios in lessons, which they believe would really help youngsters understand what rape is and what consent is. It would also make it easier to apply lessons learnt in the classroom to real life. Clearly, the national curriculum needs to be widened and consent should be a big part of sexual education in schools.