For SHAG Week your SU have written an article on Consent, including information on where to find support.
Consent is not complicated.
Although often a hotly debated topic in the media, at its core, consent is simple.
Are they incapacitated by drugs or alcohol? Then they cannot consent.
Are they asleep or unconscious? Then they cannot consent.
Are they underage? Then they cannot consent.
Do you have an imbalance of power over them? Are they your student, your employee? Then they cannot consent.
Consenting to a sexual activity means a person must be willing, free and able to make their own decisions. If you are ever in any doubt that the person you are engaging in a sexual activity with is not consenting, then STOP. Consent is all about communication and it won’t ruin the mood to make sure you are on the same page.
It is important to remember that consenting to one activity doesn’t automatically give someone consent for others. If you say yes to kissing, that doesn’t give someone the right to start undressing you. Consenting to sex, doesn’t give someone permission to have sex with you again at another time. Having open discussions about boundaries and expectations can help everyone enjoy themselves and stay safe.
Another myth that is often circulated is that somehow physical responses, like an erection or arousal, mean you have consented. This is NOT the case. These are involuntary reactions and not indicative of consent. Never let anyone pressure you into thinking you consented or ‘enjoyed it’ because of a physiological reflex. It is not your fault that your body reacts that way.
Certain aspects of our culture teach us that coercion is inevitable and acceptable, that this is the normal flirtatious routine before sexual activity, that typically women ‘play hard to get’ and men are ‘in it for the chase’. This is incredibly harmful and promotes unhealthy attitudes towards consent and communication. There may even be certain behaviours that you think are okay, but are actually coercive. If you have ever used guilt trips or persuasion once someone has already said no, or made someone feel obligated or that they ‘owe’ you sex, you have used coercion. Remember, it is NOT OKAY to ever feel pressured, or pressure someone else.
If you start to feel uncomfortable at ANY time, consent can be withdrawn. This can be right at the beginning or during. Stopping an activity once it has already begun can be challenging or difficult for people to do verbally, so never dismiss non-verbal cues. Frequent check ins can get rid of any misunderstanding and make sure everyone feels comfortable carrying on.
The idea of what consent means has changed and shifted in recent years, we have probably all heard someone say; “But they didn’t say no”... But did they say yes? The idea of ‘enthusiastic consent’ means looking for the presence of a ‘yes’ rather than the absence of a ‘no’. It is not always possible for someone to explicitly say NO, so instead, wait for someone to explicitly say YES.
Consent doesn’t stop with physical activities. Has someone shared an intimate photo with you? Yes? That is great! Did they give you consent to share it? No? THEN DON’T. The non-consensual taking, making and sharing of sexual images can cause untold distress and may even result in criminal charges.
Consent is simple. Consent is clear.
If you have experienced a sexual assault, you can reach out for help at CARA through an online referral form or call them on 01206 769 795. They can offer emotional and practical support, help you access counselling, and advise you if you want to report the assault to the police.
If you have any questions or would like more information about any of the above, our amazing SU Advice team are always happy to help. You can reach out to them at email@example.com.