As a peripatetic music teacher and someone whose secondary school sex education in the second half of the 1990s was woefully inadequate regarding consent, I support Campaign 4 Consent’s campaign for the mandatory teaching of consent in schools and appropriate training for teachers.
My four years’ experience of teaching in primary schools has shown me that primary schools generally get it right when it comes to teaching their students that their bodies are their own and if someone does or says something that makes them feel uncomfortable, or asks then to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable, they can speak up and expect to be listened to. From talking to current and recent secondary school students, and from my own experience, I have observed that this good work done in primary schools is not being consistently built on by secondary schools–where it is, it is only because pupils at a particular school have won some opaque lottery by happening to attend a school with a head teacher who understands the importance of teaching consent and provides appropriate training for teachers delivering sex education–and this perpetuates generation after generation of people who habitually violate each others’ consent and don’t know what to do when their consent is violated.
Making consent a mandatory part of the secondary National Curriculum alongside compulsory training for teachers delivering sex education needs to be coupled with a shift from a the view of sex as *only* penis-in-vagina (PiV) sex in the National Curriculum, as this PiV-centric model excludes all but a small minority of heterosexual, cisgendered people who never take part in, for example, oral or anal sex, manual sex, or cyber sex. If we don’t label oral sex as sex, then we can’t explain that oral sex without consent is rape. Another problem with teaching a PiV-centric definition of sex is that students who have or want to have sex that doesn’t involve one penis and one vagina will think that consent doesn’t apply to them. That’s queer, transgender, non-binary gender, kinky, polyamorous, gay, intersex, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, swinger, and other groups of students to whom the message of PiV-centric consent may not be relevant. In fact, a sex-centric model of consent is problematic and irrelevant to, for example, asexual students who engage or wish to engage in non-sexual intimate touch with others, and any student who ever wants to touch another human being or enter their personal space.
As it stands, the current National Curriculum is failing students when it comes to teaching consent and contributing to a culture where rape and sexual assault is treated as par for the course of being a (female, black, bisexual, transexual, or any group that isn’t a white, cisgendered, straight, monogamous man)Â human being. This isn’t good enough and it needs to be fixed urgently.