Catherine, 19

The campaign 4 consent is very important because boys and girls need to be taught about consent and the exact definitions of sexual assault, serious sexual assault and rape due to the confusing messages about sex that they get from things such as pornography, films. There is a sexual violence epidemic in the UK; according to UK Feminista a third of teenage girls experience sexual violence from a boyfriend. The best way to prevent this violence would be to educate the youth about consent and exactly what sexual violence is so that more of them have healthy sexual relationships. There are far too many rape myths in our society that need to be dispelled so that people know exactly what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and therefore are less likely to engage in unacceptable and illegal behaviour. Additionally, we need to dispel these rape myths so that sexual assault and rape survivors understand immediately afterwards that what has happened is a crime and do not let common misconceptions about sexual assault and rape affect how they view what happened to them.

As a survivor of 6 serious sexual assaults and one attempted rape as well as 2 occasions of indecent and sexual assault, I know all too well how important it is that we teach boys and girls about consent.

As a result of the fact that I was never taught about consent and the exact definitions of sexual assault and serious sexual assault, as well as what healthy relationships are like, the first time it happened to me at 17 I did not realise that I had been taken advantage of whilst drunk.

Unfortunately, as I did not realise until much later that I was assaulted, and was in denial for a long time about what happened, I thought it was okay for men to touch me, kiss me and have dry sex without my consent. Later, this turned into me thinking that it was fine for men to penetrate me with their fingers without my consent after I had been seriously sexually assaulted once and to coerce me into sexual acts. I thought that this was all okay behaviour even if I felt uncomfortable about it and admitted to myself that I had been taken advantage of; I never labelled it sexual assault.

Despite being a feminist, when it happened to me I denied that I had been sexually assaulted because I thought that because I did not say no, and did not struggle, I was not assaulted. However, on each occasion I was very intoxicated, and unable to consent. Additionally, I never intended to partake in any sexual acts with these men and was always taken by surprise when they attacked me as I had not expected it. Furthermore, on a couple of occasions the men asked if it was okay to do something, however I did not reply, and yet they went ahead with it anyway until I eventually stopped it.

Thus, it is very important to teach consent within a “yes means yes” context as people are not always confident enough to articulate a no, and men do not all seem to realise that silence means no consent. I think that at University there is a big problem of students taking advantage of other students when they are drunk.

I strongly believe that if I had been taught about consent within a “Yes means yes” framework and had been taught the exact definitions of sexual assault and serious sexual assault it is much more likely that I would have reported to the police the people who did this to me, and I could have got counselling and help much sooner.

Hendrike, 15

I fully support Campaign4Consent because I think it’s important for young people to be informed of sex, and not to be afraid of saying they don’t want to. Some people may be embarrassed to talk about queries they have about sex, and end up doing something which they feel really uncomfortable with. Even though adults say, ‘It’s a natural thing, you can talk about it’, realistically it’s quite private and can be embarrassing to ask/talk about it.

To learn to say ‘no’ is crucial for anyone because it can really hurt people if they are not ready. As a 15 year old myself, I haven’t ever really had a proper sex education lesson apart from one in Year 6, which was literally my teacher reading a comic about parents wanting a baby, and one in Year 9, which was an hour long and mostly about STD’s and contraception. To know about STD’s is helpful, but that isn’t always first concern for any young person. Contraception is good to know about too but then it sends out the message that if you have sex without a condom, you’re going to get pregnant which is quite scary to think about if you’re only in your mid-teens.

Pupils should be taught to say ‘no’ because when they try to say it, sometimes they can be called names like ‘frigid’ or ‘prude’ and that could make them feel bad so they end up doing something which is uncomfortable for them. Some people can’t ignore it. Sometimes, it can lead to rape. Because it’s also important for people to learn how to react to the word ‘no’. It can lead to serious consequences so we need Campaign4Consent to change schools, and create a safer and healthier environment for everyone

Ruby, 15

 

My two lessons of sex ed taught me two things: how to avoid STDs and pregnancy in the ‘normal’ heterosexual relationship. There was little or no information on anything else – strange, considering the emphasis put upon sex and the amount of sexual imagery we see everyday in our society. In a culture- especially within schools- where it is common to blame the victim, information on consent is vital. Personally, I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by people knowledgeable and open about these topics should I want or need to know, however other friends would have to actively seek out this information if they needed it, and in doing so also open themselves up to the stigma it can unfortunately bring. By educating students in consent and the issues surrounding it, not only can incidences of non-consensual behaviour hopefully be reduced, but also the stigma victims of rape and harassment are subjected to can be reduced too, results which are desperately needed as consent becomes increasingly assumed, unless it is clearly and verbally denied.

Caty, 15

 

My sex education so far in school has been fairly informative, although mainly focused on contraception and straight relationships, but we are used to hearing horror stories from other schools and other teenagers in general that theirs has been lacking in a lot of things- including real information on consent. I believe that teaching on consent needs to be more than just a government anti-rape advert being played off YouTube, like most of my lessons, and should be the focus for much of the sex ed as it is so vital. Even though my school has been really quite good for sex education there are still students, in my class at least, who have next to no understanding of what consent is, what it means in a relationship, what it means when someone is under the influence etc. The Campaign4Consent is an important step in a hopefully longer campaign for better sex education in our schools because I know there is many more issues that must be tackled.

Anon, 15

 

When it comes to sex education, I wholeheartedly believe that each generation should be taught not only to understand the importance of contraception – as we are already being taught excellently – but the emotions behind sexual and romantic relationships.  The problem with failing to inform young people about consent isn’t just the dangerous correlation between that and rising sexual assault cases, it’s also that we are growing up in a society where sexual intercourse is heavily effected by pressure.  Consent is no longer readily expected, and so people additionally no longer respect it: the general attitude is that someone’s behaviour is consent enough as it is, rather than express agreement.  It’s terrifying that this kind of attitude is being perpetuated in massive, hit songs like Blurred Lines – after all, who needs consent when everyone knows “you want it”?  It seems that if you don’t want to have sex, you must be weird, and yet the Campaign4Consent team is sure that that is not only wrong, it’s also unsafe.  By saying that anyone and everyone’s default feeling is to always want to have sex, it illegitamizes claims of sexual assault and rape, leading to victim blaming.  Consent is important because if we don’t teach it, there are many, many effects.

Jess, 15
our sex education system is obviously extremely flawed.
far from learning about sex in sex ed (a novel idea!) we learnt about contraception, which is obviously good, but in a way that made sex seem very scary. as a person coming to terms with the fact that I might not just be attracted boys, I also felt that any sort of sexuality outside of heteronormative was not covered, which made, again, what I was feeling seem scary and not normal. I wondered how sti’s were transmitted, and could girls pass them on to other people? although these are all definitely things that need addressing, my most pressing concern is the lack of consent addressed within sex ed. the only times we ever touched upon rape and sexual assault was in a very victim blaming manner. if we were raped while drunk, or at a party, or by our boyfriends, then it was our problem. considering we live in a country where one in 5 women are raped, and the only way to stop rape is to stop rapists, I strongly feel that something needs to change, and education about consent to all genders is the only way to improve the situation and remove blame from the victims and survivors to the criminals and rapists.

I’m Harriet, I’m 15, and I’m really disappointed in how sex education is taught in schools. I had these lessons last year, and I’m due to have them again this year, but I see no mention of LGBT issues or what consent means. As a victim of sexual harassment, I find it very important that young people are taught not only how to say no, but also how to respond if someone else says it.

Sabrina, 15

I think the campaign for consent is an excellent idea because the sex education in school is very low. consent is an important part so that people don’t feel like they are bring pressured into sex and can feel comfortable with it as a whole. The whole concept is considered a very “dirty” subject and I think the campaign for consent may be a way of making sure young people understand and help is more available. I am aware some parents would not wish for their child to be told about this kind of stuff and this is fine but there should still be the option to get good sex education in schools.

Hannah, 15
so my whole experience with sex ed has been awful.
 the only time i remember having any kind of lesson of this kind was in year 5. i was 9, and all that happened was we saw a terrifying video of a lady giving birth, and the nurse told us that ‘you were born because your daddy and mummy had sex, because they are married and love each other’. 6 years later, and that’s the sex education that is supposed to last me through my teenage/adult years for the rest of my life. maybe i’m being a bit harsh. I’m sure the teachers thought our parents would do the nasty job, and everything would be fine, and actually i’m sure most kids in my year had the ‘talk’ with their parents and know enough to get them through. in my case, however, it wasn’t like that. we had the talk, but she refused to even imagine that i would need to know anything other than ‘once you’re married you will love your husband and you will make a child out of that love’. essentially exactly what i learnt in year 5. so by the start of year 10, the year sex suddenly starts being talked about, and half my friends were having experiences at parties and with boyfriends, i keow nothing of contraception, STDs, consent or any kind of LGBT sex. If it wasn’t for vague articles that briefly touch on the subject in magazines, scenes in films, what i’d heard from my friends, and inappropriate adult content i’d accidentally stumbled across on the internet, i wouldn’t even know how it was done. i heard about rape during year 9 from rude jokes boys made and i heard about gay sex the same way.
Last year i had an unpleasant experience with a boy at a party, and i now realize that what he did could be classed as sexual harassment. if he or i had had the appropriate education on consent, the whole experience (including months of discomfort at the memory after) could have been avoided.
To make matters worse, I’ve realized that i am bisexual. having had no education on same-gender sex, not being comfortable to talk to my mum about it, and not having any friends in my position, i now have two choices: to secretly search the internet for help (and risk seeing seriously inappropriate content/ probably wrong and rude answers) or go it alone and hope i don’t make a serious, life ruining mistake.
so i totally approve of this campaign, because i don’t want any kids growing up to make the same mistakes i did, purely because i wasn’t taught about consent and other important topics.

Lili, 15

 

I just got my sex ed last term and I could have learned more typing “Sex Education” into google. I was so disappointed. We had two twenty-minute sessions in our PSHE lessons. Before the first session I was quite hopeful because some sixth formers had been talking to the Headmaster about improving sex ed at school so I thought it would probably be quite up to date with all however that was not the case. My sex ed was wholly contraception based. If nothing else it did give some quite good comprehensive information about contraception and how to get it but in every other area it was lacking. In fact I don’t think it even went into detail how conception works. We didn’t discuss relationships, consent, oral sex, abuse, kinks, LGBT+ sex or relationships didn’t even get a word in and it was generally just not informative enough. I know that most teens these days normally get most of their sex education through the internet and way before the age of 15 when most of us get our sex ed at school and some others get “the talk” from their parents however information from the internet is not always right and can often be exaggerated or very biased and parents may be selective with the things they talk about or more often wont talk about sex with their children at all. Sex ed at school is meant to give comprehensive and accurate information to kids so that they don’t have to rely on ropy information from the internet.

There are so many issues with the sex ed curriculum I can’t think about them all at once but a simple and universally relevant one that is missed out is consent. Sex without consent is rape and any other sexual contact without consent is sexual assault. We are not taught this at school and I would be quite surprised if someone stumbled across lessons on consent randomly on the internet unless they were specifically looking for them which they can’t if they don’t know what consent is! This is a problem because, in some assault cases, people don’t know what they are doing is wrong or that what happened to them was wrong. It is not uncommon, particularly in younger people, for a rapist or assaulter to not know what they are doing is rape or assault and I have read stories of victims not knowing what happened to them was assault or rape for twenty years or more. Victims will be affected by this and not know why they feel so bad and often blame themselves for what happened even though it is their assaulters fault. If teens, who grow up to be adults, know more about consent, what is a crime and where to report assault it will help as victims can get help the help they need, report what happened to them and hopefully the assaulters will be arrested and taken to court. It also will educate potential rapists or assaulters that what they are doing is wrong and a crime.

As you can see consent is pretty important and I think it is important enough to be taught in schools. Almost everybody engages in some kind of sexual contact at some point in their lives and so this is relevant especially to young people as they discover and explore their sexualities. The TYFA (which you readers know I’m involved with) have launched #Campaign4Consent, asking the government to put consent in the UK National Curriculum.