We all know the stereotypical image of a rapist. He’s the man who
sneaks up on you in a back alley, the stranger who hides in the bushes
to assault you as you go by. Yet, this obscures the fact that the
majority of rapes are committed by friends and acquaintances, by men
who don’t even seem to realise, or care, that they have committed
rape. It is crucial that boys and girls learn about bodily autonomy
from a young age, and that consent is paramount. We teach young people
many life lessons. Now let us make a commitment to teach them to
Teaching consent is a fundamental aspect of human relationality. It consists of a vital process of communication engaging all parties in an exchange and interchange that debunks entitlement and undermines expectation, creating opportunities for honesty, agency, respect, safety, and intimacy.
Consent is an essential factor in every sexual encounter, whether casual or part of a long term, loving relationship. More essential than condoms, pregnancy or STDs. It is possible to have sex without love, without a condom, without contracting an STD or becoming pregnant. Without consent it is not sex, it is rape.
And yet, in our schools, we teach all BUT that single most important thing: the single thing that is relevant to all sexual experience.
Instead of asking why we should teach consent in our schools, surely we should be asking those opposed to it to justify their view. I am not an unintelligent person but I cannot think of any such justification and, so far, nobody has been able to provide any.
These are my thoughts on why all children should be taught consent.
I think it’s vitally important that students are taught about consent as early as possible, in order to have safe, respectful and enjoyable sexual experiences. Not only will it reduce rape and sexual assault, but it will also stop the pressure on teenagers (particularly girls) to have sex when they are not ready. Too often I hear people completely misunderstanding what consent is and essentially condoning rape in the process.Â I think this problem will all but disappear if consent is compulsory, for not just one PHSE lesson, but a constant feature in the school curriculum all the way through to year 13.
As both a teacher and a woman who has experienced sexual assault, I strongly believe in the need for consent to be taught as part of the national curriculum and for teachers to have better access to training provision. The myths and misunderstandings surrounding sexual assault are leading to a victim-blaming culture which harms all of us by suggesting that rape is about attraction and by implying that young men have no control over their own actions. Contrary to popular belief, rape happens everywhere, to women of all ages, races, religions, in all societies and from all backgrounds. In most cases, a woman knows the perpetrator, yet in our society, most women think of rapists as strangers, and that rape only happens in dark alleys in â€œotherâ€ communities. In a recent workshop I did with teenagers, none thought that a boyfriend / partner / husband could be a rapist because they believed consent was explicit in the relationship. They looked at case studies and were confused why someone would be upset about â€œrough sexâ€ or â€œsex gone wrongâ€. Rape is not sex, itâ€™s rape. Itâ€™s essential that young people can recognise the signs, that they understand available support networks and that they are empowered in their relationships. It is equally essential that teachers recognise and value the importance of giving young people a voice in this, and that governing bodies acknowledge it too in their provision of comprehensive and adequate training that builds the skills and confidence of our professionals.