We currently live in a culture in which 44% of all UK women have experienced physical or sexual violence since they were 15, where, on average two women a week are killed by a current or former male partner, where rape is repeatedly blamed on the actions of the victim, and conviction rates are worryingly low.
The Sexual Consent Campaign in Cambridge aims to tackle the myths, misunderstandings and problematic perspectives about rape, sexual consent and sexual harassment. We want to create a healthy and positive understanding of consent. We want to empower students to better understand their own boundaries and to respect those of others. We want educate students about consent and healthy relationships in all, and every, form.
We’ll be hosting events and teaming up with other nationwide campaigns to become part of the mass student-led movement against rape on campus. Read our press release about sexual consent workshops for incoming freshers here.
What is consent?
Consent is active and willing participation in sexual activity. It means that all parties had the freedom and capacity to make the choice.
Consent means enthusiastic participation in sexual activity. Consent cannot be assumed – whether you’re in a relationship, if you’ve been kissing, or no matter who has paid for the date. Checking for consent needs to be an ongoing process, and is the responsibility of all partners. An absence of a “no” doesn’t mean “yes”. If you’re not sure, it’s always best to ask. It is also important to remember that everyone has different boundaries around sexual consent: some people may not want to have penetrative sex, some people may be unable to move into different positions because of physical disabilities and some people’s culture or religion may make them unwilling or unable to engage in certain sexual encounters.
Check that these six buzz words are included in your understanding of consent:
- Informed – all individuals agreeing to act
- Mutual – clear understanding of all individuals about what is being asked for and consented to
- Given – freely and actively
- Communicated – in words and or actions that are mutually understandable
- Retractable – one sexual act does not mean all sexual acts
- Willing – agreement does not count as consent if someone is forced.
Myths around consent
There are loads of really damaging myths around consent. Let’s do some myth busting:
Myth: If you do not say anything, that means you want it.
Reality: No means no, but silence also means no. Passivity does not equal consent. Many times people do not feel like they can say no due to power imbalances. People can also become unresponsive or not know what to say when they are in uncomfortable or frightening situations.
Myth: Consent is generally not something you can communicate because of the nature of sexual interaction.
Reality: If all parties are confident about engaging in sexual activity, they can communicate their consent to each other. Consent can be spoken, but it can also be expressed in action. If in doubt, ask. It will not ‘kill the mood’.
Myth: Agreeing to do something sexual means you have agreed to do everything else as well.
Reality: Consent to do one thing does not automatically imply you want things to go further. Sometimes you might just want things to stop at a kiss.
Myth: If you wear sexy clothing or are ‘that kind of person’ – walking alone at night, having multiple partners, or going out too much – then you are asking for it.
Reality: Nobody wants to be assaulted. You might be dressing sexily because you like to look attractive or because you want to attract someone’s attention, but none of this means you want to experience assault. If someone chooses to assault, the consequences are their responsibility and their fault. It is not the fault of the person who is assaulted.
Myth: Rapists are men hiding in the bushes or in dark alleys waiting to attack scantily clad women.
Reality: 97% of survivors of assault knew their attackers before the attack. Some experts call this acquaintance rape. Rape and sexual assault can happen to anyone no matter their age, class, culture, ability, sexuality, faith, race, or appearance. Rape and sexual assault can occur inside marriages and committed relationships, by trusted family or close family friends, or by community or religious leaders. There is not a stereotype for victims or perpetrators.
Myth: Once a man is sexually aroused, he cannot help himself. He has to have sex.
Reality: This myth infantilises men. People of all genders can choose not to commit crimes or disrespect people, not matter how strong their sexual desire it. Sexual encounters fundamentally rely on communication, not on the power dynamic created by the myth that men cannot control their desire.
Myth: Women often falsely accuse men of sexual assault or rape.
Reality: According to a British Home Office Research Study7, 3% of reported rapes are false, around the same level as false accusations of other crimes. In fact, rape is a vastly underreported crime, and the extent to which it occurs is often invisible, due to the stigma of discussing sexual violence. A study of the 2001 British Crime Survey shows that 40% of women who have experienced serious sexual assault tell no one at all about it. Myths like this serve to minimise people’s acknowledgement of rape. Furthermore, fear of being victimised or disbelieved by peers adds to the under-reporting of sexual assault.
Yes Means Yes: Student’s Guide to Dating and Sexual Consent: http://www.datehookup.com/singles-content-yes-means-yes-student-guide-to-sexual-consent.htm
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