What is consent?

On March 19th, it was time for an in-depth conversation about Consent after touching on it during our conversation on Healthy Relationships last November.  It was a conversation that was always going to be interesting, but it turned out to be incredibly informative as well.

We were well-informed by Lucy from arts charity Tender, who led out on the conversation, providing us with statistics and facts to support the questions and points she raised.  Lucy began by asking us if we know what consent is and what the definition of consent is.  Demi said that she knows the legal side of consent, but not the definition, and Elisha didn’t think he was clear on what consent was.

Lucy explained that consent is saying yes to sexual activity, which she further defined with the statement: “A person consents if she of he agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.”  According to Lucy, the key words are ‘Freedom, Choice and Capacity’, with capacity meaning that you have the ability to make a decision in your mind.  Lucy explained that age also comes under capacity, with 16 being the age of consent, and that those under the age of 13 don’t have the mental capacity to make that choice.

We then began to speak about what happens when you don’t consent to sex, which Lucy said is called rape – there is also sexual assault and sexual harassment.  One of the statistics Lucy presented us with was that only 15% of people report being raped, and that only 6% of cases go to trial.  Following on from this, she asked us why we think so few people report being raped.

Demi thinks that they may be scared, and Andrae thinks they may not be able to come to terms with it.  On another level, Destini said that someone may not want to shame the family, as it may have been a family member that raped them – “90% of people know their rapists,” Lucy told us.

What was really interesting was learning from Lucy that during a rape case, the survivor cannot see a psychologist until after the trial is finished.  We also learnt that there are four rape crisis centres in London that have forensic specialists.

We were presented with a statement, and asked if it was true or false: “Young women are being naïve when they get drunk and go home with someone, and think they don’t have to have sex with them.”  Rhianna immediately said that it’s false – “Just because she’s drunk, doesn’t mean she has to have sex.”  Elisha made the interesting point of saying that when a person is heavily drunk, they don’t really know what’s going on, and Destini also thinks that this is where the line gets blurry.

Lucy told us that consent is ongoing, to which Andrae asked, “So do you have to ask, do you want to sex, every time?”  Lucy didn’t say it was necessary to ask that question outright every single time, but she asked us how we can gauge if someone wants to have sex without asking them?  Shaniqua said that it’s important to gauge someone’s body language, and Lucy said that it’s about checking in and making sure you’re both happy.  “If you’re with someone and decide you want to stop, and the person carries on, that is rape,” Lucy said.

Andrae asked if men can be raped, which led to another interesting reveal from Lucy.  Apparently, a man can rape another man, but a woman cannot rape a man – instead it is called sexual assault, even if a woman were to sexually assault a man with a foreign object.  Jamaal feels that men are less likely to report being raped, because of their pride.  Lucy also believes that there are gender stereotypes around manhood.

We also got onto speaking about how one-sided sex has become, and that a lot of females have been made to feel that sex is not about them or for their enjoyment.  Tunde made a good point about people being more selfish and not selfless enough – “If you’re brought up thinking that’s mine and it’s all about yourself, that’s where that dominance comes in.”  Destini added, “It’s even in music these days; people say I’m gonna do you.”  Antonia counteracted this by saying, “Sex is a relationship… If you only have sex with one person, you are building a sexual relationship.”

As we came to the end of the conversation, Jamaal said, “No matter what procedures there are, everyone has different mindsets and upbringing.  It’s about teaching people from early… How do you impact everyone and get through to everyone?”  Elisha believes that we need to teach young people the basics, and Demi strongly believes that adults need to be educated as well.  “Our society is very obsessed with the physical stuff and we don’t focus on the emotional side,” Destini made the important point of saying.

What was clear was that we need to keep the conversation going and take more time to not only speak about consent, but take it into greater consideration as engage in any type of sexual activity.  Let’s communicate effectively and treat one another with care, because sex should be a good thing when all parties feel safe and ultimately are having fun.

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