Consent is a Three-Letter Word

This month, new Youth Board member Jazz Berry outlines the importance of true consent in a culture which still puts pressure on women and girls to agree to acts they are uncomfortable with.

Last week, York University announced it would be the first to hold a consent workshop for freshers during their first week. The news comes after the Brock Turner case blew up, not only in the U.S, but all over the world, and it’s music to my ears. I sat in my freshers fair 6 years ago, so why is it my friends are still feeling pressured? We’re so lucky to have grown up in a place which has championed our rights and allowed us to make our own decisions, but sometimes we still feel as though we don’t have a choice.

We are modern women who know all about consent and rights. We can be Prime Minister or President and speak on behalf of thousands of people, but we still can’t always speak up for ourselves.

I was talking to a friend recently about a particularly persistent male and how it made me uncomfortable, and she replied with a story of a similar circumstance, adding that in order to get out of that situation it was ‘easier just to kiss him and pretend I liked it’.

How sad is it that in 2016 women are still scared to say no?

It’s not just one woman I’ve heard stories like this from either. Looking back over the last few years I can recall countless friends, and friends of friends, who have been in positions like this, and worse. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon. And women end up in terrifying circumstances, which they were coaxed into through a lethal combination of free drinks, a stranger’s approval and fear.

If you put yourself into the position of a young woman out partying with her friends, she’s drinking, having fun, a male approaches her showing interest, she’s flattered, he buys her drinks, gets her drunk, she makes out with him in the club because, why the hell not?

Now she’s waking up in his bed under him, booze on his breath. Her mind is racing, wondering where her phone is, how she got here, how far away from home she is. She knows what he wants but she doesn’t know him… She’s intimidated. All these factors considered, it becomes the safer, easier, option to just placate him with his desire; grin and bear it.

Does that seem fair to you? If you were the male, would you be content in the knowledge there was no consent? No. We’re underestimating the men of this world, most of whom would never have initiated something they didn’t think both parties were completely happy with.

The question of consent is something we absolutely must teach young adults, because everyone should understand their own responsibility to get their partner’s true consent before sexual activity. Drinking a drink is not consent. Kissing a stranger is not consent. Being drunk is not consent. Unless we tell you clearly, soberly, coherently, explicitly and freely that we want to have sex with you, it is not consent.

So, I applaud York and hope other large institutions will follow suit in the introduction of consent workshops. Just think that if this can become an issue which is talked about openly in our modern, western world, that soon women and men in poorer, remote regions may learn the value of consent and that one day we can all make safe, sound, secure decisions together.

Written by Tender Youth Board member Jazz Berry.


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