According to ‘Rape Crisis’ around 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in both England and Wales each year. Based on a Telegraph survey approximately one in three UK female students are sexually abused or assaulted on their university campus each year.
Whether you live in the United Kingdom or elsewhere, it is more than likely that your college/university will be providing a workshop on sexual consent. However, it is only recently that there has been an outrage in the UK in regard to these workshops and talks on how to approach sexual consent.
Eleanor Harding (Education correspondent for the Daily Mail) stated that students walked out in “protest” at the University of York’s first set of sexual consent classes early October this year. The classes consisted of bringing up a “gender neutral” awareness of the “definition of rape” and ultimately how to avoid being attacked or “raping someone”. Alex Morgan, Sky News Producer writes that students branded the classes as “patronising”. In 2015 there was a class at the University of Warwick which evoked a student to write a very controversial article about the session in which he branded the classes as something that was only “pointing out the obvious”. That he does not have to “be taught to not be a rapist”.
It is clear that from 2015 to 2016, there is evidently a widespread disagreement with attending sexual consent classes at UK universities. Is Warwick student and writer for the Tab correct in saying that people do not have to be “taught” to not be a rapist? Along with the students that walked out of a University of York’s sexual consent class early this month due to feeling patronised… Consent classes are put in place to prevent assault occurring by raising awareness and teaching students just what consent is and what it is not. After all, rapists are not always the shadow lingering in a dark alley or the catcall from the car – they can be your partner, friend or family member. This is when lines are perhaps often blurred in regard to consent. As a result, perhaps rape culture is enforced, a cycle of ‘blame’ and ‘violence’ remaining as the only clear connotations around rape. Rape is not always violent. Many of us have been raised to understand right and wrong but it must be acknowledged that there are few people that have not been raised in this way.
However, the majority of us are socially conditioned to blame women for rape rather than men. According to the Telegraph, Sarah Green, director of the ‘End Violence Against Women Coalition’ said: “Research by the Children’s Commissioner on young people’s understanding of consent showed…most were aware of the law on rape, but that when presented with different real life rape scenarios most tended to deny it was rape and to blame the women and make excuses for perpetrators.” She later added, “Young people today are bombarded with confusing and conflicting messages about men and women and sexuality in popular culture – women are constantly portrayed as sex objects and it is implied that it is ‘natural’ for men to pursue women to the point of coercion.” This is what perhaps makes me think that all of us, students, or any member of society, should have to be “taught” to not be a rapist. For, women are raised to “stay safe” to carry rape whistles, pepper spray or attend self-defence classes as they are “portrayed as sex objects”. “Boys will be boys” is the main excuse along with other blameless boy riddles. There, arguably, seems to be a lack of discussion with men when it comes to the topic of rape.
Though, it must be stated that men do get raped too – that must be acknowledged. This is maybe why gender-neutral classes have been embedded in the first place. After all, it must be reiterated that rape upon men is not often spoken about in spite of there being 12,000 men raped in England and Wales each year. Perhaps more awareness on the topic of men being raped may reduce rates of rape cases inflicted upon both men and women as a whole.
Yet, it seems that once sexual consent classes are embedded that are gender-neutral, accessible to men and women – but there now seems to be staged, mass walk-outs. Dominantly, male students are feeling patronized most likely because they have never had to think about the consequences of rape for their entire lives. Whereas, young girls to women are constantly faced with the fear of men taking advantage. They have been told to “mind the men”, “don’t walk alone when it’s dark”, and are faced with the notion that if they wear something “too short” or “too revealing” with “too much flesh showing” they will be branded as “asking for it” and will not be taken seriously if an assault does occur. Some may believe that this is not dissimilar to the negative stigma around male rape victims due to hypermasculinity.
Though, it seems that once men are being told, being taught to be cautious, taught to not act in a certain way or else be branded in a type of way – the majority of them claim they feel “patronized” or that they shouldn’t have to be “taught”.
In an ideal world, we shouldn’t have to be at all “taught” not to rape or how to not be raped. It just seems that women have been taught how to avoid rape generations. It is poignant that once some men are being taught how to avoid rape or to not rape that there is all of a sudden a national debate. It isn’t all men who walked out but on the news outlets there only seems to be male complaints. This factor alone must be considered. Perhaps consent classes are what are needed. Until we stop complaining that we do not need to be “taught” to not rape, perhaps we do infact need to be taught the concept of rape and how to not rape, or how to avoid rape. If we’re lucky, if we’re really lucky, this may reduce the high statistics of campus sexual assaults upon both women and men. In hindsight, shouldn’t we be taught about consent at a younger age than the age of higher education? Maybe consent should be included in secondary school sex education when hormones are at their peak…