21 per cent of Irish respondents to an EU-wide survey late last year think having sex without consent is acceptable in certain situations.
Does that worry you? It should. There is no such thing as a situation where sex without consent is acceptable. It simply does not exist. But according to the Eurobarometer Gender- Based violence report, 21 per cent of people disagree and that is both worrying and terrifying.
Following the introduction of sexual consent classes in English universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, Irish colleges and universities are starting to follow suit. Trinity College Dublin recently introduced mandatory sexual consent classes. UCC are currently introducing a module on consent and sexual respect which will be piloted on first year Law students. If the module is a success, it will then be available to all first year students. UCD provides sexual consent workshops, as does UL and NUIG.
For now, in most colleges and universities where these workshops are available, they are an option. The question we are asking is whether they should be mandatory for freshers.
Personally, I think they should be mandatory. The main reason for this is that a lot of people are uneducated when it comes to the topic of consent. It is a definite grey area, with a lot of people not entirely sure of what sexual consent is. There is no legal definition for sexual consent in Ireland, which is ridiculous. But despite this, students should still be educated in this area, for moral reasons. Many college students are sexually active and many of them do not understand the concept of consent, so why not teach them?
In fact, I think we should be taught about consent before we even get to third level education, especially when you take into consideration that the legal age of consent in Ireland is 17, and many young people choose not to carry on to third level education. However, not every secondary school will provide this important education and not every parent or guardian is open to discussing rape and sexual consent.
You may say that you cannot teach someone not to rape, and unfortunately that is true. But one of the main problems is that a lot of people do not fully understand the issue of consent.
According to the Union of Students in Ireland, an average of one in twelve female students are the victims of rape or attempted rape. Less than 1 per cent of the men surveyed had been victims of rape or attempted rape, but these are only some of the students in Ireland.
I carried out a poll on Twitter asking whether sexual consent classes should be mandatory for freshers and out of 40 votes, 85 percent said that they should be mandatory while 15 percent said that they should not.
If there is even a slight chance that the introduction of mandatory consent classes will open people’s eyes to the issues of rape and consent, or help in any way possible, then why not?