Sexual Health

We all need consent

The teaching of sexual consent in Ireland is flawed. The Irish school system almost entirely neglects the topic in its haphazard sexual education classes. To such an extent that university students are being taught about it in the early stages of their young adult life, which is far too late. I have never spoken to an Irish man or woman who has received a proper sex education in secondary school. Many of the stories I hear mirror my own experience. A heavy religious slant often applies, STIs are used a scare tactic to prevent premarital sex and consent is either under-emphasised or omitted entirely. This is the age of sexual liberation and freedom, and effectively Ireland has to catch up.
Last week’s episode of Reality Bites saw Louise O’ Neill tackle the contentious issue of rape culture. She discussed the so-called “grey areas” of consent and gave a comprehensive breakdown of the logistics of consent through discourse with rape experts and concerned citizens. It was one of the most watched shows on RTÉ player. Consent workshops at universities are now becoming more common and the Irish youth are seemingly becoming more engaged with the severity of this issue; the future looks bright. Although it would be naïve to think the battle is done.
Rape culture continues to permeate through society at large, poisoning the minds of young men and endangering young women. Awareness is key and workshops and media coverage are a fantastic start to shedding light on a dark and widely unaddressed problem. Children need to be informed as they start to become sexually mature as to prevent rape under the guise “she was asking for it” or “she didn’t say no”. Pressuring someone into something so intimate is simply unacceptable and this needs to be relayed to our youth.
Reform in sexual education in secondary schools is the best way to catch the weed at the root. As opposed to frightening children with a PowerPoint presentation loaded with grotesque images of STIs we need to teach children how to actually use contraceptives. Inform them that unless their partner is of sound mind and 100% adamant that they want to engage in sex, they have not received consent and they should not proceed. Donald Trump has garnered such massive support despite the way he speaks about women. It is becoming ever more evident that rape culture and the infringement of women’s rights is not dead and gone but alive and thriving.
Every year my university, DCU, create awareness around this issue during SHAG week. NUI Galway have their SHAG week now and they have done a spectacular job in informing their students of the importance of consent through their voluntary consent classes. Mandatory consent classes in Trinity College incurred quite a lot of anger among Irish people who deemed it as a means of preaching misandry. This is preposterous. The idea that teaching people to consider the feelings and emotions of their partner’s before engaging in an immensely intimate activity is somehow wrong, is obviously ridiculous when given any rational thought. That sort of mindset is the very reason such workshops are necessary.
Men in the media are portrayed as hunters of some description, whose sole objective is to seduce as many women as possible. Look at one of the most popular male figures in modern film, James Bond. A rampaging chauvinist who, with the one exception of Vesper in Casino Royale, never truly displays any genuine affection toward his lovers and yet receives female attention in abundance.
I watched some old westerns with my friends and even archetypal good guy Clint Eastwood had a very questionable way with the ladies in his early films. I don’t know about anyone else but never
has a woman gone from the attempting to stab me to kissing me in a manner of seconds. Popular media still paints this distorted image of sex and to apply too much weight to this sort of behaviour can be dangerous.
Young women are also conditioned to think about themselves in an unhealthy manner as regards their sexual endeavours. Too many sexual partners will incur slut-shaming and too little activity means that you are a prude in the eyes of our society. Speaking to sexual health experts will dispel these gender-based myths about how men and women should see themselves and indeed how they should see each other. It could help to bridge a gap between the genders that stands all-too-long in existence.
The Irish Justice system appears to have largely failed in prosecuting rapists. Perhaps if we change how we see rape, there will be less of a need to prosecute as there could be less instances of this horrific crime being committed.