As mentioned in the introduction to this series of blog posts, I will be posting excerpts of chapters from Boys, Sex & Media with PDF links to the complete chapters. Use the blog tag “Boys-Sex-Media” to find all of the posts in this series. The excerpt of Chapter Four, on consent, is below. Click this PDF link to read the entire chapter.
“The notion of actively seeking consent is largely alien to young people, and compounded by information from adults that focuses on the importance of ‘giving’ rather than ‘getting’ consent.” ~ Maddy Coy et al
The topic of consent made regular headlines in 2014, particularly on university campuses in the United States, Canada, and the UK, when female victims of rape went public about the underwhelming administrative and police response to the crimes committed against them. In one case from Oxford University, a female student going by the pseudonym of Maria Marcello talked about being raped in her dorm room by a man she had just met while passed out drunk. She had DNA evidence linking the man to the crime but was told by police to drop the charges because it would be her word against his and, therefore, too hard to prove.
The crime committed against Marcello falls under the category of acquaintance rape, a close kin of date rape. But rape is not the only type of violation to occur on university campuses or in other places young men and women meet. The Guardian article that described Marcello’s case detailed other instances when lines were crossed: women being groped, having hands put up their skirts, being touched in a sexual manner in a crowded bar, and being photographed while sleeping by male students who later posted pictures online. While the females affected by these crimes were horrified, the men who committed the offences had very different reactions: some laughed and others blithely dismissed the women’s protests and concerns.
The common element in all of these cases is a lack of consent. Whether out of wilful disregard for these women’s bodies or genuine ignorance about when consent is needed, it is clear that none of the men sought or received consent for their actions. As the examples above show, consent is not just relevant in intimate encounters. It also applies to unwanted touching, leering, catcalling, or any situation where boundaries are not respected and people are made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Nor is consent strictly a male-versus-female issue; boys and men must also deal with unwanted advances.
Because it is rarely modelled in our culture or discussed at school or in the home, consent is a murky proposition for young people. Yet it is critical that they understand consent, especially as they approach their teenage years and become sexually curious and, in many cases, sexually active.
Download this PDF to read the entire chapter.