Consent, it’s a piece of cake!
Tara chats about her YSI project on consent
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Sitting in our first YSI class of the year, a group of us sat talking about the latest story to break the internet. We’d all seen it, aunties shared it on Facebook, celebrities had retweeted it on Twitter and it was all over our news apps. In California, USA, Brock Turner had been released from jail after serving only 3 months for 3 felonies. How come someone can get away so easy, after being found guilty of two accounts of rape? Before his release, the survivor of his attack gave a harrowing statement, possibly changing the conversation around consent and sexual assault forever. “You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.” Her letter has been viewed over 11 million times. This chain of events including Turner's lax jail time started a global conversation about consent. And as we sat stunned that this man could ruin this woman’s life and get nothing but a slap on the wrist, we wondered is there anything that can be done?
Nelson Mandela said that “Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world”. If we were all taught about the importance of consent from an early age, it would come naturally to us as we grow up. With rape culture on the rise and slut shaming spewing out, the meaning of consent can get over complicated and lost but it’s quite simple and very necessary. Unfortunately, in Ireland there is no strict legislation regarding what must be taught in sex ed and schools are permitted to teach the subject in line with their own ethos. This means that a school can teach what they want and leave out what they like, including consent! It is vital that the Department of Education ensure that we are taught about consent. Education is key.
We decided to turn consent into a simple metaphor, something we all know and love, a slice of cake. If you ask someone if they want cake and they say yes, great give them a piece of cake! If someone doesn’t want cake, you wouldn’t nor should you force it on them. If someone is unsure about whether they want cake or not, leave it for another time when they’re positive that they want cake. If someone is under the influence or passed out there’s no way they can say for sure if they want cake! It’s the very same with sex. No means no and yes means yes!
Little did we know we’d have our topic for Young Social Innovators (YSI) chosen within our first class. After this we got to work, we started by creating a survey to see how much young people knew about consent. We distributed these in our own mixed school, along with the all boys and all girls secondary schools in our town. Fortunately, most people knew the age of consent. However they were unsure of the laws regarding consent in Ireland. We hope to revisit these schools to talk about the importance of consent.
We then created posters to further inform people about consent and what this means. We had a bake sale in school and raised over €100 for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC). After this we got a guest speaker from DRCC who spoke to 4th and 5th years about the importance of consent. We have also put together a drama which we will perform at the YSI Speakout. Our project is an ongoing one and we hope to further raise awareness about the importance of consent in any way we can.
The topic of consent is becoming more and more widely discussed and I would encourage everyone to join in on the conversation! It is essential in building and maintaining healthy relationships. It helps us respect and understand other people better. It helps us voice our emotions. It is not something negative and scary to be rushed through in SPHE class, but something positive that should be celebrated.