Developing a consent culture

Guest post by Emily

Rape. Sexual abuse. What distinguishes those two horrific things from sex – generally accepted to be one of the most enjoyable pastimes available to us?

It’s consent. Consent is vital. Consent is key. Meaningful consent is what makes the difference between sex, and sexual abuse.

And so if you want to do something about rape, or child abuse, you’d put consent front and centre, right? While only adults can give free consent, children can still be taught how to judge boundaries of consent within their own activities. You’d teach children to enshrine consent as a key value. It’s not hard. The difference between wrestling with a sibling who wants to be wrestling, and with one who doesn’t, is the difference between playtime and assault. “You sure he’s happy? Does he want you to be doing that? Timmy, are you still enjoying the game?” “Yes, we’re just playing.” “Oh, okay, carry on then.” Boom, the importance of consent in action, aged five.

David Cameron, meanwhile, has decided that instead of enshrining consent, he’s going to completely ignore it. He’s going to kick it in the teeth, without even asking nicely first. Because that’s what he’s doing, when he correlates role-play between consenting adults with rape. When he says that two consenting adults, playing out a pretend scenario for their pleasure, or the pleasure of others, is in ANY way equatable to rape.

And that is not only an incredibly stupid thing to do, and incredibly insulting to the many people, male and female, who have those sexual fantasies, but it’s an incredibly dangerous thing to do. Blurring the boundaries between consensual, and non-consensual sex is only going to make the problem worse.

Encourage education. Encourage open conversation about sex. Encourage young people to feel unashamed about their sexual desires, and empowered to make the right choices for them at the right times. Give young people the tools to talk about consent and sex, and to value both. Encourage pornography producers, commercial and amateur, to film the pre-scene procedure where the actors demonstrate clear consent about what will follow.

If you want to do something about rape, or child abuse, then tell David Cameron that his plans to drive pornography – and any hope of open discussion about it – even more undercover, and to criminalise consensual sexual activity, are only going to hurt the very people he professes to lose so much sleep over.

The Conservatives are banking on people being too embarrassed to fight them on this. Show them they’re wrong.

Sign this petition:

And most importantly email your MP. That barely takes seconds, just click here to find their email address: