Teaching Consent: Is It Enough?

Last week, Ched Evans rape conviction was overturned and he was found not guilty of rape. In a case of either staggering irony or personal enlightenment he is now calling for education on  the issues of alcohol and consent and has given the advice, “When they are drunk, think twice about it.”

“I read somewhere you would have to get signed consent. That wouldn’t be realistic but someone needs to come up with something. The best thing is just to be educated. And when they are [too] drunk to think twice about it. How would it look in a court of law?”

It is progress of a kind that this conversation is beginning to take place, but it reads like ‘What can I get away with?’ rather than any genuine concern or respect for the woman in question, or even any true understanding of what he has done. If you’re considering how your actions would look in a court of law, well, then it’s probably not the right thing to do is it?

As cases of sexual assault and rapes on university campuses continue to make the news, it is becoming increasingly common for universities to run classes or workshops to discuss the concept of consent. For many reasons, this is to be welcomed – it’s important to have these kind of conversations when so many people don’t seem to realise what it means to give or ask for consent. The reaction of some to the acquittal of Ched Evans demonstrates this. It is still seen as a grey area – is it rape if she’s too drunk to consent? Yes, sex without consent is rape – but why is this the question?

Below is the text taken from a poster promoting consent classes at a local university, organised by the student body.

“What is consent when there is no law on consent?” How many drinks can you take and still legally consent? Can you legally consent if you’re high? In Ireland there is no answer in law to these questions. So these workshops aren’t about telling people what to think, they’re about asking the questions that don’t have yet have an answer in law but really need one”

I understand that these questions come from a place of good intentions but I do find them somewhat unsettling.  Why are we trying to figure out how drunk a person can be before we can’t have sex with them?  If they can’t say yes or no, don’t do it. If someone says, no the first time, leave it at that. How about we only have sex with people who seem to want to really have sex with us too?

A quote attributed to Rachel Vail, who saw the message at her son’s Freshers’ week in the US.

This is not just about legalities, but morality. What Ched Evans did was deemed to be legal, but you can’t tell me it was morally acceptable. Rather than focusing on alcohol limits we should be focusing on promoting relationships of mutual respect. The conversation needs to move beyond consent, and start earlier than college lecture halls. We need to start with our small children – rub away at the perceived differences between them, so boys don’t see girls as ‘other’.  Look at Ched Evans, look at Donald Trump, look at the everyday misogyny on Twitter – this is not just about consent.

In conversation with Woman’s Hour last week the writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talked about raising feminist children. What that means is raising children to believe that men and women are equal – because like it or not, that’s what feminism means. We need to stop teaching girls that to be popular is the key prize – Adichie says,

“Your job is not to be likeable. Your job is to be your fullest self.”

In raising feminist boys, we need to stop teaching boys that to be manly means being tough. ” We need to redefine masculinity” for our young boys she says. If he falls, “let him cry.”

We need to value ‘girls’ interests as much as ‘boys’: the barbie doll is as good as the action man, the hockey as good as the football. For children of either sex. But more than this, we need to teach that there is no such thing as girls’ this and boys’ that. They are the same: We are the same. Because if we are the same, then perhaps they won’t be so angry. Perhaps they won’t grow up into young men who see fit to have sex with a vulnerable woman, without talking to  her, whilst their friends watch on and take pictures.









11 thoughts on “Teaching Consent: Is It Enough?

  1. What a pleasure to be compelled to comment on your blog! You are very brave to take on such a topic and you do so with your typical articulate wit and wisdom. I find consent to be a difficult one. I seem to remember being too drunk once and not strictly consenting. I really WANTED to, but if I was sober I would not have for many reasons. And I was never asked either way or given space to decide. As a mother of 2 boys I feel a heavy responsibility and wonder exactly what I should (or even can) teach them about this. Respect for men and women as equals of course, but I wonder about advising about them about specific situations? #kcacols

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes I have a son and a daughter – these things are talked about so much more now than when we were young, you feel so conscious of your responsibility towards the adults your children will become. I suppose the conversations are a starting point . And I’m sorry you had that experience , all too common I think.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Love this as always. The quote just says it all really, and I love Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie too. She’s one of my all time heroines. As the parent of a boy, I feel a huge responsibility. I just hope I’m up to the task. #KCACOLS


  3. Absolutely agree with ALL of what you are saying. It is infuriating that there should be any grey area here. I’m a firm believer of letting boys cry and I love what you’ve said about rubbing away at the perceived differences between the genders from an early age.What a striking quote too. You write so well about these issues. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good topic to take a look at, I’ve been talking alot with people about this and it brings out thoughts and views that dont get chance to be aired all that often. Consent, respect and our own self worth can come up. Massive topic and i really enjoyed your post.




  5. Thank you for this piece, I would love to have written something but I fear I have too much rage and the post would just descend into expletives. Ched admitted he did not have a conversation with the girl. He did not look her in the eye or ask her her name or say, ‘this alright pet?’ He probably has more meaningful interactions whilst doing his weekly shop. Am I mad for thinking sex should be about connection? He clearly has no respect for women, including his partner; that might not be illegal but it should be.


  6. Thank you so much for speaking out about consent. As a mother and a school-teacher, I absolutely agree this conversation needs to get started way before college! We need to be teaching our children about respect, self-respect, and the importance of consent. It would be a starting point anyway. I am fairly new to the blogging community, and appreciate seeing material from like-minded individuals.


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