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?
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.