If consent classes and real world sex ed have the power to reduce sexual assault, harassment and incidents of rape, then why the hell aren’t we doing it already?, asks Garreth MacNamee.
HALF NAKED STUDENTS performing mock sex acts, some stripping down to their jocks, others breaking up with their other halves over the phone.
This was an actual, real-life initiation procedure to get into the Accounting and Finance Society (A&F) at DCU for the 2018/19 academic year.
Not content with mimicking most elements of US culture such as music, cinema and, like, the way we talk, the students at DCU decided to go one better and bring in good old-fashioned American hazing.
But the Accounting and Finance Society. Seriously?
Now, we all know that not every student is stripping off, getting scuttered while playing STI roulette every other day. But we also know they’re not exactly heading to Mass every Sunday with their grannies and discussing the implications of the Brexit backstop over some brandy.
DCU may have resembled the last days of Rome with all its pomp and videos of provocative pumping, but what it has done is sprung forward a debate on consent and about how younger people are trying to fit in – in what has become a hyper-sexualised society.
How do you tackle this? The #MeToo campaign has brought issues surrounding sexual harassment and consent to the fore. There is now a determined global campaign to get people to act appropriately.
The DCU Students’ Union was quick to condemn the salacious news which rocked the north Dublin campus and its message was one of unequivocal disgust.
“Campus life at DCU is renowned for its vibrancy and diversity contributing to the overall development of our students and we are shocked and disappointed to see the actions of one cohort of students hamper this.
“DCU Students’ Union works very hard to promote and foster a culture of inclusivity and belonging amongst the student body and the conduct of students at this meeting completely impedes this culture. It also overshadows the valuable work being undertaken by the University community to provide a safe and equal environment for all to study in.
“DCU Students’ Union will continue to educate and engage students in equality, diversity and inclusion now more than ever having only recently trained over 15% of first years in sent amongst a range of other ongoing activities and initiatives.”
Bridging the gap between teenage minor to teenage adult is a tough journey. People get excited, they get worked up and all of a sudden the papers have you pictured spread-eagled over a random girl you just met the other week. So what do you do?
Anything which teaches young men and women about consent can only be welcomed. There is literally zero downside to teaching people something which fosters mutual respect. And that’s what the consent classes are about.
Trinity College has brought them in. There was also approval given for an expansion of sexual consent classes that would see them made available to clubs and societies.
The classes have been running for the past two years in Trinity Halls, where most on-campus first-years live, and now plans are being made to make them more widely available.
Students, a student facilitator and a councillor all take part in the classes and they involve guidance for students about how to give and recognise consent. Mighty.
President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) Síona Cahill hit the nail on the head when she said that the actions of a few should not tar the entire student body of DCU with the same brush. Of course, she’s right but she’s also right when she says this incident is indicative of a bigger issue.
“It’s not a thing in societies in Ireland, this incident is quite isolated but that doesn’t mean that it’s OK,” Cahill said earlier this week.
She added: “It smacks really of a wider problem. Consent education needs to be rolled out across third level and second level.”
Consent has rightly become a topic of debate and education. And stats don’t lie.
In a report issued in August of this year, a majority of female third-level students have reported experiencing sexual hostility or crude gender harassment at some point since starting college.
In a survey of 632 students, conducted by the NUI Galway SMART Consent research team, 54% of first-year women students reported experiencing sexual hostility or crude gender harassment since starting college.
The same report found that of 2,150 students quizzed, 71% of women and 63% of men said they were dissatisfied with the sexual health education they received at school.
This is the whole problem. Sex education in at any level of education hasn’t really done the trick. Anecdotal evidence from your mates down the pub who went to a different school usually tallies with your own experiences.
Sure, I remember all the boys being removed from the class when the “sex ed” teacher started talking about vaginas and periods. Similarly, all the girls were removed when the lads were about to learn about erections.
We were in sixth class. We were all around 11-12.
The following year in an all-boys (Christian Brother) secondary school – things were slightly different.
We considered the two female teachers to be different – almost liberal in their attitudes to sex because they spoke about how it’s supposed to be fun.
But looking back, every act barring missionary in a bed was deemed “inappropriate”, “dangerous” or “disgusting”.
All this does is create an army of terrified and horny teenagers. It’s a recipe for disaster.
At least things are changing, albeit slowly.
The Provision of Objective Sex Education Bill was introduced to the Dáíl in April of this year and would see students have the right to receive factual and objective information on relationships and sexuality regardless of the school’s ethos, and contains provisions for education on consent, different types of sexuality and gender, the termination of pregnancy and different contraception methods.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has expressed its support for the bill, stating that the group has had to play “catch-up” when information is not given to students before the enter college.
You might think this piece to be some stick in the mud reaction to an “isolated incident” in DCU – you might be right.
But would there have been an incident which left vulnerable young people feeling uncomfortable and afraid had all those involved received actual lessons in consent and sexual relationships? Maybe – maybe not.
The only question that’s left is: