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Survey results on consent shocking

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FPA, consent, survey, worrying results, sexual health week, It’s really worrying that people of all ages think that it’s not OK to withdraw consent.

A survey by sexual health charity FPA revealed that deeply concerning attitudes about sexual consent seem to be prevalent in all age groups in the UK.

FPA is now calling for high-quality relationships and sex education (RSE) on consent and better representation of consent in the media after the survey showed a huge disparity between young people’s perception of their knowledge of consent, and their attitudes when presented with real-life scenarios.

An online survey of 2,003 people run to find out more about their experiences, knowledge of and attitude towards consent found that less than half of those surveyed (47 per cent) thought it was OK for someone to withdraw consent if they were already naked, down to only 39 per cent of young people aged 14-17.

And 45 per cent of young people aged 18-24 had learned about consent from TV and films, and 37 per cent of those aged 14-17 had.

This resulted in the launch of FPA’s Consent Test – a five-point test looking at whether sexual encounters in films and TV show positive or negative examples of negotiating consent.

A film passes the FPA Consent Test if:

1 – Consent has been verbally given, or asked for;

2 – There is no coercion involved: violence, threat, pressure, asking multiple times until they say yes (persistence);

3 – None of the characters involved are intoxicated;

4 – None of the characters are underage;

5 – Each of the characters involved are giving verbal and non-verbal cues that they want to have sex.

Draft government guidance on relationships and sex education (RSE) – which is due to become statutory in schools in England from 2020 – says that young people should be taught “the concepts of and laws relating to sexual consent,” as well as “how people can actively communicate and recognise consent from others… and how and when consent can be withdrawn.”

To help open up the conversation now and equip parents, teachers and health professionals to talk about the subject, FPA’s Sexual Health Week 2018 focused on consent.

The Consent: Yes, yes, yes! campaign ran from 24 – 30 September and took a close look at a topic that underpins all work on relationships and sexual health, with the message that consent is about much more than saying “no” – it’s about giving an enthusiastic “yes”.

And FPA produced digital resources for educators, as well as posters, leaflets, and content on consent and the law, recognising and negotiating consent, and advice for parents and teachers on how to discuss consent with young people.

There was also the issue of the nine per cent of people who responded to the survey who did not think it was OK to withdraw consent if: they had been bought drinks; they had already kissed the other person; they were in a bedroom; they have had sex with that person before; and/or they were already naked.

Natika Halil, chief executive of FPA, said: “Prior to relationships and sex education (RSE) becoming statutory in England, we want to make sure educators and parents are prepared for discussions on consent with young people.

“Currently, only 11 per cent of young people would talk to teachers about consent – but RSE will be statutory in two years’ time.

“Consent should underpin all discussions around relationships and sex, and young people must be equipped with the essential knowledge and skills that will help to empower and safeguard them.

“It’s been encouraging to see the cultural shift in society over the past year, with calls for better understanding of and respect for consent,” Halil continued.

“But it’s really worrying that people of all ages think that it’s not OK to withdraw consent in a range of situations.

“It’s always OK to say no to sexual activity that you’re not comfortable with, whatever the situation – and is equally important to listen to and respect your partner if they want to stop.

Sexual Health Week, Halil said, aimed to provide a starting point for these conversations, addressing the basics and helping people feel more confident recognising, discussing and negotiating consent.

And Mel Gadd, Projects and Training Coordinator at FPA, said: “Consent is the single most important aspect of relationships and sex education.

“If a young person fully understands what consent means for themselves and others, it lays the foundations for so many other core values such as respect, good communication, self-esteem and resilience.

“It can mean that they strive to do no harm to others and, in turn, know how to seek help if they are harmed.

“I often hear young people say how confusing they think consent is. But consent is easy, as long as it’s taught in the right way.

“We need to equip young people with both the knowledge and tools to recognise what does and does not constitute consent, how to check for it, and how to confidently have conversations around it.

“This includes how to say no but, even more importantly, how to listen for an enthusiastic yes.”

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