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Why Leeds needs consent classes

Almost two thirds of you think they should be compulsory

assault consent consent classes crime freshers leeds LUU rape sex ed sexual sexual assault uni

Last week, we revealed that 38 per cent of female students in Leeds who answered our survey had experienced sexual assault. When we announced the results, we asked you another question. Should consent classes be compulsory at Leeds Uni?

While some may think consent classes are pointing out the obvious, these results show it clearly isn’t as obvious as it seems. 78 per cent of those who said they had been raped knew their attacker. So unless all these women have the same mutual friend, there is a chance we have a real consent problem going on.

You might think you don’t “look” like a rapist – which is great – but rapists don’t look like rapists. They don’t always lurk in dark alleyways, skulking in the shadows, hiding on Woodhouse Moor. They can look like someone’s boyfriend, your friend, that guy you sit next to in your seminar, or your family friend.

Rape isn’t always struggling in an alleyway and screaming. It’s being too drunk to give consent, it’s giving consent to one thing and them doing another, it’s assuming because they consented once that they always want to, and it’s feeling too scared to say no.

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It’s a well-known truth that the sex education we got in school was inadequate – and sadly that doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon. We learnt how to put a condom on, but were never taught to ask if they were comfortable with what was happening.

We were told over and over how to avoid getting pregnant, but not how to say no when you were being pressured into sex. I’d like to think that five or so years down the line people would have learnt how to have consensual sex – but every week, with every new story of rape that I hear I’m proved wrong.

That’s not to say that consent classes will stop rape: they won’t. It will still happen. But, if one less person has to experience the horror of being raped, the panic attacks that will follow afterwards and the distrust that will mark every encounter, then in my eyes consent classes are a success.

After all, what’s one hour of your time compared to stopping a life time of flashbacks? That one hour of your time could stop you having a stint in prison and spending the rest of your life on the Sex Offenders Register.

Consent classes are not an unpopular idea – for every vocal opponent, there are many more in favour. In our poll of Tab readers, 64 per cent of people supported compulsory consent classes at Leeds. It’s obvious that there is a demand for this and it’s time universities start to take consent seriously.

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Consent is something that needs to start being discussed urgently. We need a consent revolution. Why not add a compulsory consent class to the library inductions and welcome talks the university already make you go to? At least this way you might actually get something out of Fresher’s Week other than freshers’ flu, chlamydia, and months of awkward encounters in Essentials.

Not only do consent classes give us the opportunity to reduce the numbers of rapes on our campus – which is something no-one can really object to – having an awareness of consent also means you are going to have better sex.

Sex is best when it’s an open conversation that everyone involved can equally participate in. Having a dialogue about what you want, what you are into, what you consent to should be standard practice. It doesn’t need to be as clinical as “Do you consent to be having sex with me?” – why not just ask “Are you into this?” or “What do you want me to do?”

It shouldn’t just be yes means yes and no means no. You deserve more than a yes – you deserve enthusiasm and a partner who wants to be there just as much as you. Let’s start acting like adults around sex and take accountability for our own actions. Stop shifting the blame and make sure you are asking for consent every time you have sex.

If consent classes can start a dialogue that reduces rape and ensures people are having great, and most importantly, consensual sex, then we need to implement them urgently.