Why We Need To Talk About Consent Much Sooner

by Kristine Fellizar

Consent should be the very basis of every type of sexual encounter you have. If one person isn’t all in, then all parties involved should be all out. — simple enough. But according to a newly released survey on the sexual attitudes and behaviors of young people, an alarming one in four young people believe that it’s “normal” for men to pressure women into sex.

Our Watch, an organization fighting to end violence against women and their children, surveyed 604 young people aged 12 to 20-years-old on their attitudes and behavior toward sexual consent. As the study found, a majority 55 percent of people do NOT believe it’s normal for a boy to pressure women into sexual activity. Obviously, that’s great news. Though I truly believe we can do better. What’s more alarming, however, is the fact that one in four believe it’s “normal” or totally OK for men to pressure women into sex. Furthermore, 12 percent believe a female is at least partly responsible for unwanted sex if she has drugs or alcohol in her system, and 11 percent believe she’s partly responsible if she wears revealing clothing. Ugh yeah...

While those numbers may seem relatively small in comparison to the wider majority, it’s still pretty disturbing. Here are other key findings from the survey:

1. About 73 Percent Of Young People Are Confident They Know What To Do To Get Consent Before Having Sex

And, asking for consent really doesn’t have to be awkward or unsexy.

2. 60 Percent Believe It’s Up To The Woman To Make It “Very Clear” That She Doesn’t Want To Have Sex

But let’s be very clear here, consent works both ways and for all people regardless of gender.

3. Victim-Blaming Is The Name Of The Game

In situations where consent wasn’t obtained, many of those surveyed turned the tables and blamed the victim. For instance, 37 percent said it was difficult to respect a female when she’s drunk, and 27 percent said it’s hard to be respectful toward a woman when she’s wearing revealing clothing.

If you need a little enlightenment on that last bit, Amber Rose recently had some words to say on dressing sexy and consent.

4. There Are Huge Gender Differences Over Terms Of Regular Non-Consensual Activities Happening Today

As the study found, 11 percent of men surveyed said they have uploaded or shared embarrassing photos of women they know, while 16 percent of women said that had happened to them. In general, about five percent of people believe it’s OK to show nude or intimate photos of people to their close friends without the person knowing it. Furthermore, seven percent of guys said they have put a woman they knew under pressure to perform sexually, while 20 percent of women said that has happened to them.

Keep in mind, these are young people under the age of 20 who were surveyed. Sure, you can make the excuse that they're young and immature. But as Our Watch’s CEO Mary Barry said in a statement, their findings just highlight the need for better sex ed much earlier in life.

"Universities are an important setting for primary prevention activity and provide an opportunity to give young people guidance and information about sex and respectful relationships," Barry said in a statement. “But it shouldn’t be the first time young people receive support to work through these issues."

No, it definitely shouldn't be.

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