Oxford University Is Making Consent Classes Mandatory
Oxford University just took an important step toward fighting rape culture on campus: The school is making it mandatory for freshmen to take a workshop on consent.
The 90-minute session, run by the university's vice president for women, will include topics like alcohol and affirmative consent, according to The Sun. It's a great idea, and a necessary one, given that one third of women in both the U.S. and the U.K. experience unwanted sexual contact during college. Yet somehow, some people are opposed to this measure.
One student at York University, where a similar class is optional, told The Daily Mail he wasn't going because "consent talks are patronizing." He voiced the opinion that intelligent people don't need to learn not to rape: "If students really need lessons in how to say yes or no then they should not be at university."
University of Warwick student George Lawlor wrote something similar last year in an op-ed protesting an invitation to a consent workshop at his school: "I don’t have to be taught to not be a rapist." While these students are right that we shouldn't need to be taught not to rape, the fact of that matter is that the lesson isn't automatically sinking in for many.
In fact, plenty of people still don't even understand what rape is and isn't. In a survey published in Violence and Gender, a disturbingly large 13.6 percent of college men said they'd rape a woman if they didn't have to face any punishment — and an even more troubling 32 percent said they'd "force a woman to have sexual intercourse," suggesting that many of them don't realize that's rape. And according to a Washington Post poll, 18 percent of college students think that if somebody doesn't say "no," they've consented to sex.
Of course, in reality, somebody can remain silent and still not consent. Also terrible is that many people don't even recognize their own assaults: 35 percent of people in a Department of Justice survey said they didn't report their sexual assaults because they weren't sure if a crime was committed or harm was intended.
The Oxford University class' naysayers are right in one sense: People aren't necessarily born rapists. But the problem is that through the media, their peers, and toxic masculinity, men (and women as well) get taught to disregard boundaries and consent — and it's a behavior that needs to be actively unlearned. We won't get very far in creating safer campuses if we deny that they're currently unsafe — or that all of us, without realizing it, might contribute to that lack of safety.
To be the most aware and compassionate community members, sexual partners, and potential bystanders that we can be, we all need to address the issues head-on, and classes like Oxford's are a great place to start.
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