Results from a recent survey undertaken by the UCD Students’ Union on sex and consent has shown that 71% of respondents felt “introducing consent workshops to campus was important.”
Overall 3,857 students took part in the survey, with the number who answered each question varying.
On the topic of consent 43% out of 1,454 students said they felt “asking for consent is awkward”.
When asked how they themselves convey or ask for consent with a potential sexual partner, 72% of respondents say they use “non-verbal cues or gestures” to indicate they wanted to have sex with someone.
But a large majority of surveyed students felt more information was needed on the topic around their college campus. Out of over 1,865 students 74% said providing “talks and information sessions” on consent and sexual harassment was important.
Similarly, 76% of students stated that they thought short online videos from the UCD Students’ Union on the topic of consent and other issues like sexual harassment would be beneficial.
A spokesperson from the UCD Students’ Union said that the figures were not surprising given the poor quality of sexual health education at secondary school level in Ireland. “We’re shown how to put on a condom but there’s no chat about the situation where you might need to use that knowledge” he said.
The spokesperson said the Students’ Union in UCD would be running discussion workshops on campus where students “talk about their general attitudes to sex and how easy it is, or not, to ask for consent.”
The SU will also be lobbying the university authority to consider introducing a module on the topic of consent and sexual harassment the source claimed.
The Students’ Union President Conor Viscardi said the workshops would be set up to debate the sometimes difficult questions facing young people when it comes to sex and consent, like grey areas around alcohol consumption. Questions like – “How many drinks can you take and still legally consent? Can you legally consent if you’ve taken ecstasy?” explained Viscardi.
“These workshops aren’t about telling people what to think, they’re about asking the questions that don’t yet have an answer in law but really need one” he concluded.
Elaine Byrnes is a doctoral researcher in NUI Galway, who studies sexual consent in the college environment. As part of her research she has run consent workshops in both UCD and NUIG.
Byrnes said while workshops on consent were hugely important for college students, the perception of them as patronising classes or lectures was damaging.
“There’s a fundamental difference between a consent workshop and a consent class. Class insinuates people have something to learn, and we do have a lot to learn about consent and communication”, but the name gives people the wrong idea she stated.
Byrnes outlined that her ‘Smart Consent’ workshops were designed to be “peer led, and interactive”. “Nobody really wants to listen to me standing in front of them for two hours lecturing about consent, lecturing is not what we’re about” she claimed.
The breakdown of which students took part in the UCD survey varied between schools. The largest group of students who responded belonged to the Arts & Human Science, who made up 29% of respondents. After that 19% of students said they studied Science and 14% were in Social Science & Law. 7% of those who took part were from Ag Science and Vet, 8% were in Health Science, and 9% were studying Business. The remaining 14% of those surveyed studied either Engineering or Architecture.
Trinity College Dublin has this year rolled out consent workshops for its students who live in campus residencies or ‘Halls’.
Jack Power | Editor