Consent at UCD ran its first event of the school year on October 2nd. While planning an event on campus is not usually done in a 24hr turnaround we are proud of our accomplishments and plan to make it a recurring event. Students are happy to discuss consent as a topic, its role on campus and in their lives in exchange for a free cup of tea or coffee and a penguin biscuit.
One of our main goals is to end the culture of silence and shame around consent awareness. There is no trick to avoiding consent violations. No course and no strategy to implement. Consent applies to all areas of your life, not just sexual interactions. Consent violations can occur in little ways when your flatmate finishes your milk without asking and you find an empty carton in the fridge with no apology (or replacement!). Consent violations can occur when you walk down the street and someone catcalls you or tries to follow you. While these things might seem minor (or ‘microaggressions’) they can add up over time and begin to weigh on you.
Consent at UCD works with Hard Target, a Dublin based company focused on self-defence to offer free workshops once a semester. The point of these workshops isn’t something you could have done differently if you had been trained. Not only because it blames the victim as if it was their fault for not knowing, but it also places any future blame onto them. They’ve had the training, they should know better. Consent at UCD and consent groups around the world fully reject this notion. Self-defence isn’t about protecting yourself from what could happen. Self-defence helps increase our awareness of our surroundings, put us on alert to be less passive in our daily lives. These things can help in a multitude of ways, whether you are aware of a dodgy person on the bus and you don’t want to sit next to them or potentially avoid an angry person on the street because you recognised warning signs and trusted your instincts.
In addition to our work with Hard Target, we are attempting to implement consent workshops throughout UCD. Recently the SU started showing the “Consent: As Simple as Tea” video during orientation and we could not be happier. That video is well known and a great introduction to the concepts of consent. Do we want to use workshops to open a discussion about what happens outside the video? This is often called the ‘grey area’ of consent. The tea video leaves questions like, “What if someone is adamant that they want tea but they’re in a blackout and you give them tea anyway?” What does it mean if someone is consenting but lacked the capacity to consent because they were not sober? We know not to give tea to an unconscious person and to not give tea to someone who declines or changes their mind…but what about other times?
A 2015 article by Spiked author Cathy Young articulates exactly why the Consent as Tea video is a great start, but lacking overall at explaining the ‘grey area’ parts. What happens if you really want to give someone tea? What happens if you try to convince them they should have tea, even if they’re uncertain? What if they came over to your house for tea but changed their mind? Is it okay to still ask them to have tea? What if you were looking forward to making tea for them and you’re disappointed that they are not sure if they want tea?
These are just a few of the questions we explore at Consent at UCD. Consent as a concept is growing and changing all the time. It’s incredibly important in the states with Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh. It’s important in Europe with the Belfast trial earlier this year, the ‘wolf pack’ verdict of not guilty in Spain. Consent covers everything from the moment you get up until you go to sleep. You might not think about it like that, but the transactional nature of human interactions are built on foundations of consent. Whether it’s being nice to your barista, working on a cleaning rota in your flat, going out for a night, getting in a taxi or in your relationship. There is no wrong way to decide these questions as long as there is mutual and enthusiastic consent.
Consent at UCD wants to bring consent workshops, conversations, coffee mornings, self-defence classes and more to increase awareness and improve your university experience. You can keep in touch with us @consentucd or on facebook.
By Consent At UCD