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The Endurance of Rape Culture: Why We Need to Teach Consent

  • Opinion

Sofia Moghal, BA History and Southeast Asian Studies

The need to educate on consent and make ourselves aware of the very real prevalence of rape culture is becoming more and more urgent. The extent to which rape is considered a cultural norm is shocking.

It is obvious when athletes convicted of rape are mourned for the “promising futures” that they will no longer have and the victims are branded “career-destroyers”. When politicians such as Todd Atkin believe that woman can prevent rape; stating that “The female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down.” Some argue that statistics are not significant enough to support the idea that rape culture exists in Universities, but popular culture suggests otherwise.

American comedian Amy Schumer recently created the short comedy sketch ‘Football Town Nights’. Using an American college football team obsessed with the idea that playing football necessitates rape, the video does not shy away from rape culture. In it’s absurd and exaggerated dialogue, the video is no longer comedic, but sad in it’s painful truth. I do not believe that the video is particularly funny, but I do believe that is is necessary in bringing attention to the very real issue of rape culture.

Comedy and videos such as Schumer’s are an effective tool to make issues of importance accessible. Videos and hashtags trend both nationally and internationally. Awareness can spread easily. But do these types of videos simply make trivial what should be logic and common sense? How else are we meant to teach on the importance of consent and raise awareness of the prevalence of rape culture?

Last year, in an attempt to address the issues of sexual assault on campus, Oxford University developed a workshop on consent for first years. The introduction read as follows, “consent is a thing now. Apparently it wasn’t always (see Ancient Rome) but now it is.” The comedic approach to the topic is appalling, especially when considered with estimated figures of 37 percent of females and one in five male students victims of sexual harassment at university. The implication that it would be absurd to teach university students about consent, demonstrates how prevalent rape culture actually is. Making the education of consent a joke, allows the continuation of rape culture.

Following this, The Spectator ran a piece in which a student complained that “To negotiate each stage of intimacy through statements of consent — ‘I would just like you to confirm that I have removed your bra and you are not feeling uncomfortable’ — is to kill off seduction.” What is at issue here is the way in which consent is viewed. Why does the student feel as though he must approach consent with the above exaggeration of language. There is an implication of treating the other partner in a patronising manner. These is no awareness of equality. Clearly it is meant to highlight how ridiculous he finds having to seek consent is. Is it absurd that consent workshops need to be introduced for university students?

In October this year, George Lawlor at the University of Warwick remarked that he did not “have to be taught to not be a rapist”. This came in response to an invitation to attend a consent workshop. It was something he found to be “a massive waste of time” because those attending would not be those who would “violate someone’s body”. Whilst it should be encouraging to find that Lawlor is aware of the concrete difference between yes and no, his piece highlights exactly why it is necessary to implement these workshops. There is no such thing as “this is what a rapist looks like”.

For anyone. It is approximated that 4 out of 5 rapes are committed by someone whom the victim knows. Violence and Gender published a survey that stated 32 percent of college men in America would have “intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse” if “nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences” but just 13.6 percent of these men said that they would have “intentions to rape a woman”. So when people recognise a situation as rape, and attach the word to it, they are less likely to commit the crime.


This is exactly why there is a need for consent workshops and their attendance. The recent decision by SOAS to make consent workshops compulsory is essential and more encouraging still is the decision to make education on consent available to school children in the UK, as young as age 11. A step that is required because the indifference to rape culture in pop culture, amongst politicians and university institutions still prevails.

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