A worrying number of young people think you can’t withdraw consent when you’re naked
New research shows there's still a long way to go when it comes to understanding of sexual consent
In a new study by the FPA (Family Planning Association), 39% of people aged 14-17 didn’t think it was ok to withdraw consent while naked. Additionally, 45% of young people said they learned about sexual consent from TV and film, rather than a trusted source on sexual health and relationships education or an accurate representation of real life.
The FPA surveyed more than 2,000 people about knowledge and experiences of consent, which is this year’s theme for their annual sexual health week (24-30 September 2018).
The study – which also found that only 13% would feel comfortable discussing consent with a partner – also looked into where people have been educated about consent, with 38% of those asked learning about it from TV or film (this figure increased to 45% in 18-24 year olds).
Using this information, the sexual health charity has provided examples of films where they think a healthy illustration of consent is shown, and some where they believe it’s not. For a film to pass the consent test, they had to:
- Show consent being verbally given
- Demonstrate no coercion of any kind
- Show no characters as drunk or on drugs
- Contain no underage characters
- Show characters giving verbal and non-verbal cues that they wanted to actually have sex
- The films that passed the test
Though it might be a children’s film, it’s never too early to educate young people on consent. The FPA lauded Frozen with depicting consent right when Kristoff exclaims, “I could kiss you… I mean I’d like to. May I, may we?” Anna then kisses him on the cheek and confirms “We may.”
Cult teen favourite 10 Things I Hate About You was also praised for when Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) refuses to kiss Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles) because she’s too drunk to give consent – evident by her dancing on tables to ‘Hypnotize’ and banging her head on a chandelier.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World was also considered a film that shows a good example of consent when Ramona changes her mind about having sex with Scott while they are in bed kissing. For his part, Scott responds: “OK, well this is nice. Just this,” immediately accepting she’s changed her mind and not pressuring her or making her feel guilty.
Films that didn’t pass the consent test
The James Bond film Goldfinger has been deemed a bad example of consent. ‘There’s a very uncomfortable scene that sees James Bond corner Pussy Galore in a barn,’ the FPA says. ‘He prevents her from leaving, throwing her to the floor and wrestling to pin her down. Pussy tells him she’s not interested, physically fights him off, and does her best to avoid his kiss before relenting.’ (Former Bond Girl, Madeline Smith, recently disputed the suggestion James Bond should ask for verbal consent).
Another film, often considered the ultimate love story, which doesn’t portray consent well, according to the FPA is The Notebook: ‘In trying to convince Ally to go on a date with him, Noah uses coercive tactics. He is persistent and pressuring when he climbs a ferris wheel at the fairground and threatens to let go if she doesn’t go on a date with him, despite her previous disinterest.
“This dramatic gesture and inability to take ‘no’ as an answer – minus Ryan Gosling as distraction – is actually harassment and coercion.”
Finally, the FPA considers Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back a poor example because of the scene where Princess Leia falls into Han Solo’s lap on a spaceship hit by turbulence and has to ask three times for him to let her go.
“Later in the film, he forces a kiss upon her. Han approaches Leia from behind while she’s working and puts his arms around her, to which she physically shoves him backwards away from her,” says the FPA.
“He begins rubbing her hands when she asks him not to, and backs her into a corner with nowhere to escape. He even notices that she’s trembling, but continues and kisses her in the middle of her sentence. Leia sneaks away as soon as the kiss is interrupted. There’s no evidence here that Leia wants or invites any of Han’s advances, but he ignores her verbal and non-verbal.”
Following ongoing discussions around best practices when it comes to sex and relationships education, the government has recently proposed introducing the topic of consent into the classroom.
In July, the department of education pledged what they would like to see in a new, updated statutory sex and relationships school curriculum. It highlights that young people will be taught the concepts of consent and how to deal with peer pressure both on and offline. By the end of secondary school, pupils should know that they have a choice to delay sex or enjoy intimacy without sex, and that there are a range of strategies for identifying and managing sexual pressures.
Natika Halil, the chief executive of the FPA, said: “It’s been encouraging to see the cultural shift in society over the past year, with calls for better understanding of and respect for consent. But it’s really worrying that people of all ages think that it’s not OK to withdraw consent in a range of situations. It’s always OK to say no to sexual activity that you’re not comfortable with, whatever the situation – and is equally important to listen to and respect your partner if they want to stop.”
For further information and advice on anything to do with sex and relationships, visit the FPA’s website.
From: ELLE UK