It is perhaps logical to educate, or rather re-educate, the population on what consent is through educational establishments themselves.

Yet the term and the accompanying concept have been manipulated and misinterpreted by “lad culture” in universities and a rape culture that permeates through the media into mainstream society. The gradual misconstruing of the word has been the root of the myths that now need to be detangled in order to establish what does and what does not constitute a ‘yes.

This partnership has seen immense amounts of national success simply by opening up a dialogue that previously bordered on taboo. Entitled the ‘I Heart Consent’ campaign, this nationwide initiative has made its way into multiple university campuses; here at Lancaster University, the Feminist Society hosted Consent Week, through which we aimed to inform and educate in a light-hearted, open manner through workshops, stalls, and even a cheeky night out to our Student Union’s club.

However, as is the case with almost any social awareness campaign, critics were quick to denounce our attempts to dissipate the myths that surround consent. To recount an anecdotal episode, when promoting Lancaster University’s Consent Week event on Twitter, I was approached, digitally of course, by a critic who sarcastically highlighted that raising awareness about consent was not the ‘cure’ for rape. Referring to rape in terms of a disease that needs to be cured is problematic in itself, but after my rather reserved reply in which I emphasised that there were misunderstandings surrounding consent, this Twitter user proceeded to tell me that it is simply a case of ‘lots of people having drunk sex they regret.’ I have to tip my hat to him for being the perfect example of why we need to re-educate, and actually recontextualise, what consent is.

Drunk consent is not consent for the primary reason that the person concerned is not sober, and therefore not in the correct mindset to consent. Needless to say, this ideology applies to drug usage too. However, society continues to victim-blame, whilst the perpetrators themselves, who are, in most cases, less intoxicated than their victims, are discretely taken out of the limelight. How can we possibly re-establish the true meaning of healthy, consensual sex when our social context itself is littered with such juxtapositions? Perhaps, then, we have to question what we think healthy relationships are before we question what consent is.

Written by Sharlene Ghandi

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