TCDSU launched their consent campaign video this afternoon, welcoming Louise O’Neill, author and Irish Book Award winner for her novel ‘Asking for it’ to the event. The screening was held in the Martin Uí Caidhain theatre where the SU outlined their plans for the campaign and O’Neill spoke about the importance of consent.
The short video directed by Bogdan Hrechka and SU communications and marketing officer Aifric Ní Chríodáin was well-received by the audience. Conor Clancy, SU welfare officer, explained that the video was “designed to be non-gender specific” and show that “consent is important everywhere relationships are present”.
The video distinguishes between three different scenarios of sexual experience. Each stress the importance of communication and looking for signs of consent in a relationship.
Results of a SU in 2015 found 25.2% of female students and 4.5% of male students had some form of non-consensual experience. Clancy described this as “the most striking statistic” from the survey.
O’Neill, a former Trinity student, criticised the lack of attention given to consent in the sex education curriculum at second-level. Criticism was also made of sex education in Irish schools by Clancy, who stressed the importance for adolescents to “have a grounded idea of sexuality” which isn’t evidenced by the program to date.
Citing a “brilliant article” article on consent written by SU President Lynn Ruane in the Irish Times recently, O’Neill expressed her surprise at what she called “a backlash” against conversation and education on consent.
Speaking about rape victims, O’Neill told the audience that, contrary to popular belief “a lot of the time the victim will know the perpetrator”. O’Neill explained her view that women are socialised to “be nice and easy-going” and that men can often feel under pressure to persuade partners to engage in sexual activity. She reiterated that “persuasion is not consent” and that “an absence of a no does not mean yes”.
Referring to a non-consensual sexual experience in her own life, O’Neill explained that “I didn’t know it was rape until I was in my twenties”. She explained that even though consent was not clearly communicated, she hadn’t viewed it as rape because of the clothes she was wearing and because alcohol had been consumed.
O’Neill described how she felt the misunderstanding about consent had “begun to feel like an epidemic” for her, mentioning that she receives countless emails from people who have had similar experiences to her own.