Most people in Ireland believe that there is a problem with consent, according to new research commissioned by Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC).
The research is the first national study of its kind and examines attitudes to and understanding of sexual consent in Ireland across all adult age groups. DRCC shared the findings in an online event Wednesday afternoon and also announced a new national project aimed at making consent a national topic of conversation.
DRCC chairperson Anne-Marie Gill said “We in Dublin Rape Crisis Centre have long believed there is a problem with consent in Ireland. This research confirms that that most people — 70 per cent — agree with us. While as a people, we understand the theory of consent, it is not always so clear that this translates to practical understanding.”
'Problem with consent'
The research suggests multiple factors contributing to “our problem with consent” including the belief that consent can be ignored and lack of understanding around the right to withdraw consent.
There are inhibitions around talking about sex candidly and clearly among all age groups, people are unclear about their own sexual likes and dislikes and a quarter are unsure about partner preferences. People lack the confidence to stop an encounter when uncomfortable.
There are many positive indicators: The vast majority (nine in 10 women and eight in 10 men) agree that everyone has the right to change their mind at any point during sex. An overwhelming 84 per cent believe we need age-appropriate sex education in all schools, with 60 per cent saying all society is responsible for consent and need Government action.
However, the research also showed that significant minorities think that having had sex previously, flirting or not clearly objecting all signify willingness to engage in sex.
DRCC chief executive Noeline Blackwell welcomed the new data, she said: “What is also very striking is that the majority of those surveyed recognised the link between equality and consent. Almost three-quarters of them agreed that a better understanding of consent will help equality between women and men, which really gives a strong direction for our work.”
According to Ms Blackwell: “These findings tell us a lot about what people in Ireland understand by consent. DRCC wants to prevent the harm that sexual violence does in our society, and we want to have a strong base of evidence for that work. So this research is a starting point from which we, as a society, can tackle consent and begin to talk about it a lot more.
“We believe that Real Consent In Ireland shows that most people want a country where consent is understood, and where nobody believes that sexual activity without consent is OK. DRCC’s project will see conversations about consent being had in homes, workplaces, clubs and pubs. We want to see conversations about consent being totally normal.”
“This is a long-term initiative where we will work with survivors, individuals and communities across the country, to help us better understand consent and its importance and how to shape our society towards one that does not tolerate sexual violence and sexual coercion,” concluded Ms Blackwell.