Tag Archives: rape

#SexIndustryWeek: Dworkin was right about porn

It is 2014. A twelve-year-old boy rapes his 7-year-old sister after watching hardcore pornography. Should this be a feminist issue? Judging by the lack of any mainstream feminist response, no. Perhaps once it would have been, but not today.

We’ve grown too worldly wise for moral panic. No longer are feminists shouty, sexless beings, piecing together a politics based on exception, exaggeration and fear. Terrible things happen to women and girls but when it comes to blame (such an awful word!) we are circumspect. Men rape women, boys rape girls, but it’s nothing to do with how we represent sex. It’s nothing to do with the stories we tell our children. Hatred of women just is.

The 1980s backlash taught me well. I grew up thinking all radical feminists were anti-sex and anti-men. Absorbing the “generational model” of feminism, in which each wave improves upon the last, I chose not to be like my predecessors. I wanted to be “normal” – not vanilla, no-sex-before-marriage normal, but normal in the way a woman should be, before social conditioning teaches her she must not enjoy a good fuck. Open mind, open heart, open legs. I’m not sure why I assumed normality  – the “real” version – would be so sex-centric but this felt important. Any criticism of the sex industry or objectification struck me as bigoted and almost pathologically wrong. If you reject the virgin/whore paradigm, what else is there to fear? Why not simply embrace all that is left?

It’s only recently I’ve admitted the answer to myself. Because what’s left is pretty awful, that’s why. Much as we’d like to see sexism as an historical hangover, it remains active and powerful. Liberation does not come through insisting that rape and other forms of violence against women have no cultural context. Feminism has to do more than simply polish patriarchy’s turds.

Sex is just sex. It should not be taboo. And yet at some point, feminists need to ask themselves, “why are things still so fucked up? Why are women considered less human than men?” It’s not random. It’s to do with power and it’s to do with bodies. It’s to do with fundamental beliefs about what women are for and pornography and sex work feed into this.

In a recent Times column, David Aaranovitch was scathing of those who find sex work problematic, claiming that these people – let’s be honest, these women – believe “sex is either something that binds people together, a couply superglue, or else a terrible force for entropy, sending the moral universe into a spin”. This is utter bullshit. Sex is just fucking, David, no more and no less. If we are to form parallels with religious fundamentalists, the religion in play here is not some anti-sex puritanism, but the unquestioning worship of gender norms which repeatedly screw women over. This is the problem; it always has been.

Aaranovitch asks whether “we believe that some women (and men) can choose to buy or sell sexual services without somehow being lesser people,” suggesting that there’s an invisible army of sex negative feminists on hand who’d say “no”.  As Michaele L Ferguson notes, this thinking – at root patriarchal and conservative – tries to frogmarch feminists towards the “honey trap” which sees sex work purely in terms of individual choice and argues that not to endorse the choices of sex workers – whatever their implications – means siding with the men who abuse them. It is of course nonsense but it prevents us from asking uncomfortable questions about the relationship between arousal, cultural conditioning and oppression. It means men such as David Baddiel – offering Aaranovitch a twitter backslap for his “brilliant column on body usage rights” – are seen as more progressive than feminists who view sex workers and porn stars, not as mere bodies to use, but as human beings, whose decisions can be criticised in the same way as everyone else’s.

In Women-Hating Right and Left, Andrea Dworkin calls out the way in which pornography is granted a special “get out of misogyny free” card because it makes people come:

“Those who think that woman hating is all right—they’re not feminists. They’re not. Those who think that it’s all right sometimes, here and there, where they like it, where they enjoy it, where they get off on it—especially sexually— they’re not feminists either. And the people who think that woman hating is very bad some places, but it’s all right in pornography because pornography causes orgasm, are not feminists.”

Dworkin was right, and it’s annoying that she’s right, given the things that might turn us on. I’m only human, too. I don’t want to be Andrea Dworkin; I’d much rather be Belle de frigging Jour. But I want to participate in feminism with my eyes open and I’m not so prudish about what happens to women that I’ll insist we turn off the lights.

Sex is not frightening. It is just flesh touching flesh, going into flesh, moving and feeling. An orgasm is an orgasm, a penis a penis, an orifice an orifice, a tongue a tongue. Nothing to be scared of. It is what it is.

What we fear is violence and abuse. That’s why we don’t call out misogyny. That’s why we don’t question the context of sexual exchange. That’s why the real taboo – the thing that we skirt around – is a feminism that seeks neither appeasement nor accommodation, but change.

VJD Smith (Glosswitch) is a lifelong feminist and mother of two who edits language books when she’s not tied up with parenting, blogging and ranting.  Find out more @Glosswitch or glosswatch.com

We are 100% crowdfunded, with no advertising, so we only survive if people join as Members or donate. If you enjoyed this article and want to support this site, become a member by clicking the badge below…

join-us

Or donate a one off amount…



flattr this!

Profile: My Body Back Project

Yesterday we received an anonymous message from a woman who cannot find the words to tell anybody what happened to her, so she cuts herself instead.

She described this as her “silent scream.”

The incredibly honest and moving message, which is two paragraphs long, continues: “It’s how I tell the world what happened to me, without saying anything.”

Before her, a woman called ‘R’ wrote to us with an articulate account of life with an eating disorder after a childhood marred with sexual violence.

“I felt so powerless that I have spent seven years trying to starve myself,” she said.

“I can’t tell my doctors why because they would not understand what happened to me and would tell my parents. This is my first step because I am anonymous.”

These are two of many messages we have received in the past fortnight, when me and my friend Yas Necati started the My Body Back Project.

The project welcomes female survivors of sexual violence to share their stories, of how they feel towards their bodies and sex. In two weeks, we have received an array of messages which highlight how deeply and differently survivors are affected. Women have anonymously written in about sex with their boyfriends and girlfriends, the “pressure” they have been under to perform sexually, “dissociating” from their bodies, feeling guilty about their sexual fantasies, orgasm, not being able to have sex, not wanting sex, sex addiction, eating disorders, and self-harm.

I started it because I struggled for years after rape – not just emotionally – but by projecting those feelings onto my physicality. For many years I was too nervous to stand up in a room full of people in case anyone looked at my body, felt too vulnerable to wear anything that wasn’t baggy, or even admit that any of this was happening, because I was meant to be “over it”.

There were no instructions, just the feeling of being shattered physically, even after I’d glued back the vital emotional pieces. There were no answers. But from reading the stories of women across the world who have written in to the project, it’s clear that none of us have answers. We don’t necessarily want somebody else’s prescribed solution either, but we do want to be heard. We do want to rip apart patriarchy’s notion that women’s bodies and sex are manufactured products to satisfy the male gaze.

In reality, 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either “intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence”, according to the World Health Organisation. Our relationships with our bodies and sex are deeply affected by the violence we have battled, and the scars we still live with. We want to be able to talk about that.

For those who have the privilege of disregarding the consequences of sexual violence in their daily lives, the stories shared as part of My Body Back Project will make for uncomfortable reading. But it is honest and real. There is no guidance that any of the women who write to us can offer, because for each of us, our experiences are different. But they do break the silence that surrounds sexual violence, sex, desire – and how that all fits together for survivors. It’s something that’s often not spoken about, perhaps because women are taught not to talk about sex or their own pleasure.

We hope that’s something that will change, and we’re hopeful. In the first fortnight of the project, we have had heartwarming support. Rape Crisis England and Wales, Rape Crisis Scotland and Rape Crisis Ireland have been wonderfully encouraging. The brilliant poet Hollie McNish; MP Caroline Lucas; all of our friends at No More Page Three; the Everyday Sexism Project; AnyBody UK; artist Sarah Maple; and two activists we admire, Caroline Criado-Perez and Feminist Times Contributing Editor Reni Eddo-Lodge, are just some of the wonderful women who have sent in beautiful messages of support.

In the near future we will be campaigning about issues we feel are important but overlooked. We will also be running a monthly group for survivors of sexual violence at Sh! Women’s Emporium.

To keep up to date please follow us on twitter @mybodybackproj and have a look at our website www.mybodyback-survivors.blogspot.co.uk

We are 100% crowdfunded, with no advertising, so we only survive if people join as Members or donate. If you enjoyed this article and want to support this site, become a member by clicking the badge below…

join-us

Or donate a one off amount…



flattr this!

After Abuse: The Noise of the Unsaid

This article was originally published by Media Diversified. Editor’s note: The article contains interviews with anonymous victims of child sexual abuse, framed by the writer’s own story, following her previous article on being raped. 

I was about eleven when my mother asked me in hushed whispers if what my little brother said was true. He had seen a man slip his hand down my shirt. I didn’t know how to talk about what I didn’t understand and I was ashamed and angry. So my brother did the talking. With innocence, he described how a man — hired by my family to teach us how to chant the divine verses – had abused me.

It happened during a lesson. I was focused on reciting an alien language when a clammy hand touched my breast. I jumped, instinctively biting his hand and tearing off a clump of his beard. He screamed and told me I was possessed. Then he walked off, leaving me with the remnants of facial hair. And my demons.

“It’s not true, is it?” asked my Mother. Seeing the fear and shame in her eyes was too much. “It’s not true,” I lied, to stop feeling like I was suddenly naked. The candy pink walls of my room imprisoned everything that remained unsaid.

I had written a first person account of being a rape survivor. After it was finally published, I realised I had unlocked a portal of imprisoned stories: overwhelming, horrifying demons that haunted so many people around me. My abuser was wrong. I am not possessed. I thank the writer Neil Gaiman for helping me understand I am one of “the dispossessed …those who have fallen through the cracks.”

I have spoken to others who have been abused, those who have yet to find the release from where acceptance is claimed. There are no happy endings and clean resolutions for fractured bodies and souls, but letting the cracks show will make life with the noise of demons easier to bear. These stories are part of a city that functions with its innate dysfunction. Karachi, my hometown, is the bearer of horrors. It is also, in so many ways, a reflection of the resilience that structures the stories. Karachi is a city that refuses to give up.

I Was Made To Give Him Blowjobs

S* was angry. The kind of anger that festers like gangrene. Yet she held on to her fury. She sat across me and declared that she was a victim. She refused to be positive, refused to associate herself with survivors. She was still battling with her demons. Her war was far from over.

“I don’t know how it started. He was always there, watching. Until one day I was asked to take my clothes off.

“He’s my mother’s brother, but I can’t bear the thought of him; I disassociated in any way.”

I had nothing to say. Her story was absurd.

“Obviously it wasn’t as bad as your experience,” she told me.

Each one of us carried our own private hells within. The torment was incomparable.

“I don’t remember when and how it started, I just know I grew up thinking it happened to everyone. Even if it was something I hated, it was my normal.”

*

We were discussing the pros and cons of being in a nudist colony when R* listed the trauma of an employee in her house watching her everyday as she showered. She shrugged it off, throwing in the details here and there as she drove on. She stopped looking at herself for a few years: “I just can’t decide if violating a twelve-year-old’s private space is okay or not. It wasn’t nice to feel threatened every time I took off my clothes.”

She missed her turn and drove onto a street that neither of us knew existed before. We were both so lost.

*

When J* decided to tell me about his stepfather I was a bit apprehensive. He works as a speech therapist for children with special needs. He has the rare ability to not look like an idiot when communicating with children. I asked him if he thought I would lack empathy, because he is a guy. Later I discovered that anal rape of a six-year-old is beyond gendered spaces.

“I have to begin to make sense of the violation of trust, the idea of being robbed of my childhood home as a safe place, in order to get to the physical.

“When I think about it now, it’s as if I am standing outside a boy’s bedroom window and watching.”

I ask him if he wants to step in and stop what’s happening.

“No. There is a vacuum where pain, horror and anger should be. Nothing compels me to go in and beat the man my mother trusted her child with.

“I know I probably come across as a text book case study of child abuse — blocking out my own emotions, channelling them here.”

“Well. Yes…”

He laughed and turned back to the kid tugging at his shirt.  I told him that the wisdom he possessed, both his broken and functioning selves, warrants a separate book.

“I’m twenty-eight. I can’t articulate beyond what I told you. The book will be as empty as the man who stands outside the window and feels nothing.”

*

I was ten when I got my period. The pain and the sight of blood triggered something. I saw myself under a man trying to push himself inside me. Before that I was too ashamed to even peek behind a dark curtain because I was convinced I had imagined the whole thing. The reality of pain and blood was a sign of another reality.

When I started transcribing these stories I assumed it would be easy. After I ‘came out’ as a rape victim, the reactions started to pour in. From being asked if I had lost all sense of shame and propriety, to a colleague coming up to me and shaking my hand for being brave enough to talk about what most people won’t. I was humbled, overwhelmed and stunned by what I had set in motion. I was one of the dispossessed, those who are alone because parts of us are missing, yet share fractured memories with other people.

Most of the people I talked to could not piece together their abuse in a clear and linear way. Their minds protected what their bodies had gone through. As I went along listening to people fighting, surviving, breaking down, living, giving up, I realized how the structure of our DNA is so similar. I used the horror of rape, abuse and violation as fuel to ignore my demons. I arrived at a place where I fought with myself for a space that only belonged to my grief. I used my broken parts to construct a self that functioned like a Rubik’s cube. It reshaped into something unsolvable at the first sign of danger.

The extremes of violence and violation we survived turned us into hunted animals. But we were strong enough to claw for life.

*

S* and I realised that neither of us can piece together our stories in a linear way. We don’t have the luxury. Our fractured memories have made our minds into a puzzle, there are pieces missing, pieces that don’t fit.

*

 A* was diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder after she passed out the day her boyfriend proposed to her. He had crept up behind her and put his hands on her eyes to give her a ring. She stopped breathing before she passed out. In her early thirties she is in CBT that helps her explain the anxiety after abuse that occurred nearly twenty-one years ago.

A man took her to the neighbourhood park and put his hands over her eyes as he made her fondle him.

“I was made to give him blowjobs.”

After Abuse

There are so many untold stories. The solid walls, coloured and fixed every time a fractured memory starts to come up for air, die out because the rooms are perfectly cemented. What is beginning to chip away, however, is the silence; the language that was missing is slowly coming together. It is basic in its expression, almost childlike. What adds nuance is the ability to express emotions. And there is a vast spectrum of anger, grief, acceptance and, even, humour about abuse! What takes away from the purity of this language is the stage whispers. They were hushed once, now they have a theatrical quality.

I hope my story will help clear the murky darkness of what remains unsaid and silence the noise heard after abuse.

Amna Iqbal works as a Visual Journalist at The Express Tribune in Karachi, Pakistan. As she tried to do away with labels of class, sects, religion and gender, she has landed in an undefined space where she is making her way around falling off severe hand-me-down templates of dos and don’t s. Her work today encompasses her creative practice as a designer, writer, a journalist and a woman in a state of constant discomfort. Find out more on her website Off The Grid or follow: @amna_iqb.

Photo: OUCHcharley

We are 100% crowdfunded, with no advertising, so we only survive if people join as Members or donate. If you enjoyed this article and want to support this site, become a member by clicking the badge below…

join-us

Or donate a one off amount…




flattr this!

Cameron and Rape Porn

This article is a personal response outlining concerns over the so-called “Rape Porn” law from a feminist BDSM perspective. We asked South London Rape Crisis for a response which you can read here.

Under David Cameron’s new ‘rape porn’ law, which comes into force in 2014, anyone who possesses pornography depicting rape can face up to three years in jail. The law will broaden the definition of possession to include viewing the material online, and will cover content including simulated rape, such as rape play – a popular practice among consenting adults in the BDSM community.

Those engaging in rape play face a punishment potentially as severe as those committing sexual violence. It is already illegal to commit rape, to document it, and to post it online. Any attempt to stop people watching it is not only unenforceable but will make no difference to criminals committing crime. Once again we are witnessing the attempts of men to exercise control over our agency, choice and desire. Women are not objectified or abused purely because of pornography; sexual violence existed long before the invention of the nipple clamp.

The move is a media-friendly token gesture. It is arguable that banning pornography does not equate to fewer rapists. Rather, the law will most likely end up punishing those watching simulated rape play – despite the fact that, in these videos, consent is consistently much clearer than in ‘vanilla’ pornography.

As Zoe Stavri pointed out in The Independent: “Within BDSM porn, there is often a short interview between the performers discussing what they would like to do, and what they would not like to do, and how they can signal that they want the scene to stop if need be.” In this way, does simulated rape contribute to a culture of sexual violence more than vanilla mainstream pornography?

A “dominant sadist and educator” and rape play teacher, Frozen M, wrote on Kinky.com: “Rape play is about power, but it is a negotiated exchange of power to enable the people involved to act out their fantasies in a consensual and empowering manner.” In rape play, the appeal is that we submit out of desire rather than fear. We allow ourselves to be used for sexual gratification, partly because we too gain sexual gratification from it, but also because we, for various reasons, no longer wish to be in control.

Under Cameron’s law, these consenting adults and those wishing to view them are considered just as criminal as those performing criminal acts of rape. It contributes to a culture where consent is disregarded through the guise of protecting us from rape.

Cameron says he is attempting to protect women from sexual violence, but ultimately the majority of porn is violent for women. Rather than pushing the problem into a darkened corner and hoping it will go away, we need to address the root: banning so-called sexual taboos would pale into insignificance compared to a wholesale crackdown on human trafficking, or a more trustworthy and reliable police response when it comes to rape, or education for young people about the lines of consent.

We must also account for the difference between rapists and those watching rape porn. Sexual violence is a form of social control and it is ultimately political, not biological. Rape is about power, and rarely about sex. Those engaging with simulated rape porn do so for sexual gratification – is it up to us to pass judgement on their choice of stimulation?

Many of the things that we find abhorrent in life are the things we find sexiest in the bedroom. If a woman engages in BDSM, does that stop her being a feminist? And if a man watches rape porn, does that mean he is a rapist, or likely to become one? The casual dismissal of a difference between rape and consenting adults engaging in a rape fantasy undermines our capacity for choice and our autonomy over our bodies. Whether we understand the reasons for engaging in rape play or not, it is not for David Cameron, or any other man, to decide for us.

Daisy Bata is a feminist film critic, journalist, writer and film maker. You can find her most recent reviews at www.girlwiththefilmblog.blogspot.com

Image courtesy of DFID

If you enjoyed this article and want to meet other feminists like, and unlike, yourself, join Feminist Times as a Member. Join us and support the building of an incredible feminist organisation and resources like this website.

flattr this!

#16Days: Save Edinburgh Rape Crisis

It’s no secret that domestic violence and rape crisis services have suffered enormously from funding cuts since the 2010 election; Edinburgh Women’s Rape & Sexual Abuse Centre is no exception.

The centre, like many others, faces an ongoing funding crisis. Prior to Spring 2013 it had received £500,000 over five years from a large funder. When this funding ended, EWRASAC struggled to secure additional funding for more than a year, despite demand for its services being greater than ever. The Centre supported 416 service users last year, and has a 12 month waiting list. 75 per cent of its frontline support and counselling services are at risk of closure when current funding streams end in May 2014.

EWRASAC supporters are holding a fundraising event on Thursday 5 December at the Counting House pub, Old Town, Edinburgh, as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence (link). The event will include a Ted Talk-style discussion with Ragged University about the difference rape crisis organisations make to survivors, and a presentation by Julian Pearly entitled “Beyond Words: From Music to Cinema, An Interactive Story”. There will also be a charity auction and raffle with over 50 prizes, and a vintage clothes swap, with all proceeds going straight to EWRASAC.

Nina, a service user fundraising on behalf of EWRASAC, said: “The centre helped me regain my dignity, understand what happened to me was not my fault and gave me the resources and courage to do what is right. The staff are kind, non-judgmental and highly professional. There are so many vulnerable people who need services like these and it is tragic the centre is suffering the problems that it is.”

EWRASAC is the only rape crisis centre in Edinburgh and the Lothian and, on 26 November, celebrated its 35th Anniversary with a special event held at the Scottish Parliament, hosted by Malcolm Chisholm MSP.

The centre offers free and confidential emotional and practical support, information and advocacy to women, girls over 12, and all members of the transgender community who have been affected by sexual violence including rape, sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse and ritual abuse.

Their specialised services include group and individual therapy, email and helpline support, complementary therapy, relaxation, music and art therapy, alcohol counselling, and helpline support for male survivors. They provide information and advocacy for survivors to engage with the criminal justice service, access to emergency safe accommodation, sexual health services and medical assessments. They also offer personal safety classes, English and Sign Language interpreters, information services translated into eight languages and designed to be accessible for the deaf, and home visits for those with limited mobility.

Find out more about the Save EWRASAC campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and sign their petition on Change.org.

If you have been affected by rape or sexual abuse, you can call Edinburgh Women’s Rape And Sexual Abuse Centre‘s helpline on 0131 556 9437.

If you’re outside of Edinburgh, call Rape Crisis Scotland on 08088 01 03 02 or Rape Crisis England and Wales on 0808 802 9999.

If you enjoyed this article and want to meet other feminists like, and unlike, yourself, join Feminist Times as a Member. Join us and support the building of an incredible feminist organisation and resources like this website.

flattr this!

VIDEO: Rape is Rape in any language

A powerful video campaign, ‘Rape is Rape in any language’, was launched yesterday by Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC), in collaboration with Coventry City Council.

Dianne Whitfield, CRASAC Chief Officer said: “This is the first ever campaign in Coventry that focusses on the victims and survivors and their needs. It is trying to talk directly to them, as well as educate people who may not be aware of the dreadful trauma rape and sexual abuse causes.

“In that sense it is quite ground-breaking. I hope that people really get involved in the campaign, spreading the message that rape is rape in any language and is acceptable in none.”

CRASAC’s key campaign aim is to dispel the myths and stereotypes around rape and sexual violence in their community and let people know that support is available if they want it.

“The intention is to use this video in police stations, GP surgeries, schools, universities, A&E, walk-in centres and businesses, and this video is the starting point to build from. We intend to move forward using different languages and picking out particular themes for specific audience groups,” said CRASAC’s Development Officer, Sarah Learmonth.

“We hope that this video will have an impact across our entire community, which is richly diverse, and deliver the message that victims and survivors of sexual violence are never to blame.”

‘Rape is Rape in any language’ launched yesterday, Thursday 7 November, at Coventry’s Shop Front Theatre, with help from Councillor Ann Lucas, Leader of Coventry City Council and lead member of the Sexual Violence and Exploitation Strategic Partnership.

Cllr Ann Lucas said: “It is incredibly important that we raise awareness of what rape and sexual abuse really means, so that those who have been affected can come forward and receive the support they need.

“I hope that the campaign and its incredibly powerful messages educate people on the scale of rape and sexual abuse, and what needs to be done to prevent it.”

The launch event saw the first public viewings of the ‘Rape is Rape in any language’ DVD. The audience also heard from a survivor of sexual violence, and the actors who appear in the film explained why they got involved in the campaign and what is was like narrating stories based on survivors’ real life experiences.

Coventry Bears Rugby League Team have also been key supporters of the campaign. Player Demetrius Gonsalves appears in the opening scene of the video and spoke at yesterday’s launch. In a statement on their website, club director Alan Robinson said: “We were very happy to support the City Council and CRASAC through their development of the campaign. A number of our players spent time learning about how serious the issue is in the city and were passionate about supporting such a good cause. Prop forward Demo Gonsalves in particular went on to support the project in the video and media campaign and has been commended for his input.

“Rape and sexual abuse is a sensitive subject but a hugely important one to raise.  Anyone can prevent or assist in highlighting situations which could lead to rape and sexual abuse and through working with CRASAC and indeed the RFL we hope to educate our players and staff and then be able to pass on workshop training to people within the community to help make a difference.”

CRASAC’s campaign can be followed on Twitter through the hashtag #rapeisrape.

CrasacCoventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (CRASAC) has been established for 32 years, providing free services to women and girls, men and boys, aged 5 and above, in Coventry, who are victims or survivors of sexual violence and abuse either now or in the past. They provide a helpline, counselling service, therapy groups for adults and children, an outreach service for black and ethnic minority groups as well as young people, support and advocacy for those who choose to go through the criminal justice system, and address the effects of sexual violence in a safe environment.

CRASAC supports over 5,000 victims of rape and abuse through all their services and that number increases every year.

Their helpline is open to women, men & children, their families & supporters on 02476 277777

Opening times: Mon-Fri 10-2pm & Mon & Thurs 6-8pm

www.crasac.org.uk

flattr this!

Campaign 4 Consent logo

Campaign 4 Consent

The Campaign for Consent started off as a conversation between three teenagers. We felt, as young people and schoolchildren, that perhaps there ought to be something in our curriculum about sexual assault, something that one in three girls experience in UK schools, but only 15% speak out about.

I can’t speak on behalf of fellow campaigners, Lili and Georgia, but I’ve been a victim of sexual assault myself. What was apparently just “harmless fun” had a detrimental effect on the way I would view my body for the next few years, my mental health and my trust in others. I was 12 years old. My assault happened in a classroom environment. For all those reasons and many more, I don’t believe consent should be made a required part of the UK’s Sex Education curriculum, I believe it has to be.

Walking down the corridors in my secondary school last year, I would hear at least three rape jokes a day. People would refer to rape as a substitute for other words, laughing as they did so. “lol it’s like he’s raping her!” “you just got raped!” “haha what a rapist!” … at least three times a day. Girls were catcalled in the canteen, compared to Page 3 models in the common rooms, made to witness boys huddling round computer screens, watching pornography in the library (until the teacher told them off, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less damaging). Sometimes boys would watch porn at the back of the classroom on their phones and nobody said or did anything.

I believe the porn culture of today is causing sexual assault to become even more common. We’ve seen the detrimental effects pornography can have on young people’s relationships with their own bodies and with other people. School is becoming a more and more scary place – for younger girls especially – when it comes to sexual mistreatment and disrespect.

We, like so many other young people, have been victims and observers. But it’s not just limited to us. At the moment, one in five women will experience sexual harassment in her lifetime. Education is a vital tool in bringing this statistic down.

By putting consent into the curriculum we will give young people the knowledge and the power to stop something that has affected so many for far too long. We will give a voice to the 85% of serious sexual assault victims who never go to the police. If we make ourselves heard now, we’ll give hope to a future generation, and start paving the road to change.

 

Yas Necati is a 17-year-old activist, campaigning for better sex education with 15-year-olds Georgia Luckhurst and Lili Evans. You can read more about their campaign at http://campaign4consent, or find out more @YasNecati.

flattr this!