There is a culture amongst heterosexual men that any sexual encounter is a good one, and that they have either “scored” or “pulled”. This culture insults both men and women; it casts men as boors who only want sex and want it all the time, and it casts women as innocent creatures who must be persuaded or tricked into having sex. Instead, we need to see everyone for who they are – people who sometimes want sex and sometimes don’t. Anyone can be assaulted and it’s an issue for all of us.
So what can we, as men, do about it? We can protect our friends – male and female – from others who are not as consent-conscious as ourselves. On a night out, if they are going home with someone we can just check in to make sure they are happy, clear-headed and confident enough to say no if they want to. If a stranger is “just taking them home to look after them” then you can graciously take your friend off their hands and let them enjoy their night.
So how can we promote sexual consent for others? Firstly we can examine our own behaviors and make sure we are the best role models we can be for our peers. Is this person actually into me or am I harassing them? Does this person really want sex or am I pressuring them? Even if they do want to have sex, are they too drunk to consent? Am I too drunk to tell? Could this wait until morning when we’ve both sobered up?
When it comes to our male friends, there’s no need to make a scene and call them out if you think they are acting inappropriately. Just point out to them that the person they are grinding on is really not into it so they should leave them alone. If they are trying to go home with someone that you suspect is too drunk, just point it out to them and try to find someone else to look after that person.
The last thing we can do is take responsibility for ensuring sexual consent is part of the culture of your friendship group, sports team, or society. Share an anecdote about a time you did what you knew was right. That time you were dancing with someone and then she shot you an uncomfortable look and you felt like a bit of a fool and left. That time you went home with someone and then realized they were a bit plastered and you should probably just put them to bed and leave.
This last point is absolutely crucial for committee members of clubs and societies. Younger members will look up to you as role models for how to behave. If you’re considering running for committee next year, start behaving like someone you would respect. If you’re in a society, vote for people whose attitudes towards consent make you proud of your club. We can all be better at promoting sexual consent to friends, strangers, and ensuring we live up to our own standards. Be that guy who always respects women. Be that guy who leads by example. Be an ambassador for your gender.
Words by Ben McKechnie