Reality Check

Julie Edwards

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Only last week the story broke of a Facebook group Girls I’d shift if I was Tipsy, which involved 200 UCD students. Showing explicit photos that girls had sent these ‘lads’. After an investigation there was no proof found but speaking to RTÉ, the chair of the investigation, Professor Mark Rogers, Deputy President and Registrar, said: “Although this investigation is concluded, I am not so naive as to believe that the university community is immune to this type of activity.”

For a modern country we are not doing so well on sexual consent and our treatment of women. When we look at the treatment of women in other countries and we are aghast, disgusted and horrified. So in a modern country where marriage is open to everyone why is there still a problem with women? Why do colleges have to introduce consent workshops? Is it not pretty clear that when someone says no, they mean no? A survey carried out among college students found that 25 per cent of women have had non-consensual sexual encounters and only 5 per cent of men have experienced the same.

Slutwalk meeting at Trafalgar Square London Slutwalk, Trafalgar Square London, Photo Credit: Garry Knight

We live in a modern country, yet our youth cannot seem to grasp what consent is and what it is not. It’s rather embarrassing that in the space of a year we can pass the marriage referendum yet we have to bring workshops into colleges to teach people what is and isn’t sexual consent. One step forward and another back.

It’s being blamed predominantly on the relation to lad culture. Lad culture, something that has stemmed from reality TV and gained popularity due to its shock factor. Now we have young men following in the same footsteps, only this time, it’s not scripted in a reality TV show, it is real people’s lives. Everywhere we go women are sexualised. With our growing dependence on social media the lines are becoming increasingly blurred between reality and fantasy. This influence of lad culture is diminishing the effect of mutual respect between both men and women.

The amount of stories I’ve heard and personal experiences I’ve had have shown that these words of protest often go unheard. What are you meant to do when you’re drunk, or you realise something was a bad idea, but you’re already there. It’s a little too late. You say no, but it’s not heard. You’re too afraid to voice your opinion, you are the one that feels violated, hurt and angry.  When we look at violence towards women and mistreatment in other countries we are out raged, disgusted and thankful that we are not part of that fear and threat. But ours is just as problematic.

Slutwalk London 2011 - 10

Slutwalk, Trafalgar Square London, Photo Credit: Garry Knight

If we want to be truly modern and equal, we have to look back to the past. Where there was more of a mutual respect when it comes to people. Male, female, black or white, we are not objects. Consent is something that should be innate in our moral compass, nowadays our youth need to go to a workshop to learn what the word no means?

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Julie Edwards