Results of recent surveys of university students show a desire for increased education on sex and consent. According to the Higher Education Policy Institute’s survey, 58% of students support the notion of a mandatory test demonstrating understanding of sexual consent upon entering university. A survey done by the website Everyone’s Invited showed similar findings, with 51% of 1,000 students believing that education on sex and relationships should be obligatory during the university induction period.
Many universities in Britain have been issued warnings in recent years over sexual harassment on campus. The recent murder of Sarah Everard, during her lone walk to home in London, has drawn much-needed attention to ongoing conversations about violence against women and rape culture. The Higher Education Regulator of England urged universities to take action and be more proactive in combatting sexual misconduct and harassment experienced by students.
“The anonymous testimonies given on Everyone’s Invited named almost 100 British universities, with several top institutions mentioned repeatedly.”
The website Everyone’s Invited has investigated and documented anonymous accounts by students surrounding abuse and sexual violence in or around their university campuses. Just 25% of students who were asked believed that they had received adequate sex education to understand consent whilst in school. Meanwhile, 35% of respondents stated that they had learned more from pornography than from formal education. Issues arose when discussing consent under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Less than a third of students felt secure in deciphering consent following the use of alcohol. Students showed a lack of understanding in ways of communicating consent clearly, and 13% were unsure of what was and was not viewed as sexual assault. The anonymous testimonies given on Everyone’s Invited named almost 100 British universities, with several top institutions mentioned repeatedly. This has raised further concern over the issue of rape culture in universities, schools and colleges.
The Office for Students issued a ‘statement of expectations’ in April this year, underlining that training should be available for all staff and students. This training would cover a number of topics, such as discouraging bystander behaviour and comprehensive understanding of sexual consent. The aim of teaching these topics is to decrease the level of sexual misconduct among students.
This objective aligns with that of the website Everyone’s Invited, which describes itself as a ‘movement committed to eradicating rape culture’. A survey by the website also highlighted the need to dismantle stereotypes and expectations of university students, finding them to be less sexually active than presented. The August 2020 survey of undergraduates showed that 43% of students were still virgins upon entering university. This is in stark contrast to the debauchery often associated with university life.
Instead, findings showed that students placed a higher value on friendship, with 58% believing that making friends was a higher priority than sexual activities. The objective of the survey was to find reliable and realistic portrayals of student sexual activity, rather than focusing on the less common hedonism that can occur. Debunking common myths of student sexual activities will make discussions surrounding consent and sexual misconduct clearer and enable actual education and training on the topic to replace long-standing misconceptions.
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