Sex and Sensibility: The “C” Word

ISSUE 2 - Column 1 - Jennifer Constable

By Jennifer Constable


It’s the middle of a party, the lights are low, the Tennants is flowing and Uptown Funk is being blared in the corner from someone’s borrowed portable speaker system. Lightheaded from one too many Jägerbombs, you’ve been making eyes at ‘the babe’ from Monday’s tutorial the whole night. It’s safe to say that you’re feeling pretty good.

So you’re slipping away to a more secluded bedroom for some “alone time”. Things starts to get heated; your breathing becomes hurried; your cheeks flushed; the kisses intensify… Before you can pant out a breathless “maybe we should slow things down”, hands are clumsily fumbling at your waistband and the excitement turns sour in your stomach. You’ll pull back, embarrassed, and with a wounded look your companion will murmur an earnest “please” in your ear. So, you falter; maybe you should just do it, after all, you’d agreed to go with them, and you certainly haven’t discouraged them, it would be cruel to lead them on; you don’t want to be a tease.

Research by the Telegraph in 2015 showed that in the UK, 1 in 3 female students have been victim to unwanted sexual advances or attacks, with 31% of those polled admitting to have being indecently touched or groped whilst at university and 1 in 20 claiming to have been pressured into unwanted sexual activity. And the problem isn’t gender specific: 1 in 8 of the male students surveyed also spoke of being subject to unwanted sexual advances during their time at Uni.

Sexual abuse isn’t always as black and white as it’s made out to be and it’s not regularly reported – we feel uncomfortable about it,; too ashamed to get the support we deserve, convincing ourselves we must have played a part in it – were we “asking for it”? No. As with any type of sexual activity, consent is vital and must be willingly given – not something you should need to beg for or wheedle out.

It isn’t consent if the person is hammered or under the influence of drugs, if they’re under 16 (don’t even go there), or if the person is passed out or asleep, just, ew. If they say no; leave it. If they look nervous or panicked back off. And if they tell you to stop (you guessed it), stop. Buying someone a drink doesn’t mean they’re obliged to go home with you, and just because they might have agreed to a bit of hand action (oo-er), doesn’t mean you’re entitled to a full rendition of the No Pants Dance.

It’s our bodies, our choice, our right to say “no”, and to not feel guilty or like we owe anything. Sex is supposed to be fun; something we enjoy, not a dirty secret to be embarrassed about. When it comes to any form of sexual activity, you shouldn’t just be looking for a half-hearted “yes”, but for active, enthusiastic participation- you should not have to convince someone to have sex with you.