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December Being Aware of What Consent Actually Means During the Christmas Holidays
Debate about what consent actually means has been the subject of constant reflection in 2018 in Ireland and beyond, from the Dáil to the US Supreme Court. However, not only debate but a working knowledge of consent is particularly important during the Christmas holidays when people may be drinking and socialising more and getting intimate with established or new partners.
NUI Galway researchers who run the SMART Consent programme made headlines last August when they reported research findings based on 3,500 students in Ireland:
- 70% of students said a couple who had 28 standard drinks were able to consent.
- 37% of students said a woman who has been drinking heavily can still give consent.
These statistics have implications not only for university students, but are relevant to all sexually active adults especially during a party season. To this end, the SMART Consent team at NUI Galway have developed a short promo video highlighting their key message that Consent is OMFG (Ongoing, Mutual, and Freely Given). Using clips from the Consent is OMFG interactive short film series, the promo video (https://youtu.be/AtSP3gAJpuw) breaks down the message of OMFG, namely that consent is:
Ongoing: Not assumed, always reversible
Mutual: Not one-sided
Freely Given: Not drunk, drugged or under pressure
Developed and led by Dr Pádraig MacNeela and Dr Siobhán O’Higgins from the School of Psychology and Dr Charlotte McIvor from Drama and Theatre Studies, the SMART Consent team have been training facilitators and delivering SMART Consent workshops in third level institutions, working in partnership with students and staff at colleges including NUI Galway, GMIT, UCC, DCU, UL, QUB, TCD, NCAD, AIT, Queens, and the University of Ulster.
Dr MacNeela said: “Up to 90% of students who have read our consent stories have said it’s ok to ask for consent. In our workshops we talk to students about what that means, and they tell us it means saying things like ‘are you ok with this’ or ‘do you want to have sex’. Active consent is about feeling confident in what you want, how you are going to say it, and communicating with your partner.”
Drs O’Higgins and McIvor added: “We hope that people remember and practice Ongoing, Mutual, and Freely Given even in the midst of all the celebrations. So if anyone decides that they want to share intimacies with someone else, we urge you to be mindful and create mutually satisfying and safe experiences for everyone involved. And remember that consent should always be OMFG, not just under the mistletoe.”
The NUI Galway SMART Consent team have trained over 250 facilitators who have delivered Consent Workshops to over 3,000 students across Ireland as well as through the freely available interactive short film series on consent (www.nuigalway.ie/smartconsent/) delivering their core message that; Consent=OMFG (Ongoing, Mutual, and Freely Given) is a valuable shorthand for all sexually active adults to remember.
SMART Consent workshops were created through research led by Dr MacNeela on sexual consent and sexual experiences of third-level students in Ireland, in partnership with organisations including Rape Crisis Network Ireland.