Majority see problem with understanding of sexual consent

Rape Crisis Centre survey indicates issue is considered problem by more women than men

Issue around consent were seen as a problem by more women than men, at 76% compared to 63%. File photograph: Getty

Issue around consent were seen as a problem by more women than men, at 76% compared to 63%. File photograph: Getty

 

An overwhelming majority of people see a problem with the understanding of and respect for sexual consent in Ireland, new research shows.

A survey about consent, commissioned by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, showed that 70 per cent of people had concerns about the issue.

The poll was conducted in September 2021 among a representative sample of 1,004 adults nationally.

Issues around respect for consent were seen as a problem by more women than men, at 76 per cent compared to 63 per cent.

When asked what they regarded as key problems around the area of sexual consent, some said they think consent “can be ignored” and that “no” really means “maybe”.

Others said alcohol limits people’s ability to consent to sexual activity and that people do not understand that consent can be withdrawn as well as given.

Survey respondents agreed that people in Ireland are not good at talking clearly about sex and consent and that people lack the confidence to pause a sexual encounter if they feel uncomfortable.

Pornography created “unrealistic expectations” and “added to pressures to go further” during sexual encounters, the research found.

A total of 25 per cent of people agreed that “talking ruins the mood” and this increased to 39 per cent for younger men under 35.

Younger men

Similarly, 28 per cent agreed they wouldn’t know how to talk to a partner about their sexual likes and dislikes. And this increases to 39 per cent for younger men.

“Embarrassment” stopped 35 per cent of people from talking about their likes and dislikes.

Most survey respondents (nine in 10) said it was important that their partner did not feel regret afterwards. And a majority put their partner’s pleasure and lack of regret ahead of their own.

However, a one -in-five minority said their own sexual experience was more important than their partners, agreeing they would “probably keep going” even if they suspected their partner was not enjoying sex. This increased to two in five for young men.

When asked where people think are the best places to learn, the State education system, including primary, secondary and third level, were found to be considered the most important along with parents, state bodies and then non-governmental organisations.

A total of 84 per cent of people agreed that Ireland needs age-appropriate sex education in all schools. And 60 per cent said consent was a responsibility for all society and required Government action.