Why we still need to talk about consent

There are some truly terrifying numbers in a new survey on behalf of the End Violence Against Women Coalition [PDF document]. The study, of around 4,000 Britons, found that:

  • 33% people think rape isn’t rape if there isn’t physical violence;
  • A third of men think rape isn’t rape if the woman had flirted during a date;
  • 24% don’t think rape is rape if you’re in a long term relationship;
  • 11% believe that the more sexual partners a woman has had, the less harm she suffers if she’s raped
  • 40% don’t think it’s rape to stealthily remove a condom during sex;
  • 6% think it isn’t rape if the victim is asleep or too drunk to consent.

Attitudes were significantly worse among the over-65s: more than 1/3 thought non-consensual sex wasn’t rape if the person is your wife or partner, compared to 16% of under-24s; 42% think it’s okay to keep going if the woman changes her mind compared to 22% of under-49s.

That matters. As the Coalition’s report explains:

This generational difference is concerning because many of the cases being reported to the police are younger women who have a clear view of consent, which may not be shared by many of the people who make up juries.

The whole document makes for important but thoroughly depressing reading. We need to be better than this.