At 21:30 on Tuesday night RTÉ 2 showed Louise O’Neill’s documentary ‘Asking For It’ which discusses consent.
A documentary like this is long over due. If you had asked me last year, I would’ve said there wasn’t a chance a documentary like this would be made and be shown on Irish television screens.
Louise O’Neill is the best selling author of two novels, Only Ever Yours and Asking For It. Asking For It was written after the Steubenville rape case in America in which two high schoolboys raped a 16 year old girl. The boys documented and swapped photos of the rape. Louise O’Neill wrote Asking For It to show that something like the Steubenville case can happen in Ireland and it does. In the Steubenville case, the victims peers blamed her for what had happened to her. They called her a whore and a slut. They shared pictures of her attack when she was in her most vulnerable state.
This does happen in Ireland. In Listowel, a young woman was raped by a man. People in the community, including the parish priest lined up outside the court house to shake hands with the rapist.
Rape is a victim blaming crime. When a woman is raped she gets asked:
“What were you wearing?”
“Were you drunk?”
“Well, did you actually say no?”
The question isn’t put to the rapist:
“Why did you rape her?”
Rape prevention is up to the woman
As a young girl I grew up being told, “watch your drink”, “don’t walk home alone”, “don’t get a taxi by yourself.” All of my girl friends were told the same things. Whereas the men in my life weren’t told by their parents before going out “don’t grab a girl” “don’t spike someone’s drink” or even “don’t rape someone.”
This approach clearly isn’t working. It shouldn’t solely be up to the girls to stop rapes. As careful as we are rape still happens. 1 in 4 Irish women will experience sexual assault in their life time. Almost all of the women I know have a story about being touched by a man without giving consent.
Asking For It, the documentary discusses all of these issues and more. Louise meets a rape victim. She goes to the rape crisis center, she goes to universities and attends consent workshops.
“Consent isn’t the absence of a no and a no doesn’t mean convince me otherwise”
What we need to remember is that nobody is ever asking for it. Sex without consent is rape.
The documentary also discusses sentencing in Ireland of rapists. It’s seen as the 2nd worst crime after murder but from the evidence we see, the sentencing doesn’t reflect that.
In one case a rapist, who admitted to raping his partner in her sleep was given a suspended sentence but never served any jail time. This is just one example of many.
Sex education in schools in Ireland needs to improve. My sex education was given when I was 12. A woman came in to our religion class (yes, religion class) and told us that sex was amazing but don’t do it until you’re married. I’m not kidding. Not once did she mention contraception, let alone consent.
In today’s society, men are encouraged to go after as many women as they can, to “spread the seed.” But woman are told to hold on to sex, “respect yourself”, “don’t be a slut”. “Men like a chase.”
Louise visited Trinity college, where they hold consent workshops. This is great. There do need to be more of these types of workshops. But, is university too late? Probably, your views on sex are very much ingrained in your head when you reach university. We need to talk about consent much earlier. We need to teach our children in sex ed about respect and consent.
What can we do now?
We can continue talking about consent openly and honestly. Society as a whole needs to educate its children. One thing that should be done is to show this documentary around schools in Ireland and start education early so children from an early age realise that their body is theirs, it doesn’t belong to anyone else.
Call the Dublin Rape Crisis Center if you need any information or need to talk.
DRCC 1800 77 8888.