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Most Irish people think there is a problem with understanding sexual consent, new research finds

70% said there is a problem with understanding consent in Ireland.

Image: Shutterstock/EQRoy

NEW RESEARCH CONDUCTED by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre (DRCC) has found that most people in Ireland believe there is a problem with understanding sexual consent.

The study, called Real Consent, found that 70% of respondents said there was a problem with understanding consent in practical terms. 

Real Consent is the first national study of its kind and examines attitudes to and understanding of sexual consent in Ireland across all adult age groups.

DRCC shared the findings in an online event this afternoon and also announced a new national project aimed at making consent a national topic of conversation.

Its chairperson Anne-Marie Gill said the results of the research show that more must be done as a nation to educate ourselves about sexual consent. 

She said: “We in Dublin Rape Crisis Centre have long believed there is a problem with consent in Ireland. This research confirms that that most people – 70% – agree with us. While as a people, we understand the theory of consent, it is not always so clear that this translates to practical understanding.”

A statement from the DRCC states that the research suggests multiple factors contributing to our problem with consent including the belief that consent can be ignored and lack of understanding around the right to withdraw consent.

There are inhibitions around talking about sex candidly and clearly among all age groups, people are unclear about their own sexual likes and dislikes and a quarter are unsure about partner preferences. People lack the confidence to stop an encounter when uncomfortable.

The research shows that 9-in-10 women and 8-in-10 men agree that everyone has the right to change their mind at any point during sex.

84% believe Ireland needs age-appropriate sex education in all schools, with 60% saying all society is responsible for consent.

However, the research also showed that significant minorities think that having had sex previously, flirting or not clearly objecting all signify willingness to have sex.

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DRCC Chief Executive Noeline Blackwell welcomed the new data and said:  “What is also very striking is that the majority of those surveyed recognised the link between equality and consent.

“Almost three-quarters of them agreed that a better understanding of consent will help equality between women and men, which really gives a strong direction for our work.”

Blackwell said DRCC believes that Real Consent In Ireland campaign shows that most people want a country where consent is understood, and where nobody believes that sexual activity without consent is okay.

“DRCC’s project will see conversations about consent being had in homes, workplaces, clubs and pubs. We want to see conversations about consent being totally normal. This is a long-term initiative where we will work with survivors, individuals and communities across the country, to help us better understand consent and its importance and how to shape our society towards one that does not tolerate sexual violence and sexual coercion,” Blackwell added.

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