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9 in 10 teenage girls aged 15-17 agree consent is always required for sexual activity

The results of the new Consent Communication study by NUI Galway’s Active* Consent programme.

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A STUDY AMONG Irish teenagers aged 15 to 17 has found 93% of females and 79% of males agree that consent is always required for sexual activity. 

The results of the new Consent Communication study by NUI Galway’s Active* Consent programme are being launched today along with a report detailing a set of new consent education resources for Irish secondary schools. 

In particular, the report contains the first in-depth research analysis of consent communication among Irish teenagers from a survey of 613 post-primary students aged 15 to 17. 

This research explores findings on attitudes to consent, perceptions of peers, and how young people responded to consent communication dilemmas.

The survey found that 93% of females and 79% of males agree that consent is always required for sexual activity.

A total of 18% of males were neutral as to whether consent is always required, 3% disagreed that it is always required, while 6% of females were neutral and 1% disagreed.

Of those surveyed, 62% agreed that consent for sexual activity always needed to be verbal, and 60% said that non-verbal consent to sexual activity is sometimes okay. 

There was a significant gender gap in personal comfort with being sexually intimate with someone they had just met at a party, with females less likely to be comfortable than males.

While 7% of females were comfortable with intimate touching, 51% of males said they were comfortable.

There was also a significant gap among females between their personal levels of comfort with being intimate with someone they just met at a party, and how comfortable they thought other teenagers were with it.

While 7% of females were comfortable with intimate touching, 42% of females agreed that other teenagers would be comfortable with this.

Almost everyone surveyed (98%) agreed it is okay to say “No, I don’t want to” if you don’t want to have sex.

A total of 92% agreed there is a need to talk about sexual consent even in a relationship.

Consent programme

The report being launched today completes a two-year process of developing the Active* Consent programme for schools. 

The programme being launched for schools today consists of an integrated package of resources, each of which can also be delivered on a stand-alone basis:

  • A sexual consent workshop for young people aged 15-17 that can be provided in-class or online.
  • Awareness-raising seminars for parents and guardians, along with education/training resources for teachers.
  • ‘Sex on Our Screens’, an eLearning resource designed to increase young people’s critical literacy skills on sexual media, pornography, body image, and consent
  • ‘How I Learned About Consent’, a new filmed theatrical drama that explores the nuances of consent, how we learn about consent, and the positive changes that take place when we practice active, positive consent.

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The workshop, seminars and training will be available from September, while the eLearning resource and film will be available from October onwards.

The schools programme can be integrated with existing sexual health initiatives and projects, and the resources are designed to be delivered by teachers or other professionals.

The consent workshop was piloted over the past year with 993 students in 10 schools nationally.

Workshop survey responses showed significant increases in pupils agreeing that consent needs to be agreed before the start of any sexual activity and that consent should be verbal.

The percentage of pupils who agreed that they had the skills needed to deal with sexual consent went from 61% beforehand to 92% afterwards. Some 99% of females, 95% of males, and 100% of non-binary pupils agreed that the workshop was relevant to them, with 90% saying they would recommend the workshop to their peers.

“The Active* Consent programme indicates that we are making progress in confronting what is not only a complicated issue, but an extremely important one for developing positive relationships and reducing sexual harassment,” The Ombudsman for Children Dr Niall Muldoon said.

“The programme will equip secondary school students with self-confidence to speak up if there is something happening that they are not comfortable with,” Dr Muldoon said. 

“In a perfect world we would like to think attitudes towards sexual harassment are changing but evidence shows us we have a long way to go.”

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