Consent is something we hear a lot. Sometimes can be a bit of a grey area and Consent at UCD are here to make sure that people understand what is okay and what is not okay in terms of consensual relations. We will be writing regular articles about consent and its role in our daily student life. This article comes from Consent at UCD committee member Billie Donohoe, articulating the ‘grey areas’ of consent she encountered this summer.

I recently travelled around Europe and the one thing that stuck out to me was not the beautifully ornate cathedrals or the cobblestoned streets. Not the corner cafes or the effortlessly stylish looks that we strive for here in Ireland. No. What stood out most to me was something darker, more sinister. Something that as a woman I am so used to that I sometimes don’t even think twice about it. It’s become accepted into our society as “part of identifying female”. It’s inevitable, you just accept it and move forwards. The things I encountered were incidents of entitlement, coercion and manipulation.

I experienced these repeatedly across the continent. A young girl is alone at the bar. A man comes up to her and says, “Bonjour, mon amour.” She apologetically tells him that she’s very sorry, but she doesn’t speak French. He then awkwardly tries to translate his affection and because they’ve had one back and forth he feels justified to sit down and hit on her. At this point the reader may be thinking she is selfish and stuck up by dismissing them outright. It is important to note that these are not isolated incidents. Women endure street harassment and microaggressions every time they leave the safety of their home. Women are taught to modulate their clothing because their body arouses others and means they are “asking for it”, intentionally making themselves vulnerable to harassment or assault because they did not hide their body. Schoolgirls are punished because allowing an adult male teacher to see their shoulder or clavicle is indecent. Women must ensure they do not provoke reactions in others because it is her job to control the reactionary behaviour of others. The hashtag #whatiwaswearing explores this mentality in great detail.

As a woman I have become acutely aware when someone is talking to me with honest intentions or someone hoping to turn my no into a yes. Women often set up systems for exactly these scenarios. This is an inevitable part of growing up while identifying as female. You learn how to say no, but you cannot reject anyone outright for fear of retaliation. You learn how to be fun, but not to the point where they think you’re interested in going further. We dance on the edge of a knife, knowing we can be a target of aggression if we react the wrong way.

When I’ve made it clear that I’m not interested or that I’m taken, this is the point where consent really becomes important. Any arguing past this point to try to coax me into anything non-platonic is non-consensual. Asking someone until their no becomes a yes, any misguided romantic notion that someone can be worn down to saying yes and an assumption that any person who goes on a date or to expect sexual favours because they came to your house (“what were they expecting?”) are consent violations. If you don’t have an enthusiastic and informed consent from your partner you don’t have consent.

Saying “prove it” or “show me a picture of the two of you together” or anything of the sort is strong-arming. Men think women who complain about getting hit on at a bar are annoying and unappreciative; they don’t realise that we endure this every single time we go out. Sometimes multiple times a night. When we say no to your offer to buy us a drink we are not prudes or “shit craic”. We have had enough.

Consent at UCD is a young society. Building on the goals and successes of last year’s committee, this year we hope to spread more information about what consent means and host events like Take Back the Night (April) and Walk A Mile (SHAG Week).


By Consent At UCD