Dr. Caroline West is a consent educator, the host of the Glow West podcast, the sex and relationship expert for Bumble Ireland and a relationship advice columnist for the Irish Independent. She holds a PhD and MA in Sexuality Studies from Dublin City University. In her latest role, she’s teamed up with morning after pill brand ellaOne, as part of their #ShareTheFacts campaign, to share her wisdom on sex, contraception and consent culture in Ireland.
Caroline is passionate about creating spaces for calm, informed conversations about sex, and works to reduce shame and stigma around sex in Ireland. In the third of her monthly blog posts, she discusses how the morning after pill is part of consent culture:
While it is a relatively new term, consent culture is a way to radically change how we view sex, sexual violence, our sexual heath, and our choices around our bodies and our family planning. Consent culture is the opposite to rape culture. In rape culture, sexual violence is common, victims are blamed, and perpetrators escape justice. However, in consent culture, everyone has access to education on consent, victims are supported with services and access to justice, and sexual violence is mimimised. Consent education begins in childhood and develops throughout the lifespan. Does this mean we need to teach children about sexual violence? Yes – in age-appropriate ways. We do this by teaching children that their bodies are their own, and no one can touch them without consent, and if this does happen, they can tell a trusted adult. We teach children that their ‘yes’ and ‘no’ should be respected, and that if someone ignores this, that is not good. By instilling this foundation built on boundaries and respect, children are much better placed to protect themselves and understand healthy and unhealthy relationships in their teenage years and adulthood.
Part of consent culture is understanding that sexual violence is a spectrum which includes in-person sexual violence, online sexual violence such as sending nudes without consent, and reproductive coercion. When we educate ourselves about the nuances of consent and abuse, we can empower victims too. We can do this by reducing victim blaming (which often comes from a lack of education), increasing access to support services, and providing holistic sex education which includes information about contraception choices as well as information about domestic abuse.