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Rethinking consent with continuums: sex, ethics and young people

Whittington, Elsie (2020) Rethinking consent with continuums: sex, ethics and young people. Sex Education: sexuality, society and learning. ISSN 1468-1811

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Abstract

Over the last decade, there has been growing awareness about issues of sexual consent. This has resulted in a global shift towards prioritising education and campaigns which address consent and sexual violence. Yet much discourse about consent continues to reinforce legalistic and binary notions of consent/rape which do not map onto young people’s experiences of navigating sex and relationships. This paper draws on findings from an innovative 2-year participatory action research project about sexual consent with young people that involved a series of educational and action-based projects at seven sites in Southern England. By drawing on important feminist work about continuums, this paper considers the generative potential of theorising and teaching about consent using the device of a continuum. It offers insight into how young people construct consent and develops an expanded model of consent using ‘continuum thinking’. Findings suggest a need to encourage and embrace a wider variety of terminology regarding consent and sexual violence in order to invite more people into the consent conversation.

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