Information about consent needs to be fully accessible
As part of Sexual Health Week 2021 we hear from Ellen Goodey, Project Support Assistant at Mencap, who explains what consent means to her and why it’s essential that information about consent is accessible for everyone.
I am engaged to get married to my fiancé, as he is now.
He was my boyfriend for 3 years and then he asked me to marry him. When I said yes, that was me giving him permission and consent to my hand in marriage. Consent is important in a relationship. I think it gives people the chance to speak out and to have a voice, because everyone has the right to a happy and safe relationship.
Consent is having the right to be comfortable in a relationship where you both want the same things, and having the right to agree or disagree.
Me and my fiancé have a lot in common, like we both support football. We are in the same drama group together and we share a love and passion for drama. Our drama group is called the Blue Sky Actors and I am the main lead actor. It really helps when you have things in common with each other because it’s easier to come to an agreement with each other. I’m lucky that being in a healthy relationship means I can offer advice to other people with and without disabilities to have a voice in their relationships too.
I think it’s important for everyone to have access to information about consent, and support if they need it. Easy read documents with easy pictures to use as symbols can be useful to help people to understand – especially if other people with disabilities can’t read small print like me. I can’t read print that is too small.
Me and my fiancé are happy and I believe it should be like that for everyone.
I believe everyone should have the right to give consent about every aspect of their relationship, whether it’s a romantic relationship, family member or friend.
It’s so important to all parts of our lives at any age and that’s why we need easy information and easy pictures to use to help us understand and communicate what we are trying to say.
We need to understand how vital online spaces are for LGBT+ young people
Following the launch of Brook and Sussex University’s new report Digital Intimacies and LGBT+ Youth, 22-year-old RSHE educator Demi Whitnell reflects on their personal and professional experience of online spaces for the LGBT+ community and explains why we need to understand the importance of these spaces for young people.
Online platforms are a double-edged sword. One end is full of amazing content and people, a wealth of knowledge, and a profound sense of community and support, whilst the other is sadly much darker, more isolating, more harmful and can provide a space for hatred to spawn without responsibility. This is something our young people are tackling daily.
Working with students on a day-to-day basis, alongside running an LGTQIA+ club and being involved in RSHE, I discuss and tackle LGBTQIA+ bullying and online safety weekly. What is surprising is that there seems to be little to no difference to the types of comments and attacks being made towards LGBTQIA+ individuals as were being made towards myself when I was at school – the language, the intensity, and the ‘protection’ of anonymity/hiding behind screens is still the same. The major differences are the platforms being used and what these platforms are doing/trying to do to create a safer space.
It is vital that platforms provide safe online communities that uphold specific morals and beliefs to protect our LGBTQIA+ young people, but also to let them spread their wings and navigate online spaces at their own pace.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. Online platforms have allowed a real sense of community to be felt, specifically by LGBTQIA+ folk. LGBTQIA+ content has never been more accessible and widespread, with a wealth of knowledge from educators, those within the community, and companies using online platforms to teach both allies and members of the community more about LGBTQIA+ identities, experiences, and history.
There is a true feeling of celebration in online spaces and for me the best example of that is the reclaiming and usage of the identity and word ‘queer.’ Online spaces have allowed for this ‘queer-world making’, which as a newly out non-binary queer is a truly heart-warming thing to see and be a part of. Having a ‘pronouns’ features added to online platforms was a huge moment for myself and many of us within the community.
It is key that as adults we understand the importance of social media, exploring the positives of community building, educating, communicating and opportunities.
Online platforms are currently hubs for celebrating diversity and for connecting people who align with one another –particularly LGBTQIA+ young people. Rather than teaching that is it a dangerous space (which yes, it can be), it is also important to see what young people see – a place that they fit in.
As adults and those who work closely with young people, we see red flags, risks, and protection from harm as our main purposes – which undoubtedly they are. However, I do believe that in some cases this can mean we are blinded to what young people see – a space to discover themselves, to learn in an environment in which they feel in control.
Whenever I discuss online safety to my own students, I discuss the positives and lead with what amazing things the internet can bring. There should not be any attempt at scaremongering – young individuals know a wealth about online spaces as they exist in them from a much younger age, typically they already know basic online safety skills, it is about instilling the importance of these skills and adapting them with the ever-changing online platforms, regulations and tactics of online harassment and bullying. Teaching them where to go if they need support, how to work the platform to their best advantage.
Importantly, it should not be the sole responsibility of young people to keep themselves safe, but also online platforms themselves.
Even to this day, I report online profiles of those who attack myself, my work, my friends, and the community and that is very telling of how universal these experiences can be. LGBTQIA+ adults, young adults, and youth all may need these skills to protect themselves online. However, often, online platforms do not uphold their promises of safety – with accounts I have blocked or restricted remaining active. As a content creator, my account in of itself is restricted, whilst accounts that promote hate and discrimination face little to no restriction. Many other sex-positive/LGBTQIA+ educators face similar experiences, many of whom lose their accounts. Platforms need to do more to ensure our online safety, particularly the online safety of LGBTQIA+ youth and follow through with safety measures such as deactivation of accounts.
I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the community I found online.
I wouldn’t be the educator I am today without the wealth of knowledge and opportunities online spaces have given me and I wouldn’t be a good teacher if I didn’t understand how vital these spaces are for young people’s development.
Demi (they/she) is a qualified RSHE educator focusing primarily in LGBTQIA+ RSHE, gender, identity and sexuality – creating content online via S3xtheorywithdemi on Instagram, alongside working on a day-to-day basis with young individuals in local secondary schools.