Aberdeen University student group claims smiling, laughing and 'direct eye contact' are signs of consent in leaflet on sex awareness

  • 'Feminist' student group horrified students when it dished out flyers on campus 
  • The outfit behind the leaflet exits to reduce sexual assault through education 
  • Students have urged the university to 'do better' following the distribution  

An Aberdeen University student group claimed that smiling, laughing and 'direct eye contact' are possible signs of consent in a leaflet on sex awareness.  

The flyer sparked outrage on social media after also listing nodding and open body language as possible green lights.

The university's Consent Awareness and Sexual Education group (CASE) distributed the leaflets on campus.

Pictured: The non-verbal signs of possible consent that were included in the leaflet, sparking outrage at Aberdeen University

Pictured: The non-verbal signs of possible consent that were included in the leaflet, sparking outrage at Aberdeen University 

CASE describes itself as 'an intersectional, feminist, anti-racist group run for students, and by students'.

Its stated aim is to 'seek to reduce sexual assault and harassment through raising awareness about consent and by educating Aberdonians on preventive measures.'

But students were quick to condemn the leaflets, taking to Twitter to express their anger.

Writing on Twitter, Abbie Magma said: 'As if Aberdeen University are handing these out saying that "smiling" and "eye contact" are signs of consent. If it's not verbal then it's not consent mate.'

Another, Katie Read, said: 'It is news to me that laughter would be considered a sign of consent? People often laugh in awkward/uncomfortable situations. Aberdeen University do better.'

Speaking to student newspaper The Tab, a representative for CASE said: 'Our pamphlet on Sex and Support provides a list of various non-verbal and verbal signs of possible consent as well as a corresponding list of signs of no consent.

The leaflet (pictured) caused fury at Aberdeen University with its list of verbal and non-verbal signs of consent

The leaflet (pictured) caused fury at Aberdeen University with its list of verbal and non-verbal signs of consent 

'We are aware that some people have reacted to the inclusion of non-verbal signs of possible consent as it is not consent without verbal cues. 

'We completely agree with this. The key word for this section of our pamphlet would be "possible", as non-verbal signs in particular cannot be used to determine consent and are often misunderstood.

'Smiling and laughing are especially often seen as consent to proceed with various sexual activities without that being the case. However, listening only for verbal signs of possible consent without paying attention to a person's non-verbal cues is not a good way to determine consent either.

'For example, a person could say yes due to feeling pressured, and in a situation like that the verbal cue could be present alongside non-verbal signs of no consent, such as avoiding eye contact, withdrawing from touch etc.

'The purpose of having these lists included in the pamphlet was to alert people to these various signs so that they have a more thorough understanding of consent communication.

'We believed that the overall work of our group and the inclusion of the phrase "silence is not consent" elsewhere on the pamphlet was enough to ensure that our message was unambiguous.

'Evidently this was not the case and we regret to have made anyone think that non-verbal signs of possible consent can replace explicit verbal consent.

'We will be working on making this clear for future iterations of our pamphlet and will take the current one out of circulation.'

An Aberdeen University spokesman added: 'The leaflet referenced was produced by a student group and the University had no input into its content.

'We take the welfare of all our students and staff extremely seriously and the University constantly reviews and makes enhancements to its support services.

'The University hosted two sessions on sexual consent in conjunction with local group Choices Aberdeen as part of student orientation this September and we will look to enhance this next year.

'As part of our commitment to empowering our community and enhancing the wellbeing of our members on and off campus, we launched the Report Support service in February which provides a 'one-stop shop' that signposts users to all relevant support services and to report any incidents of sexual violence or harassment.'

 

Aberdeen University student group claims smiling and laughing are signs of consent

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