A survey conducted among undergraduate university students in the United Kingdom revealed that 58 percent of students would support a compulsory test about sexual consent.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 30, 2021. It has since been updated.
Sexual assault and harassment on college campuses are unfortunately still a prevalent problem. While many educational institutions have opted to continue classes online given the pandemic, online harassment is just as ubiquitous. Given this context, a recent report finds that a majority of university students from the United Kingdom would back the idea of a compulsory test to show they "fully understand" consent. The survey, conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute, received responses from 1,000 undergraduate students, only a quarter of whom felt that they had been adequately prepared by the sex education lessons offered in their schools to have a "comprehensive understanding of sexual consent," BBC News reports.
Findings from the survey show that 58 percent of students who responded support the idea of having to pass a test about sexual consent at the start of university. Students reported particular concerns about situations involving consent during which alcohol and drugs were involved. Furthermore, the survey busted some stereotypes long held about student life, displaying that life at university was "less hedonistic than is sometimes supposed." In fact, 43 percent of those surveyed had not had sex before going to university, while 25 percent had never "intimately kissed" anyone. Furthermore, a third of all students had never been in any "intimate relationships," whether sexual or otherwise, or "kissed someone on a night out" in their university years.
Our new report out today covers sexual consent, sex education, friendships during COVID and lots of other important areas, including the impact of period pain on the higher education of women. Full report at https://t.co/kiA1ZkHo2k pic.twitter.com/nPfoJ55TDY— Higher Education Policy Institute (@HEPI_news) April 29, 2021
Gender disaggregated data also busted some common stereotypes: 66 percent of male respondents had not had sex during their time as a student, whereas 53 percent of female students had not had sex during their university years. Nonetheless, almost a third of students said they currently watched pornography, and this was twice as likely among men than women. Meanwhile, a small percentage of students—11 percent—were "voluntarily abstaining from sex." However, two-thirds of all students were not currently in a relationship. Friendships were given greater importance, results show. 58 percent of students claimed it was more important to make friends rather than to "find people to have sex with" when first going to university. Given that the survey was completed in August 2020, this could be owing to the ongoing pandemic.
Most students think passing a sexual consent test should be compulsory before starting higher education https://t.co/tyozBVVXAh— Higher Education Policy Institute (@HEPI_news) April 28, 2021
According to the Higher Education Policy Institute, the report was compiled to provide more reliable evidence about students' sex lives. Presently, our general understanding of sexual behavior among students tends to be "more salacious than illuminating," the think tank claimed. The report, therefore, displays that the "caricature" society has drawn about irresponsible behavior among university students "had to be redrawn." According to Nick Hillman, the institute's director, the findings may "help students navigate what is a key transition point in their lives." He affirmed, "By telling students about the experiences of their peers, we hope the results will make it easier for them to make informed decisions about their own lives." Now, questions remain about whether a similar survey among undergraduate university students in the United States would yield similar results, and just how much the ongoing pandemic affected students' answers.