This post was contributed by Dr Laura Lammasniemi, Associate Professor, Law School of University of Warwick.
“In your own own words, how would you define consent? It turns out that’s quite a difficult question.”
The Age of Consent is a five-part series where we explore our ideas about consent, where they’ve come from and how we tend to use them, particularly in our laws, and how these ideas have evolved both legally and socially. It features thirteen expert voices, from academics to rape crisis workers and journalists, who all bring their own perspectives to the conversation.
The Age of Consent has been commissioned by me, Dr Laura Lammasniemi, and produced by Narrative Matters. You might have seen or heard me as part of your studies at University of London giving a lecture on criminal law or read a blog of mine on contemporary issues on crime. In my research, I focus on legal history of criminal law. In my current Leverhulme Trust-funded project, Narratives of sexual consent in English criminal courts, 1870-1950, I explore how people understood sexual consent in the past. The podcast series is part of that research project.
In 19th and 20th century, attitudes towards women who had been victims of sexual offences were often challenging. The judges simply did not believe women and girls, and called them untrustworthy – sometimes even before a trial had begun. Medical experts looked for signs for previous sexual encounters and if the complainant had previous sexual relations, it is unlikely that the court would believe she was raped.
One of the most shocking things to emerge from the podcast conversations is how little some things have changed. The prejudices and myths women were faced in courtrooms and in their communities 100 years ago, are still rife today despite great changes in the legal system and society more broadly. This becomes particularly clear in episode 2 of the series where Andrea Simon from the End Violence Against Women Coalition UK and Amrita Dash from Edinburgh Rape Crisis speak of public and social attitudes towards sexual consent, and Dr Hannah Bows from University Durham talks about her research on elderly women and how they are often ignored.
The podcast series starts with exploring the legal history and present day laws on rape and consent. Episode 2 explores the social and cultural thinking around consent, and episode 3 explores how these attitudes are reflected in trials. Episodes 4 and 5 are more forward looking. They ask questions such as what is the aim of sexual offences laws? Are we imagining a world without rape, or are we imagining a world where every rapist is locked up? The final episodes question whether consent is the best conceptual framework and look at how the boundaries of consent could be changed to help enable ethical sex.
The podcast series was produced by Narrative Matters, who specialise in helping researchers tell the stories behind their work, in a way that makes sense to a non-expert audience, via podcasts and other means.
You can find the full series in all streaming sites:
Apple podcasts: The Age of Consent om Apple Podcasts