Laura Perrins: Ludicrous sexting advice latest from “experts” at Department for Education

Sexting is a symptom of a much greater malaise at the heart of society

The Department for Education have agreed to update the guidance on SRE so it is more ‘modern’. The current guidance pre-dates the advent of the evil, evil internet so a change is needed to take into the account the danger of pornography, body image issues,  ‘sexting’ and lessons on consent.

I do not know what the guidance on pornography will be but I suspect it will go along the lines of - do not watch it. And all the teenagers out there will instantly, instantly I tell you, stop watching it.

As for sexting what are they going to give advice on? What lighting is most flattering, that sexting means you might as well walk down the street naked – well kids, here is the news. Sexting is like walking down the street naked. Do not do it. Ah, now I know all the kids will also stop sexting.

Seriously though, all this watching porn and sexting is a symptom of a much greater malaise at the heart of society. If you are a girl who has low self-esteem you may seek attention by sexting. Or you might drink too much, or get yourself into a vulnerable situation or watch sheds loads of porn with your abusive boyfriend who then asks you to imitate.

It is all the same side of the same coin, so why pick on sexting? But please – let the sexperts deal with it. No one seems to think the parents (perhaps with some help) can do it.

But most of, most of all, I am looking forward to the guidance on meaning of consent. I am just rubbing my hands together on this one, as currently neither the Court of Appeal or indeed the High Court are too sure on what consent is.

Did you know that a person could only consent to sex if she agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice? So is a prostitute free to make that choice? Who knows – it depends on the circumstances.

And if both parties are drunk is that a real consent or meaningless? Well it depends on how drunk you are really. If you are so drunk that you are unconscious then it is probably rape as there is no capacity to consent but if you are not that drunk you can still consent as a drunken consent is still consent.

But even if you did not consent but the defendant honestly and reasonably but mistakenly believed you were consenting then that is not rape as he does not have the requisite mens rea. The mens what, you ask? Never mind I am sure the 14 year olds will get it.

Let’s take it a bit further – if someone is in vulnerable situation and says yes to sex surely that is consent? Well it depends if it is a mere submission – that is rape. But if it is reluctant acquiescence then it is a good consent. The difference between the two? Who the hell knows – but I am sure the experts at the Department for Education do.

What if he promises to use a condom but then takes it off mid act – yes that is probably rape not because it changes the nature and purpose of the act but because she did not have the freedom to give a true consent. Nature and purpose of the act – surely there is no doubt about that? Oh but there is.

Don’t worry about it though it is all there under the section 75 and 76 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 dealing with evidential and conclusive presumptions on consent. And I am sure a 15 year olds can understand the difference between the two.

Let’s take another example. What if he has HIV and does not tell is partner – well if she does not ask it is not rape, but if she does ask and he denies his status then it probably is rape depending on who is sitting in the High Court that day, there is some obiter dicta on this point. Obiter what? Never mind – keep up at the back there I am sure all of this can be explained to the sniggering teenagers.

Surely consent most be given enthusiastically, or at least verbally for there to be an agreement? No, no one has to be enthusiastic about it just to agree, and as for the verbal agreement well you could have partners who have various signs/signals/code words worked out that would amount to an agreement. Code words Mrs. Smith, really? Please do explain.

Oh, yes Department for Education, please do explain the code word issue to the teenagers. I am really looking forward to that one.

Laura Perrins