Sexual consent courses are now described as compulsory at Oxford University

By Lindsay Brown
Newsbeat reporter

Image source, Getty Images

Freshers starting at Oxford University this week will now have to attend compulsory sexual consent workshops.

Though the sessions have been around for a few years, this is the first time that every undergraduate common room plans to run them.

Some have reacted with surprise that such a prestigious institution should need to teach some of Britain's finest young minds that "no" means no.

But the university authorities back the Students Union to organise the course.

The sexual consent course also covers legal aspects of consent and general sex education.

How compulsory is 'compulsory'?

Orla White, from Oxford University Student Union, told Newsbeat that "each year, more and more colleges and common rooms run them as compulsory.

"We don't follow up on non-attendance and we also stress that participants are welcome to leave at any time."

The growing trend for universities to arrange consent training divides opinion.

Some see it as patronising and unnecessary.

@CrimBarrister tweeted "If they need to be taught this, they shouldn't be at uni!"

Universities across the UK run the sexual consent workshops but they're not usually compulsory.

Cambridge University told Newsbeat, "The consent classes are a key part of our students' introduction to university life, they are included in college induction programmes, and students are strongly encouraged to attend."

Image source, Thinkstock

The National Union of Students claims that one in five students experience some sort of sexual harassment during their first week of term.

Sexual comments, wolf-whistling when students walked into lectures, heckling in nightclub queues and jokes about rape were all cited as examples.

Last week it was reported that freshers at York University walked out of talks on sexual consent.

York told Newsbeat that around 5,000 students had attended the classes.

In a blog, York's Community and Well-being Officer Dom Smithies said: "Fewer than 250 people chose not to stay in the first talk.

"In the remaining three, just a handful of students out of the thousands that attended left."

Riz tweeted: "Men who are inclined to assault women won't suddenly change their minds after attending a class".

Hareem Ghani, a womens' officer at the NUS told The Independent: "The reality is far from this.

"Instead, consent sessions work to debunk myths surrounding rape, deconstruct the impact of hyper-masculinity on all genders, and push students not to shame peers for their sexual preferences or sexual activity."

A person consents to sex "if they agree by choice, and have the freedom and capacity to make that choice" according to the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

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