It Happens Here (IHH), Oxford University Student Union’s (OUSU) sexual harrasment campaign group, has recently taken their consent classes to France.
Several members of the IHH committee ran the workshops with students aged 15-18 at the Anglophone Section of the Lycée François Premier in Fontainebleau, a commune close to Paris, from 24 to 27 November.
The consent classes, which are similar to those IHH organise through JCRs for freshers’ week, mark the first international trip of the group’s latest initiative to offer adapted versions of consent workshops in schools outside Oxford.
The workshops were some of the first of their kind to take place in France, where the idea of consent education is relatively unknown compared to the UK.
Josh Rampton, the co-chair of IHH, which is “committed to raising awareness of sexual violence, supporting survivors, and promoting consent and first response education”, described the work as “a great success”.
Rampton told Cherwell, “The committee members were pleasantly shocked by how quickly and fervently most of the students became engaged with the subject. The students, much like those in Freshers Week, were horrified but often not surprised by the statistics that were discussed. They were given French statistics illustrating the prevalence of sexual harassment, assault, and rape in these workshops.
“Despite many comments to the effect of ‘but this is obvious…’, quite a few very basic misconceptions surrounding sexual assault were successfully dismantled. Many students were surprised to learn of the controversy these workshops provoked in the UK.”
One sixth-former at the Lycée, Antoine Sacco, shared the optimism of IHI. He said, “It was definitely a good idea, and the fact that we had data for both France and the UK was very pleasant. Students liked it much [sic], even though it would have been great to have different activities. Reading comments about sexual harassment was quite boring from the fourth one.
“I believe everybody enjoyed it and praise the initiative taken there.”
On behalf of the University’s Faculty of Modern Languages, Simon Kemp, Associate Professor of French at Somerville, told Cherwell, “We’re very proud of our students’ determination to make a difference and delighted to have the university associated with such important work. I’m glad that the consent workshops in France were a success, and that French media interest means their efforts may have a broader impact.”
For the first time this October, every Oxford JCR ran ‘compulsory’ consent classes.
Similar workshops were met with backlash at some universities. Undergraduates at York University and Clare College in Cambridge boycotted the “patronising” consent classes.