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Consent—a drama that confronts misogyny in schools

This new Channel 4 show looks at the education system’s failings to tackle sexism and support its survivors, writes Jan Nielsen
Issue 2841
A girl stands in the hall of a prestigious private school, in Channel 4's Consent

Natalie finds herself out of place at a private school in Channel 4’s consent

Consent introduces us to a group of teenage student friends at an affluent private college. Like all young people today they live in a world where sex is a commodity and pornography proliferates.

Their privileged lives contrast with that of Natalie a black female student who has won a scholarship to this prestigious school. But she is not there for long.

At a party where the drink and drugs flow, she is raped while unconscious by Alex, a boy she fancies. Alex and his mates have a WhatsApp group where sexism in all its forms is celebrated and shared. No encounter is legit unless it’s accompanied by filmed evidence.

The context of this series is the recent revelations of a plethora of evidence of the extent of sexism in schools. In addition, the arrest of misogynist online celebrity Andrew Tate has exposed the following he has among young men such as these. This goes alongside easy access to pornography.

The show raises the question, how can the adults in the room support the young people in this context? The parents and headteacher seek to ensure Alex’s behaviour won’t affect his place at Oxford or Cambridge.

The teacher who initially raises the rape is ill‑equipped to respond in any other way than the school rules dictate. Natalie feels forced to leave the school, while Alex pursues his academic career.

The story illustrates how important it is for schools to focus on young people’s emotional and social needs, and help them deal with a world where institutional sexism is part of its DNA.

Our schools have in place systems to monitor attendance, homework, school uniform and everything else that prepares them for the world of work. But we leave them vulnerable to sexism and misogyny without tools to navigate it.

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