We've been having the conversations around consent. Each one from a slightly different angle - from debates surrounding Aziz Ansari to what it actually is. And more recently Katy Perry kissing an American Idol contestant.

According to the Gender Health & Justice Research Unit at the University of Cape Town consent is, “The clear, unmistakable and voluntary agreement between people to participate in a sexual activity.” Sexual activity includes kissing, fondling, and oral sex. 

Consent can never be assumed. You cannot assume that someone is consenting based on their behaviour or appearance. Receiving consent once does not cover future incidents. Consent needs to be continuous and on-going.

‘Double standards’ should not come as a surprise because of the way, “we have constructed women’s bodies as passive and, the pervasiveness of male-on-female rape in our societies.

It is also important to note that coercion is not consent. By definition, coercion is a tactic used by perpetrators to intimidate, trick or force someone to engage in sexual activity with him/her. Consent needs to be voluntary at all times.

READ MORE: Why can't we agree on what consent is?

Conversations around consent have increased over the last few years. We know that men and women need to fully understand what consent is in order to remove the myths that surround sexual assault, harassment and rape. 

When we think about who needs to receive and ask for consent we generally think of men. Often times we do not think that much about women who also need to and should also ask for consent from men. This shows that there is an underlying problem in the way we think and talk about the topic.

Dr Lindsay Kelland from the Allan Gray Centre for Leadership Ethics at Rhodes says that we tend to place more emphasis on men asking for consent than we do on women. The reason for this that we do not view men and women the same. 

READ MORE: Why South African women should down tools in October every year

Since we do not have the same requirement for men and women to get consent we have opened a space for ‘double standards’ when it comes to consent. Dr Kelland explains that “This ‘double standard’ actually follows from the distorted meanings we have given to differently gendered bodies along a binary—‘men’ as active, ‘women’ as passive.”

She says because we are raised to believe that only men initiate sexual activity, we have followed this logic that only men need to ask for consent. This logic is also applied when it comes to education around consent.

That kiss left social media at odds with some unable to look past the incident as innocent.

Dr Kelland says that the ‘double standards’ should not come as a surprise because of the way, “we have constructed women’s bodies as passive and, the pervasiveness of male-on-female rape in our societies.” We are used to offenders being men and we do not know how to react to women offenders. This does not mean women offenders are less prevalent or more prevalent. It means that we have not found a way to include women offenders when we discuss consent.

READ MORE: Katy Perry under fire for kissing American Idol contestant

Women offenders are less likely to be reported by men because of the stigma that surrounds men that are assaulted by women. The reasons why men do not report women offenders vary amongst men, however, according to Jim Hopper, an American psychologist and researcher, and Russell Strand a retired Criminal Investigative Service special agent, they believe that men do not report sexual assaults for the following reasons:

  • The pain of being sexually assaulted is compounded by shame. It brings feelings of shame to a man because it works against the idea of what it means to be a man
  • Some men believe that they will be looked at as less than a man, that they will be ostracised and shunned.

Back to Katy Perry being accused via social media of assaulting the 19-year-old contestant whom she managed to kiss in a sneaky manner. That kiss left social media at odds with some unable to look past the incident as innocent.

Some believed that it was plain sexual assault and Katy Perry had no right to steal his first kiss. 

Some Twitter users believed that Katy Perry’s kiss was innocent and that we should not be making a big deal out of nothing. 


The young contestant came forward a few days later to explain what happened during his audition. He says that the whole incident was blown out of proportion. Although he can understand why people are upset, he says he did not feel assaulted.  

If the reactions on Twitter are anything to go by, it's highlighted that more and more people see that the double standard when it comes to consent exisits in our society

Dr Kelland believes the only way we can get rid of these 'double standards' is if, “we could get rid of the gender binary we might be able to rid ourselves of archaic ideas about masculine and feminine sexuality.” This will give way to rethinking the ways in which we teach consent in a way that is not in accordance to the existing views on gender. 

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