Myths of consent

Some of these myths about consent and rape make reference to women as victims but all myths around rape and sexual violence are harmful to victims of all genders.

Myth: Rapists are strangers lurking in dark alleys.

There is no such thing as a typical rapist or typical rapist behaviour. Around 90% of rapes are perpetrated by someone known to the victim in a place that was previously safe to them such as their home or workplace. This myth implies that rape can be prevented by avoiding certain places and therefore blames the victim.

Myth: Promiscuous people who wear sexy clothes shouldn’t be surprised if they are raped.

Nobody dresses or behaves to invite rape. Nobody leaves their house hoping to be touched or assaulted. Sexual assault can happen to anyone, regardless of how they dress or their previous behaviour. Rape is never the victim’s fault and the victim’s appearance or behaviour never excuse sexual assault.

Myth: Agreeing to something sexual means agreeing to everything else.

Consenting to one thing doesn’t mean someone has automatically agreed to do other activities. Checking for consent should be an ongoing conversation.

Myth: Men can’t be raped.

Around 11% of rape victims are male. Men of all sexual orientations can be victims of rape and sexual assault. Men are often fearful of reporting their experiences for fear of being judged as ‘unmanly’ and stigmatised.

Myth: People shouldn’t drink in order to protect themselves from rape.

All genders have the same rights to drink alcohol and assaults which take place while people are intoxicated or incapable of willingly giving informed consent are the fault of the perpetrator.

Myth: Sleeping with someone once means they will want to again.

Consenting to sexual activity on one occasion doesn’t mean that consent can be assumed in future. Consent should always be checked on each occasion and during any encounter. Everyone is entitled to refuse to give consent or to withdraw it and stop the activity at any time.

Myth: It wasn’t rape if the victim didn’t shout or fight.

Rape victims are often frightened for their safety and so will co-operate with the rapist to protect themselves. Victims may also become frozen with terror and unable to resist. Lack of physical resistance does not mean that consent has been willingly given.

Myth: ‘Rape’ accusations are thrown around for revenge and can’t be taken seriously.

Less than 1% of rape prosecutions are for making false allegations. This misperception enforces stereotypes of victims, trivialises victims’ experiences and may make it difficult for them to seek support for fear of being dismissed.

Myth: Checking consent kills the mood.

If all parties are confident about engaging in sexual activity, consent can be clearly and easily communicated to each other. This means that everyone can enjoy the encounter knowing that they are all comfortable.

Myth: Sex workers can’t be raped.

The transactions sex workers negotiate with clients are for consensual activities only. Sex workers of all genders have the same rights to consent as anyone else and there is no excuse for assault.