But being perceived as confrontational or disagreeable is not just socially frowned upon; in certain circumstances, it can endanger women.Many women have experienced unwanted catcalling, propositioning or indeed sexual touching from men.
Like fight or flight, freezing is now recognised by psychologists and health professionals as a common reaction to a threat.
Freezing leaves victims unable to articulate themselves clearly, and so relying on their ability to specifically say “no” is not just unrealistic and ineffective, but dangerous.
However, men too can freeze or feel intimidated when faced with sexual violence, and so verbally saying “no” or attempting to fight back is not always possible.
By demanding verbal and physical resistance from victims, we are ensuring many victims will never come forward and report assaults, as they will blame themselves for not speaking up or fighting back, and they will – often correctly, unfortunately – believe that others will blame them, too.
This damaging perception of masculinity means that men can feel uncomfortable or self-conscious explicitly turning down unwanted sexual advances.
Men are also raised to value their physical strength, and their ability to physically resist any threat.
The law now states that “a person consents to a sexual act if he or she freely and voluntarily agrees to engage in that act”, and provides several circumstances under which consent cannot be given, including being asleep or unconscious; under force or the threat of force or being impaired by alcohol or drugs.
The law clarifies that the list is not exhaustive and “does not limit the circumstances in which it may be established that a person did not consent to a sexual act”.
Figures released by the Legal Aid Board following a freedom of information request in 2017 show that over the past five years, an average of 30 per cent of rape trials involved questions about a complainant’s sexual history.
In 2016, the practice was used in 28 rape trials out of the 99 which were scheduled.