New Research Focusses on Expressing Positive Consent

Holly Barnes-Bennetts
Holly Barnes-Bennetts

Holly Barnes-Bennetts also hopes her PhD research will feed into the development of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PHSE) education in schools to help young people understand what constitutes positive consent.

Positive consent is about looking for the presence of a “yes” rather than the absence of a “no”. Holly’s research will explore how people express that “yes”.

It comes on the back of a number of high-profile news stories and national campaigns highlighting the prevalence of sexual violence and abuse.

While recognising the importance of such campaigns, Holly’s research will focus on positive consent and how couples can create a healthier dialogue and ultimately enhance their relationships.

“It is a sad thing indeed that it is so clearly necessary for this research to preface the word ‘consent’ with ‘positive’,” she said. “Consent by definition is positive and affirming yet when mentioned in relation to sex minds seem to spring to quite the opposite, to coercion (not consent), assault (not consent), to rape (not consent) and to the wider culture of sexual violence. It is my hope that this research will reconnect consent with its positive meanings, to celebrate the joyous and respectful nature of people exploring and sharing intimacy and bodily pleasures together.”

“My research has an overall aim of promoting a better understanding of what positive sexual consent looks, sounds and feels like so we can spread the word and improve education,” she added.

Holly’s research asks couples to talk together about the sexual consent they share. “By talking together this will really help couples to better understand each other and hopefully improve their communication and ultimately their relationship,” she said. “I hope that it will empower people to have better conversations.

“As well as this positive outcome, I’m hoping that my research will feed into the PHSE work in schools so that young people feel confident in being able to communicate, express and understand consent.”

Holly is also hoping to get a national conversation started on social media via the hashtag #HowISayYes where people can share their views.

To find out more about Holly’s research or to take part, visit her website