In Britain, people either love, or hate soap operas. I am one of the people who love them. Yes, some of the acting is god awful and some of the actors can appear to be lazy, but some of the actors are hidden treasures. Jenna Coleman, Katherine Kelly, Michelle Keegan, Sarah Lanchashire, and Surranne Jones all came from soaps, and are bloody brilliant actresses. I’m not going to write about the acting today though. I’m going to talk about story lines and the influence they have in the real world. Of course, There’s Who Killed Lucy Beale, Free the Weatherfield One, The Gloved Hand Killer, and, The Baby Swap Scandal, to name a few memorable story lines, but I want to focus on the issue based story lines. This is a wide topic and one which (after I went to a 18th birthday party last night) I do not have the capability of writing right now. So I’m just going to focus on the recent Hollyoaks sexual consent story line. Hollyoaks is by far my favourite soap because it’s made for young people, and is fresh (God I sound like a 40 year old male reviewer here, bear with me).A quick summary of the story line so far. Ellie (Sophie Porley) has just broken up with her boyfriend, so goes out for fresher’s. There she meets Nick (Ben-Ryan Davies). A very drunk Ellie then takes Nick home. When Ellie wakes up, she is shocked to discover her and Nick had sex, and Ellie has no recollection of it whatsoever.That was a very brief summary, and I would recommend watching the episode. Hollyoaks is asking the question was the sex consensual? Hollyoaks haven’t just forgotten about that night either. The aftermath of the night is still present 4 months later, and is tough to watch, but so important.
There is a snobbery about soaps, and this is one of the reasons why I don’t think there should be.Firstly, I praise Hollyoaks for tackling this story line, but also not making it black and white. Everyone knows a Nick. He’s a typical lad, relatable and realistic. The audience is supposed to feel conflicted. Ellie is obviously drunk, yet there is no doubt that Ellie is a victim of rape. She may be giving off signals to Nick, but she never said yes, and she is clearly uncomfortable in bed. However, a lot of us could be left sympathising with Nick, who never meant any harm, and assumes Ellie just wanted a one night stand the morning after when she is clearly upset and confused. The audience is left with a debate, which is too often a taboo subject. This situation can, and does, happen to anyone.So here’s where my problem lies. Why aren’t we taught about this in school?
My experience of sexual education in school is a biology lesson. I can honestly say I had more sexual education in primary school than high school, and that was just about puberty. I go to an all girls catholic school. In PSHE, we were supposed to be taught about life, and we were in some aspects. However, we had another year 11 form next to our classroom, and I remember one PSHE lesson, we saw them looking at a power point about rape. On this power point, I remember it said Men can’t get raped. That’s false as fuck. But that’s not what the point of this story is. Our class thought we would get this power point in another lesson, but we never did. My form teacher in year 11 was a man. I’m not bringing all male teachers in when I talk about this, but my form teacher refused to teach my form sexual education. Now, I can understand how uncomfortable it must be for a man to teach 30 teenage girls about sex (even though it shouldn’t make people uncomfortable), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t teach us sexual education. Luckily, I kind of taught myself sexual education from my mum, my friends, YouTube videos (Hannah Witton and Laci Green are my saving graces), the internet, and TV. There are also a lot of sexual health charities (Rape Crisis, Brook, The Mix) available for people. However, when Sex and Relationships education is not compulsory in schools, there are some young people who won’t have the conversation they should have before they become sexually active. It’s ironic you can legally have sex when you’re 16 but you don’t have to be taught about it. It’s like saying you can legally drive a car when you’re 17 but you don’t need lessons (That was a dreadful analogy but you see the point?). One case where I needed Sex and Relationships education was last year, where I was in a situation with a older man which was very close to end up with awful consequences for me.TV is brilliant at teaching real life issues without sounding ‘preachy’. Katie Russell from Rape Crisis explains it a lot better than slightly hungover Beth with a cold ever could.“TV drama has the opportunity to reach audiences that perhaps more traditional campaigning and awareness-raising methods might not appeal to and in a way that is engaging and doesn’t feel like being ‘educated’ or preached at. This makes it an important and powerful medium for messages that a relevant to everyone and have the potential to effect positive change.” It’s clear there’s a lack of understanding about consent and its role in sexual relationships among people of all ages but it’s great that Hollyoaks can reach people at a crucial point in their lives when many of them might be becoming sexually active for the first time. Many young audiences members might find the story line resonates with them because they’ve already been through something similar too of course, and if it encourages even one rape survivor to talk to someone, like Rape Crisis or a friend, and get support, then it’s done a great thing.”
For more infomation, Channel 4 and Hollyoaks have made a short documentary about a group of students sharing their thoughts and opinions on what is consent. It’s a tough topic, and young people are in the dark about consent, and they shouldn’t be. The scary thing for me personally is that I know two of the young people in this documentary.
So a summary, Well Done Hollyoaks. Education system, Speed up.
See you soon,