Why are we still talking about consent in 2022?

type - features
category - gender
category - new masculinity
category - society
category - workplace
sector - diversity & inclusion
category - d&i at the lab
Despite the global impact of #MeToo, discussions about consent, sexual harassment and coercion continue to rage

From the street to the workplace, almost every person – not only women – will have encountered situations or conversations in which unwanted attention or questions about consent have arisen.

As an upshot of life in the Digital Age, in which images can be captured, shared and manipulated, discussions around consent in non-physical situations are growing, especially where video and imagery are concerned.

This has been particularly pertinent with the release of Netflix’s Most Hated Man on the Internet, which has inspired fresh conversations around consent, harassment and the long-term emotional and professional fallout such situations can cause. 

According to campaign body Safer Internet, although sharing pornography without consent is illegal in England, Scotland and Wales, in 2021 cases of revenge porn increased by more than 40% from 2020, rising from 3,146 cases to 4,406.

Elsewhere, a 2018 study showed 12% of males and 6.2% of females in Australia have taken a nude or sexual image of another person without their consent (source: Science Direct).

For these reasons and more, here at The Future Laboratory we have been reflecting on issues of consent, harassment and appropriate behaviour in the workplace and beyond. We recently hosted an internal lunchtime discussion on these issues, challenges and responses, not only in the UK but globally too.

Published by:

10 August 2022

Author: Toyosi Badejo-Okusanya and Kathryn Bishop

Image: Thinx Activewear


Transport for London

Where the workplace is concerned, worrying stats have recently emerged. A March 2022 report from the Scottish Trades Union Congress reveals that one third of women have experienced sexual harassment at work in the last year, and 85% believe their complaints were not taken seriously or handled appropriately.

A further 61% of respondents to the survey say they have experienced sexual harassment in public and on their way to work. Such data emphasises that while we might expect people to know and understand our human autonomy and right to make a choice and consent, not everybody does. What, then, is the best way forward?

One approach is to simplify – and, where appropriate, amplify – what can be sensitive and complex topics to the people around us, ensuring that no one can escape or avoid such crucial messaging. This is something we’ve seen across London, with organisations including mobile provider EE and Transport for London (Tfl) launching campaigns to address consent and harassment.

Across London’s transport network, TfL has been displaying posters challenging the normalisation and dismissal of sexual harassment or unwanted attention as ‘something that happens’ to women and girls on public transport and in other public spaces. The organisation says it wants to make it ‘clear that it is never acceptable and that the strongest possible action will always be taken’ for anyone found to be harassing people on its networks.

‘85% believe their complaints were not taken seriously or handled appropriately’
Source: A report from the Scottish Trades Union Congress


While these campaigns are driving the conversation, organisations also need to bring about genuine change and transformation. So how can companies, workplaces and even individuals influence society’s responses to sexual harassment and consent issues?

One such route has been explored in the #HaveaWord campaign from the Mayor of London’s office. It champions men calling out other men for sexist banter and inappropriate behaviour towards women, and it has been widely shared across social media.

Similarly, Look Out for Lambeth is a campaign provoking men to second-guess their attitudes towards women, which could help to usher in an era of New Masculinity. This puts the onus for changing attitudes on men, instead of women having to modify and monitor everything from their clothing to their routes home.

Promisingly, we are moving into an age where people are being encouraged to intervene, call out and educate their peers who might be giving women unwanted attention – and this is becoming more normalised than the inappropriate types of behaviour highlighted here.

Meta by Facebook protects personal space in the metaverse,

At The Future Laboratory, our company-wide, anti-bullying and harassment policy addresses discrimination that could occur both at work and away from work, such as on business trips, work-related events or social functions. It covers bullying and harassment by team members, including freelancers, as well as third parties such as customers.  

We define what constitutes various offences such as bullying, discrimination and harassment, which may include unwanted sexual advances or physical conduct such as touching and grabbing.

The Future Laboratory takes a zero-tolerance stance when it comes to discrimination. Anyone who engages in behaviour that goes against the company’s core values will be disciplined. We also ensure that team members who make complaints or who participate in any investigation are treated fairly and do not suffer any form of retaliation or victimisation as a result. 

Despite the growing conversation about consent and sexual harassment, it is critical that we create real change, whether at work, among friends and peers, or even in situations where you are strangers. It’s about genuine transformation rather than just conversations.

‘Despite the growing conversation about consent and sexual harassment, it is critical that we create real change, whether at work, among friends and peers, or even in situations where you are strangers’

Further Resources

: SWGfL – UK Revenge Porn Helpline

: UN – No Blurred Lines

: Transport for London – Report sexual harassment

: Mayor of London – Have a Word microsite


Want to read more?

This article is part of our Diversity & Inclusion work at The Future Laboratory. Explore our work on D&I on our blog and discover what steps we are taking to make a better tomorrow happen.

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