Male Identity and Consent Workshops Begin at King’s

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King’s Sport are to launch a series of workshops that aim to “unpack the challenges and pressures of masculinity, leadership and male identity” from the 25th February.

The workshops are part of the ongoing Work Out research project which aims to “explore themes of consent, sex education, masculinity and male privilege” using studio research, study groups and collaborative workshop sessions with students.

The workshops are to be led by artist, Phoebe Davies, sex educator, Gareth Esson, and sports medicine specialist Dr Alex Bowmer – Head of Medical for the Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL. They are each to take place on the 25th February, the 3rd and the 24th March from 5.30 to 7.30pm at the Science Gallery London, near Guy’s Campus. They will also offer free pizza.

Although students are advised to attend all of the workshops, those who missed the first are encouraged to still sign up for the second, which will focus on Bystander Intervention and practical ways of intervening in, challenging, and preventing sexual assaults.

The workshops are being held alongside the ‘Genders – Shaping and Breaking the Binary’ season, also at the Science Gallery.

According to Davies, “this project isn’t about moving from one narrow view of masculinity to another- it’s about broadening our understanding of the spectrum of gender, expression and identity whilst examining the impact that structures and history have on shaping how we behave”

Why is it necessary?

Davies’ and Esson’s research as sex educators led them to find that male students have often “shied away” from discussions about identity, consent, and harassment, which led them “to host a space/workshop series for male students to discuss these issues, a space where they can ask questions they usually wouldn’t, and begin to unpack wider issues of masculinity.”

“By discussing identity with male identifying students specifically, we hope to encourage them to examine how the patriarchy and society’s narrow notions of masculinity may be impacting their well-being and limiting their self-expression”, she says.

Davies stressed the importance that ‘leadership’ will have in their workshops as an “entry point” that “opens up conversation about taking responsibility for your actions, how your actions may affect or influence others and what direct impact your behaviour has on your peers/friends/colleagues/team mates around you, whether that at be at the student union bar, the gym changing room or your future work place.”

Who can participate?

Although the workshops are targeted at male athletes, all male-identifying students are allowed to participate. Students can sign up for the workshops through the KCL website.

Davies explained that the decision to target Work Out at sports teams was informed by the research team’s conversations with Student’s Union sports development officers and coaches, who said that “sports clubs (especially larger ones) often command a significant amount influence over the spaces they inhabit on campus.”

“Often without realising it, clubs can be a very dominant presence in university spaces. This can be coupled with a culture in the club where sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour during club initiations may be normalised, which can have a negative effect on club members and other students.”

Davies also noted that, in sports clubs, because of their collectivist dynamics, the work done with individuals can diffuse among the team members and have a particularly widespread, positive impact. “The great thing about working with athletes is that by working effectively with a few members of a club, we can equip them to be agents of change in their teams and we saw this happen the last time we worked at King’s.”

How did Work Out begin?

Work Out is a follow-up to the 2013 sex education research project, Bedfellows, which Davies co-ran with fellow artists, Chloe Cooper and Jenny Moore. It led her to converse with young male participants who shared their concerns with her about various aspects of masculinity, consent, and the male identity.

“…over a number of years, we led workshops and events in community spaces, arts spaces, on the radio, at schools, with parents, teachers and students. This led me to have various conversation with young men and boys who voiced that they struggled with talking about pressures of masculinity, assumptions of how they should behave as a man, and often felt that they are unable to talk about issues around identity, sexuality and consent”, Davies explains.

Through Bedfellows, she met Esson. With support from Somerset House Studio, KCL’s Cultural Institute’s Arts and Society programme, and involvement from KCL academics Dr Alana Harris and Dr Dorothee Boulanger, the pair began working together in 2017 on what would become Work Out. Through Dr Harris, they met Dr Bowmer, and the Work Out research team was complete.

“Our projects aim was to explore themes of consent, sex education, masculinity and male privilege and through Dr Alana Harris we began to work alongside a KCL specialist in sports medicine … jointly we decided to focus on research within a sports context at KCL, which developed into Work Out.”

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