by Talia Randall


When we get to the bit about consent, I’m supposed to read from a laminated crib sheet. An educational film is meant to explain: a stick man makes tea for another stick man who doesn’t want tea.

If tea = sex then what is a biscuit? If Sanjay, Miriam and David buy 3 apples for 50p how much change is left? If the Dish ran away with Mr. Hewitt after he got sacked for all the porn on his laptop then who is with the Spoon?

With the younger ones, I recite the P.A.N.T.S. rule, the acronym to remind them of basic bodily autonomy. Everybody, say it with me! Privates are Private! Always remember your body belongs to you! No means no! Etc.

Who can tell me what Privates mean? I watch them, pained by their earnest failure to correctly name parts of their own bodies. I will them to say vagina or penis with the same nonchalance as elbow or earlobe.

In the staff room, an inspirational poster tells me I have to give myself permission, as if I were a schoolgirl politely asking to pee, Let David go first, you girls can hold it in longer. I thought David was busy buying apples.

All of life’s lessons are taught in a single day: sex, drugs, how to write a CV, but in all the swapping of rooms and all the signing of forms no one bothered to ask the stickman what he actually wants. Does he know we’re using him like this?