At last, a rebellion against sexual-consent classes
It’s high time students refused to attend these patronising lectures.
A new phenomenon has started on university campuses, one that should have emerged years ago. Men are publicly pushing back against demeaning contemporary labels. These labels paint men as intrinsically sexually driven beings who not only misunderstand consent, but actually disregard it. On 14 October, George Lawlor, a student at the University of Warwick, wrote a piece for the Warwick Tab about why he refused to attend ‘I *Heart* Consent’ training sessions – lessons that have been pushed on university campuses by the National Union of Students (NUS) in order to teach young men and women how to obtain consent before sex.
Yes, these workshops are as ridiculous as they sound. Yet, until now, only a few commentators, most notably spiked’s Brendan O’Neill and Joanna Williams, have been prepared to stick their heads above the parapet and criticise the patronising logic of sexual-consent classes. Now, students are finally plucking up the courage to do the same. In his article, Lawlor states:
‘I feel as if I’m taking the “wrong” side here, but someone has to say it – I don’t have to be taught not to be a rapist. That much comes naturally to me, as I am sure it does to the overwhelming majority of people you and I know. Brand me a bigot, a misogynist, a rape apologist, I don’t care. I stand by that.’
Nothing Lawlor said was untrue. The majority of people know exactly what consent is, whether it is spoken or implied. Yet he received mass amounts of vitriol in response to his piece. The Independent published an article titled ‘Student refuses consent lessons because he doesn’t “look like a rapist”’ – a flippant title based not on his arguments, but on an image Lawlor used to illustrate his Tab piece, in which he is holding up a sign saying ‘This is not what a rapist looks like’. Comments on social media have also done exactly what Lawlor expected – branded him a bigot.
But, as Lawlor told me, his act of defiance has stirred up much-needed debate on this issue. ‘I haven’t dared to check Twitter, but the comments elsewhere seem to be a mixed bag’, he said. ‘Of course I’ve received the inevitable name-calling, but beneath that there has been some good reasoned debate and that’s all I ever wanted really – just getting people to think and to speak about this issue rather than let one prevailing ideology dictate its terms to the rest of us. I have also been fortunate to have received many messages of support, and for that I am immensely grateful; it has been an emotionally and psychologically difficult few days.’
It is no surprise that few students speak up on campus, given the sort of reaction you receive if you go against the politically correct narrative. Lawlor compared the dominant ideology on campus to a ‘medieval religion’ that is ‘very retributive and very punishing of dissent’. He continues: ‘Students, not only on my campus, but across Britain it seems, will lay down their views and will attempt to suppress any counterarguments, making wild accusations in the process.’
Tweets have compared Lawlor to the likes of Ted Bundy, and people have written articles about him with titles like ‘George Lawlor looks like a rapist’. All for simply saying he knows exactly what consent is, and therefore does not need to attend a finger-wagging consent session.
The response has not been entirely negative, however. Lawlor has indeed sparked a debate and has already begun influencing other students. On Friday, Jack Hadfield, another Warwick student, wrote a piece for Breitbart explaining why he, too, refused to take part in this nonsense. Hadfield said:
‘How many rapists are going to stop raping people because some pretentious student told them that “Yes means Yes”? Any at all? And why would any normal, right-thinking man attend a class that demonises them and normal, healthy male sexuality by pretending that all men are latent rapists who would take advantage of women if they thought they could get away with it?’
These classes will not stop people from raping. Most people know not to rape, just as people know not to murder or steal. Teaching men not to rape is patronising and, quite frankly, useless. Why not extend this logic and teach Muslims not to bomb buildings? Because we know it does not work, and we know these stereotypes do not apply to all individuals in a particular demographic. Criminality is far more complex.
Lawlor and Hadfield took a risk by speaking out against consent classes. They could have sat through a few hours of pretentious Newspeak from a posh, self-appointed, moral superior. They could have nodded when they were told men are inherently sexist, that we live in a rape culture and that a quarter of women are assaulted on campus. Instead, they chose to speak up and urge students to put their efforts into legitimate causes, instead of continually wasting their time on feelgood, hug-box sessions.
Both Lawlor and Hadfield have received tweets filled with absolute bile from emotional social-media reactionaries. This is a predictable reaction to the questioning of new orthodoxies. But Lawlor and Hadfield also helped to move the conversation along, raising questions about how we are infantilising university students, how we are demonising men, and how students are wasting time and effort on useless feelgood campaigns while there are real, big issues in the world to deal with.
Lauren Southern is a reporter for the Rebel and a political-science student at the University of the Fraser Valley.