University of Warwick student George Lawlor took the bold position of standing up to “consent training.” I wrote about the feminist push to teach students about “enthusiastic” or “affirmative” consent in my previous post. It is the idea that people, particularly men, fail to understand when their partner consents to sex. In order to prevent these instances of mistaken rape, the partners must get enthusiastic, typically verbal consent from their sexual partners.
This notion makes little sense. Most people understand the concept of consent. They understand that it is wrong to have sex with someone who does not want to have sex with you. This is something so basic that even I understood this despite growing up in a home where sexual assault was frequent.
The idea that our children, particularly our boys, need to be taught not to rape is ludicrous and insulting. However, a greater insult would be thinking that they should be invited to an event to train them not to rape. This is what happened to Lawlor:
Ah, the special feeling you get when logging into Facebook and find someone thinks you’re cool enough to invite to their event. Is it a house party? Is it a social? All the possibilities race through your mind. Then it hits you. You tap the red notification and find you’ve been summoned to this year’s “I Heart Consent Training Sessions”. Your crushing disappointment quickly melts away and is overcome by anger.
Let me explain, I love consent. Of course people should only interact with mutual agreement, but I still found this invitation loathsome. Like any self-respecting individual would, I found this to be a massive, painful, bitchy slap in the face. To be invited to such a waste of time was the biggest insult I’ve received in a good few years. It implies I have an insufficient understanding of what does and does not constitute consent and that’s incredibly hurtful. I can’t stress that enough.
I feel as if I’m taking the “wrong” side here, but someone has to say it – I don’t have to be taught to not 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.
I already know what is and what isn’t consent. I also know about those more nuanced situations where consent isn’t immediately obvious as any decent, empathetic human being does. Yes means yes, no means no. It’s really that simple. You’d think Russell Group university students would get that much, but apparently the consent teachers don’t have as high a regard for their peers as I do.
That is the core of this concept. It is rather typical of many ideologues, so no one should assume that this arrogance is limited to feminists. That said, the way these activists behave is as if they recently stumbled onto the idea of asking for consent before having sex with someone and decided to share it with everyone else as if we did not already know it.
This is akin to when a toddler discovers that fire burns and decides to share that with everyone. We already know this, but for a while we humor them. Yet after a few days we tire of being told that fire burns. Again, we already know fire burns, and most of us have the sense not to set things on fire or put flammable objects near heat sources or open flames.
This is not to say that no one should tell people not to do these things. Some of us do need reminding. Yet if the purpose for bringing up fire safety is to prevent arson, this will be rather ineffective for an obvious reason: arsonists already know it is wrong to set things on fire. They do not care. They just want to see things burn.
The same thing applies to rapists. It is unlikely one will find an unknowing rapist, someone who had sex with a person they did not know did not consent. It is certainly possible, perhaps via miscommunication, however, it is unlikely that anyone speaking the same language would actually think when a person says “No. Stop.” those words mean “Yes. Do it.” The person who continues to act after those words are spoken knows full well they do not have consent. They simply do not care.
I’m not denying there have been tragic cases of rape and abuse on campuses in the past, but do you really think the kind of people who lacks empathy, respect and human decency to the point where they’d violate someone’s body is really going to turn up to a consent lesson on a university campus? They won’t. The only people who’ll turn up will be people who (surprise, surprise) already know when it’s okay to shag someone. No new information will be taught or learned. It will just be an echo chamber of people pointing out the obvious and others nodding along, thinking the whole time thinking that they’ve saved the world.
One can imagine the chants of “Rape bad! Rape bad!” at these workshops.
All joke aside, Lawlor is correct. When have we heard of a person attending one of these sessions or events coming out of them saying that they now know why they should not rape? This does not happen because the only people concerned with not raping people are those who do not want to rape people. No one going to these events walks in thinking “I’m gonna rape her, then her, then the red-head, and maybe that guy over there if I can gag him,” hears the talks about asking for consent, and then goes “You’re so right! I’m not going to have sex without consent ever again!”
Such an idea is so ridiculous that if you read that in a book or saw it in a film you would roll your eyes or laugh. Yet scores of feminists think this is the most probable reaction to their seminars on how not to rape people. And as Lawlor states:
There are countless other more useful things they could be doing with their time. They could be making a difference by actually going out and campaigning, volunteering and caring for other people. Instead they selfishly make themselves feel better by indulging in the delusion that all that’s needed to save the vulnerable from foul predators is to point out the blindingly obvious.
As the campus Women’s Officer I’ve been running around making sure my volunteers are prepared, their hands full of sticky notes, their heads full of ice breaker games. So when I read an article claiming an invitation to these workshops is “an insult”, I’ll admit, I was angry.
The author implied I Heart Consent workshops are classes which teach men not to rape, and an invitation to one is therefore tantamount to an accusation. He felt uncomfortable with the idea that he himself, “a decent empathetic human being”, was being implicated in a crime he would never commit.
The truth is, I’m not sorry my workshop made this writer feel uncomfortable. The first time I was confronted with the statistic that 80 per cent of rape survivors know their attacker, I felt the same. When I thought about this and realised most rapists are normal members of society, I felt sick. I still do feel sick when I think about the cycles of abuse perpetrated by partners, parents, and friends of people I know. Self-styled “decent, empathetic human beings”, like this writer.
That completely misses Lawlor’s point. It is not about him being a decent empathetic human being; it is about him not needing to be told not to be a rapist.
Yes, that most victims know their abusers is staggering. It completely dispels the idea that rapists are some strange men lurking in the shadows ready to pounce on the first woman they spot. Yet that is not what these “affirmative consent” campaigns are meant to address.
They do not address the instances in which someone pretends to befriend a person with the intent of forcing them into sex. They do not address the instances in which someone drugs a person in order to have sex with them. They do not address the instances in which someone manipulates or coerces someone into sex. All of these instances are deliberate actions that no one would assume could result from a misunderstanding. You know when you drug someone. You know when you manipulate them. You know when you lie to gain their trust.
To say that the average person needs to be taught not to do these things implies that they already or will do them. That is insulting. Granted, Throup was not concerned about that:
I wanted to run workshops which debunk the common myth which people like this writer still seem to believe, that “Rape only occurs between strangers in dark alleys.” He took a picture with a sign, proclaiming “This is not what a rapist looks like”, when the truth is, it is.
I’m not saying this writer himself has sexually assaulted someone but he seems to believe there is a particular profile of person that would, who’s too busy lurking in the shadows somewhere to attend a consent workshop.
No, that is not what he stated. What he stated was, “I already know what is and what isn’t consent. I also know about those more nuanced situations where consent isn’t immediately obvious as any decent, empathetic human being does. Yes means yes, no means no. It’s really that simple. You’d think Russell Group university students would get that much, but apparently the consent teachers don’t have as high a regard for their peers as I do.”
As I stated before, it is as if Throup discovered that fire burns and now must share that with everyone, despite that apparently everyone but her already knows this. Or as she says:
The truth is, sexual violence is enabled on a cultural scale. Columnists in broadsheet newspapers write of women “asking for it”, catcalling and groping is an everyday part of the lives of women and LGBTUA+ people, and many people think it’s as simple as “Yes means yes” and “No means no” when our workshops teach there’s a spectrum of misunderstandings in between, and consent can only be an enthusiastic yes.
It is interesting that in her zeal to address sexual violence Throup left out male victims. One supposes raped men do not count unless they belong to whatever “LGBTUA+” is supposed to represent. Throup goes on to complain about rape chants and the survivors would be traumatized by them and the perpetrators who would be empowered.
In 30 years of dealing with sex offenders, I have yet to meet a single person, not one man or woman, who heard a chant like “No means yes! Yes means anal!” and felt empowered to rape. It is this kind of ideological stupidity that actually enables rapists. What is it that people like Throup think rapists think? Do they really believe that rapists are waiting for social approval before they assault people? Do they really believe that rapists will be moved by tasteless jokes?
As much I complain about society mocking female-on-male and how that attitude can make it possible for women to get away with horrendous crimes, I do not believe that Bill Maher telling a teacher rape jokes will empower the next female sex offender. She will rape regardless of whether Maher tells the joke or not because her behavior has zero to do with him. It is about what she wants to do and what she thinks she can get away with. She already knows what she is doing is wrong, which is why she will tell her victim not to tell anyone. No “I Heart Consent” workshop will stop that.
Yet Throup is convinced that:
This is what these workshops are all about. We’re starting a conversation, raising awareness of an issue too often misunderstood. Part of that is targeting potential perpetrators, but another part is empowering survivors and giving general students the chance to learn how their actions form part of a culture and how they can make those actions more supportive to survivors of sexual assault at Warwick and beyond.
I hope our critics can learn to do this too. You may not like our consent workshops, but please, have a heart.
I will let Lawlor handle that one:
Self-appointed teachers of consent: get off your fucking high horse. I don’t need your help to understand basic human interaction. Secondly, go and do something. Real people need your help and they deserve better than you. Next time you consider inviting me or anyone else to another bullshit event like this, have a little respect for the intelligence and decency of your peers. You might find that’s a more effective solution than accusing them of being vile rapists-in-waiting who can only be taught otherwise by a smug, righteous, self-congratulatory intervention.