An Open Letter to George Lawlor

‘Self-appointed teachers of consent: get off your fucking high horse’

Self-appointed tab writers who don’t understand consent, get off the floating, phallic cloud of your over inflated ego and educate yourself.

Dear George,

I’m glad that you identify as a ‘decent, empathetic human being’.

Except, actually, you’re not.

Because, if you were empathetic towards the victims of sexual assault, if you were educated about the level of sex-related crimes on university campuses, and if you could comprehend the nuances within what it means to ‘consent’, then you wouldn’t have taken that little red notification to a consent workshop as ‘the biggest insult I’ve received in a good few years’.

Instead, you would have been seized with passion and support for the workshops running in order to promote the consent you write you ‘love’, with a willingness to go in order to reaffirm what you already know, or *shock* possibly even learn more about the issue of consent.

However, you have chosen to write a pretentious, generalising and down right offensive article on why you, George, gift to all women, doesn’t need consent lessons because, hey, rape doesn’t happen at Russell Groups! And consent’s as simple as ‘yes’ and ‘no’, right?

Now here’s a revelation for you George, and you might want to sit down for this one: Even nice, educated boys at Russell Group Universities…. rape.

What does this fact mean?

It means that when you post the cute pic of you with a sign reading ‘This is not what a rapist looks like’, what you’re saying is “Ladies, rapists don’t wear white shirts, cashmere grey V-necks and have sensible haircuts”.

Except, they do.

There is no atypical ‘rapist’, as pointed out by blogger ‘Another Angry Woman’, in response to your article:  ‘There’s not really a specific look to a rapist. They’re not born with the word RAPIST emblazoned across their foreheads, nor do they glow faintly in the dark.’

80% of rape survivors know their attacker. They don’t all look like the ‘foul predators’ your article, and you, assumes that they are, perpetuating the notion that rape is only perpetrated by frightening looking men of the night who drag girls down dark alley ways.

In reality, according to Rape Crisis UK, 85,000 women are raped every year, with 90% of those knowing their attacker beforehand. This is reflected in Universities, as the Telegraph’s 2015 survey found, 1/3 of female students in Britain have endured a sexual assault or unwanted sexual advances, and over half know someone who has suffered a sexual assault.

Who is committing these offences? Fellow Students.

This includes both men and women, although perpetrators are majority male.

My point is that your University doesn’t have a screening policy that finds ‘he looks jolly decent, he doesn’t have to come to the workshop’, rather, they recognize that anyone is a potential rapist, because consent is inherently misunderstood by the student population, and society at large.

The workshops were not accusatory, they were not saying ‘All you guys here are rapey looking, so squirm as we assume you’re sex criminals’ rather ‘This is what consent means, and this is how to keep yourselves and others safe’

So George, stop with the hurt-pride bullshit!

You claim offence over the invitation, because you are a ‘self-respecting individual’. That’s nice. But that’s not really consistent with you’re ‘empathetic’ understanding of victims. Because what’s nicer that self-respect is respecting consent, respecting the fact that we need education on it, respecting the fact that in order to decrease potential rapes and assaults, consent workshops are necessary.

Respecting, as in acknowledging, the fact that while you may never commit a sexual offence, your peers might.

But apparently, you’re perfectly versed on consent: ‘I also know about those more nuanced situations where consent isn’t immediately obvious as any decent, empathetic human being does.’

Do you, do they?

Your comment ‘Yes means yes, no means no. It’s really that simple’, demonstrates that you don’t.

As The Warwick Women’s officer Josie Throup pointed out: ‘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

Let’s use the tea metaphor:

She or He may have said yes to a cup of tea in the club, but when you get home, they decide they don’t want it anymore.

Or they may have been super enthusiastic about tea, but then passed out unconscious before you could make it.

Perhaps they started drinking the tea, but half way through decided that actually, they weren’t thirsty or they didn’t like that kind of tea.

There are hundreds of possible scenarios, and as Lacy Green tells us, you need to ‘check in’ to ensure consent is present throughout the entire experience:

If you already knew all this George, great! But Warwick doesn’t know you personally, or what a great guy you are. Instead, Warwick wants everyone, men and women, to attend the workshops.

And when you claim that the people that need them, i.e those likely to commit assaults, simply won’t attend, my response is simply: they should be compulsory for all. So not only potential perpetrators know what not to do, but so that potential victims know their rights, and what consent means.

Your patronising and offensive notion that the people running the sessions ‘think they have saved the world’ negates the fact that the consent workshops are a vital service and educational tool.

Its ridiculous to suggests: ‘They could be making a difference by actually going out and campaigning, volunteering and caring for other people.’ Because these consent workshops are a part of a much broader campaign and are themselves a form of campaigning!

You know who is not saving the world? YOU. You with your self-righteous article that presents misunderstood characterizations of rapists and rape and thus perpetuates the abhorrent idea that consent isn’t a problem at Uni and doesn’t need discussing.

I haven’t even touched on the downright frightening comments made below your article on the Tab, by students clearly as delusional as you, who equate consent with ‘misandry men-hating witches’ – demonstrating exactly why they need a compulsory workshop, to show that women are humans, and consent is paramount.

Finally, the fact that you openly write:

‘brand me a bigot, a misogynist, a rape apologist, I don’t care’

sums it up really, George.

Because anyone who puts their own ego over the relevance and validity of a consent workshop, is a bigot, misogynist and a possible rape apologist.

And if you don’t mind being called those things, can you really claim to ‘love consent’?

I think not.

Yours sincerely,

Elle May

Illustrated by Elle May

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