An open letter to Harry Shepherd-Smith

TW: Rape, Sexual Assault

Maya Jones responds to Harry Shepherd-Smith’s Inter:Mission article in which he attacked the focus on consent at university. 

Dear Harry,

This letter is addressed to you and everyone who thinks consent has gone ‘too far’.

Firstly, I would like to say well done! Sitting through those five ‘hectoring monologues’ about consent at university must have been really, really tough. It seems you are the true victim in this situation: the victim of hysterical feminists and their unnecessary quest to make university a safe and violence-free space.

Like everyone who decides to take on feminism without actually doing any research, your argument is inconsistent. You claim that campus feminism homogenises girls as ‘defenceless weaklings’ whilst simultaneously advocating for the age-old stereotypes that define all women as hysterical.

I’m going to jump right to my favourite line of your article: ‘this infantilising depiction of women is, to me, not feminism’. It seems we got it wrong and you, Harry, are our saviour!


By outlining your own definition of feminism, you reveal a desperate male anxiety to take control over a space that you just don’t own. A space that does not depict women as infantile, but merely recognises victims of rape and gender oppression. Calling this anti-feminist might just be the world’s biggest oxymoron.

You were right when you said that third-wave feminists are obsessed with sex. But it’s not that we’re anti-sex, rather that we recognise mutual consent to be a necessary component. Your attack on feminism as sex and man hating is laughable and clichéd; your suggestion that consent has ‘gone too far’ is not. There is nothing funny about assault and the worrying trend for university students to mock consent workshops suggests that this is still not understood.

Suggesting that women frequently ‘cry wolf’ maintains an environment in which victims are too afraid to come forward. Reducing very real experiences of assault to a ‘drunken fumbling’ perpetuates rape culture. Advocating for the ‘recovery of genuine victims’ is victim blaming. 

You ignore the persistent problem of gender-based violence and settle for a biological and essentialist argument that ‘men are predisposed to respect women’ and so they cannot rape. It sounds like a beautiful world. You continue that a ‘rational human’ could never commit a crime like rape and prefer to blame those with mental health conditions, or ‘maniacs’ as you like to call them.

To clarify my point, you think rape doesn’t happen at university. Because university students, in particular, aren’t rapists. So, let me ask you: how many more Brock Turner’s do we need before students like you accept that a rapist can be anyone?

You mention the ‘dozens of cases of wretched young men whose reputations have been irrevocably tarnished’ by false rape accusations but fail to recognise the number of lives that are ruined on university campuses year after year when a student decides to violate another’s body. So many that the Guardian has recently recorded more than 100 stories and the Telegraph has suggested 1 in 3 UK women students have been victims of assault.

So, rape does happen. Even here. And consent classes are one of the few ways that universities are trying to tackle this systematic problem. Your bizarre implication that millennial relationships are suffering because of consent suggests that perhaps, next time, you should listen instead of planning four hundred words of feminist hating ignorance. You might actually learn a thing or two.

Yours sincerely,

Maya Jones


Illustration by Emily Godbold

To view the original article, click here:

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