As I’m sure you are aware, there has been much controversy recently surrounding George Lawlor and his response to an invitation to consent classes. The student at Warwick University and senior reporter at the Tab decided to express his displeasure at being invited to take part claiming that ‘he doesn’t need to be taught not to rape’. Twitter and other social media platforms inevitably exploded and the hate and abuse aimed towards Lawlor has since led him to delete his twitter account.
A man is entitled to his opinion but is he also not entitled to express his opinion freely without being abused and made to feel like his point of view is not allowed? Despite all of this one of the main questions on my lips is: why was he so offended by the invitation?
Well where do we begin? I can understand his displeasure and the angle that he’s tried to take. However the image of him holding a sign that declares that ‘this is not what a rapist looks like’ [by that he meant privileged white middle class people] is a strange one. I mean I wasn’t aware that rapists had a particular look or external features making it easy to identify them. The fact is, anyone could be a rapist and it has little to nothing to do with appearance or lifestyle. The issue of consent has obviously as a result become a hot topic in light of George’s ‘Why I don’t need consent classes’ article and many took to social media to voice their opinion.
There was a noticeable and arguably expected trend amongst responses; it was generally men that jumped to George’s defence and it was generally women who attacked him and his ignorance. Despite the Warwick student’s ignorance, he does however make some very valid points in his article including raising the point that he doesn’t need consent classes something which so many men of twitter stood by in solidarity. It has so often been highlighted that all men are made to take the collective blame for the actions of a few. He assures us that not raping ‘comes naturally’ to him and the ‘overwhelming majority of people’ and whilst that is so reassuring to hear, there are still rapists and people to whom it does not come naturally.
But is it really fair that men collectively need to take the blame for the actions of some horrible people in the world? Why was George invited at all? You can understand his frustration at even being invited; nobody likes to be associated with things like that. I’m sure he felt as though it was a personal attack on him, a suggestion that he needs the classes or that he could be a rapist. He was ‘insulted’ according to his interview with the metro and I can understand why. What I don’t understand is why we are tackling the issue in such a way. I doubt that rapists will voluntarily attend a consent class and to be honest I doubt that even those who aren’t rapists would voluntarily attend the week long classes.
It does, however, need to be tackled somehow. People need to be educated on consent, what it is, when it is given and people also need to be made well aware of the definitions of rape. Blurred definitions won’t do anymore. The importance of educating people on such a topic cannot be understated. There are rape cases where people are not even aware that what they are doing is rape and that’s where knowledge of consent and of rape is important. George has definitely raised some good points but if students won’t take nicely to the idea of consent classes, then what are we to do? It was pointed out, Students, especially on a night out, are vulnerable and can make regrettable decisions. How do we encourage them to make Better Decisions?
You can read more about the Better Decisions campaign at Loughborough and similar campaigns nationwide in the next issue of Label magazine out at the beginning of November.