What This College Student's Response to Consent Training Gets Wrong

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Statistics about sexual assault on college campus are alarming. According to recent research from the National Sexual Violence Research Center, roughly one in five college women will be the victim of sexual assault by graduation. It's more vital now than ever that we talk about what constitutes as consent, especially on college campuses where rape is a real problem. Consent seminars are one way universities are helping to educate students, but now, one student is making waves by insisting that talking about consent is a waste of time. Does he have a point? Yes - but it's not a very good one.

British college student George Lawlor, 19, who attends Warwick University, penned an op-ed piece after receiving an invitation to the seminar "I Heart Consent." George found the invitation "loathsome," because, according to him, he's simply not a rapist.

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... 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.

I don't disagree with George on the point that people who show up to consent seminars are more likely to already consider consent a mandatory part of sex (because without it, sex isn't sex, it's rape) but sadly, not every student in college understands the nuances of sexual consent. Most people won't have sex with someone who says "no," but what about the case when someone has had too much to drink and can't legally consent? What about if both parties are intoxicated? Not every sexual interaction is as black and white as "no means no" and "yes means yes," as George suggests in his op-ed.

Statistically, most campus assaults are committed by just a small portion of the population, which means that it's serial rapists who commit most of these attacks. But that doesn't mean that we should stop talking about consent: understanding what consent is and that is must be given willingly before any sexual interaction is how we can notice when that isn't the case, both for ourselves and for our peers. If someone recognizes that an interaction is going down without one party receiving consent, that person can intervene - but they have to know what constitutes as consent first. I'm glad that George feels so strongly about his own knowledge of consent, but unfortunately we live in a world where not everyone does.
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