UK Student Who “Doesn’t Look Like a Rapist” Objects to Consent Workshops “Like Any Self-Respecting Individual Would”

One thing's for sure: He does look like an asshole.
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Whenever anyone says that “women are emotional,” I think about people like George Lawlor out of the UK – having a hissyfit all over a blog, because he was invited to attend an educational workshop – and I laugh and laugh and laugh. We’re emotional? Really? *sigh* Well, if that’s what “rational” looks like, I want no part of it.

George Lawlor is a politics and sociology student at Warwick University in the UK, and he has had it up to here with people trying to fight rape and rape culture by offering consent workshops. In an editorial for The Tab, a website devoted to news important to UK college students, Lawlor described the harrowing experience of receiving a Facebook invitation:

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.

His entire world was turned upside down because rather than being invited to a party, he was invited to a consent workshop. OH NOOOOOOOOOO!

But then it gets better, because he would like everyone to know that he’s such an evolved human being, he doesn’t need a consent workshop. He knows exactly what consent is. Well, sort of:

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.

Mr. Lawlor, if you’re reading this, there are a few things I’d like to point out:

  • You don’t want to go to a consent workshop? Don’t go. Click the “Can’t Go” button on the Facebook invite and move on with your life. It’s really that simple. It’s likely that lots of students were invited, so it’s strange that you take this as a personal attack. This is how events are advertised. You tell everyone in the hopes that either they themselves will attend, or they’ll tell other people who’ll be interested or get something out of it to attend. It’s not about whether you, George Lawlor, personally are or are not a rapist.
  • “I don’t have to be taught to not be a rapist.” The sad truth is that many people guilty of rape think the exact same thing. Most women aren’t raped in dark alleys by strangers. They’re raped by people they know – people they’re dating, even. They’re raped by people they think are friends. They’re raped by people they know and trust. There are too many people who think they know about consent, but then overstep boundaries and make excuses for themselves to explain how what they did wasn’t rape, or “didn’t count” as rape, “because she didn’t out-and-out say no,” “because we’re dating, so it’s different,” “because she said no after we already started.” When statistics range from 1 in 3 to 1 in 5 women experiencing sexual assault depending on where they live, it must be understood that there’s no such thing as anyone who “looks like” a rapist. Anyone can be a rapist – even those perceived as “nice guys.”
  • So, a large point of consent workshops like this is for people like you. People who, sure, don’t want to rape (or don’t want to be considered rapists, a small, but important distinction), but who may not be as knowledgeable as they think they are. You say later in your piece that consent workshops are a waste of time, because “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.” Are you now trying to prove your own point? What does it say about you, then, that you’re so adamant about not showing up. I mean, it’s one thing to simply not attend. It’s quite another to take to the Internet decrying the entire endeavor of consent workshops as a “waste of time” because you felt personally slighted. Consent workshops are for people like you, who don’t know all there is to know about consent and could stand to learn, before they unintentionally hurt someone (if they haven’t already without realizing it).
  • What’s more, consent workshops are for everyone, as people who are/have been/could be raped sometimes need to be reassured that their “no” is valid – even if it’s non-verbal. That just because they didn’t “fight back” doesn’t mean they weren’t raped. That just because they’re dating someone, doesn’t mean that the person they’re dating has an unconditional right to their body at any and all times. Consent workshops are for everyone, because we all need to understand what our boundaries are so that we can protect ourselves and each other.

What’s sad is that, despite the negative reaction to the piece, Lawlor continues to see it as a “conversation starter,” telling HuffPost UK that “The piece was about getting people to talk and to think about the issue as much as it was about me expressing my own opinion on it, so I’m happy that on the most part people are debating.” The Devil doesn’t need an advocate, Mr. Lawlor. He’s doing just find on his own. And if this is actually your opinion, and not just you stirring the pot, expressing it actually does harm. You should know that.

It’s very telling that the only people supporting Lawlor in the comments of his blog are English MRA types who sincerely believe that laws being made more equal and inclusive of women means that men’s rights are being taken away. Lawlor is exactly the kind of young man that the Men’s Rights movement wants to recruit. My fear is that he’ll be a willing candidate and participant, refusing to see the difference between discomfort and actual oppression.

(via @stavvers on Twitter)

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Image of Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.