Consent classes at university are still a waste of time

One year on, zero consent classes later and I’m still not a rapist

Last year I penned an article on why I believe consent classes to be patronising, infantilising and a waste of time. Predictably, the collective indignation of the perpetually outraged was strong enough to register on the Richter scale.

I was character assassinated, slandered and branded “the personification of rape culture”. Instead of engaging with my arguments, many of my opponents instead chose to shoot down an imaginary straw man. For instance, I never suggested I did not need a consent class because I don’t look like a rapist, I said I do not need a consent class because I, like most other people, already know right from wrong. It’s really not a difficult concept to grasp.

One year on, zero consent classes later and I still haven’t raped anyone. Admittedly, that’s not much of an achievement, it’s an ability I share with virtually everybody else in the country – the ability to behave like a decent, normal person, to know right from wrong without the ‘enlightened’ teachings of the ‘consent educators’.

That’s what really winds me up – the fact that the students running these consent workshops think they know better than their peers. I was derided and called a “self-appointed expert on consent” for asserting that I don’t need their help on the matter. They obviously didn’t get the irony.

The consent educators see sexual assault and want to do something about it – that’s noble, but what they’re doing is a waste of time. We all know that sexual assault is wrong and if you need to be taught what consent is by the age of 18, a 90 minute seminar at the start of university is not going to fix that. Most people that age know exactly how to treat other people and would never take advantage of someone, whether they’re drunk or not.

Unfortunately, those who do not understand that it is utterly unacceptable and totally detestable to engage in unwanted sexual advances will never be changed by a consent workshop. There is clearly something wrong with them as they obviously do not know what is and what is not decent and respectful – something more fundamental than anything the consent classes try to tackle.

I’ve never sexually assaulted anyone. Most people at university have never sexually assaulted anyone. It’s not a miracle, it’s not thanks to the efforts of SU officers, it’s because I, like most people, understand right from wrong. Consent education starts at home from childhood and it’s about something more than consent, it’s about having respect. My mother never told me that it’s wrong to put my hands down someone’s skirt when I’m in a club. Instead she told me to treat everyone else how I would like to be treated, she told me that I’m not the centre of the universe and that there are other people I have to take into consideration. That fundamental lesson is what needs to be taught and frankly, it’s what most people are taught. That’s why no one I’ve met would ever dream of sexually assaulting anyone. It’s one of the most abhorrent things anyone can do and we all know it.

No consent classes, and still not a rapist

For those who aren’t fortunate enough to receive this lesson at home, schools need to teach it consistently throughout a child’s life. On the whole, they’re mostly successful in that, but if we do have a problem on campuses, it’s not because people don’t know what is and what is not consent, it’s because they don’t know how to treat other human beings. Most people won’t engage in sexual interaction with someone who has passed out, for instance, not because their SU’s officers told them not to, but because they know that’s assault, they’ve instinctively known from childhood that vicious exploitation is wrong.

After writing my article last year, I attempted to compile other students’ opinions on consent classes for The Tab. We couldn’t publish the article in the end because those who opposed the workshops feared the repercussions if they attached their names and faces to what at the end of the day are sensible opinions. They saw how I was treated and were deterred into silence.

What a depressing state of affairs, but who can blame them? That’s why I was pleased to hear that a number of students at the University of York refused to go to their SU’s consent classes. They don’t need to be taught how to treat other people and they’re not afraid to say so. More should follow their example and refuse to be talked down to by the patronising and infantilising consent educators.