No S&M at Uni?! Ex Ambassador’s Reaction

Find out about that S&M article, the reaction, and plans for the future.

McCarthy S&m Harry


The Drop meets Harry McCarthy – First Year English and French Student and former Student Ambassador

Hi Harry, welcome to your own Drop interview. How are you today, excited?

Yeah, I’m excited to get my voice heard!

You’ve recently been involved in a bit of controversy; tell us what happened exactly…

Well I wrote an article about S&M which was published on The Drop a few weeks ago. I actually had to persuade the editors to publish it because they weren't sure how well it would be received initially, but we went ahead with it and it was a big success! On its first day it was the number one read article on the site.

A few days later I got an email from my boss at the Student Ambassador office inviting me to come and talk to him about the article within the context of my role with the university. I assumed I would walk in and be given a massive telling off really. Before the interview I made a conscious decision to defend myself as I didn’t believe I’d done anything wrong so I went to the meeting fully prepared. He explained that I was meant to be a role model and that if young people came across my article online it could reflect badly on the university. He said that he wouldn’t be happy for me to continue working as an ambassador whilst the article stayed up.

Do you think this was quite a harsh reaction?

Well, I do understand their concerns. It was my decision to resign – I could have just taken the article down, but I don't feel that what I decide to do outside of the university would affect my ability as a student ambassador. I’m not someone who can put on a polo shirt and suddenly become the perfect ‘Exeter Student’, no one is. I think the article says a lot more about me than a name badge and a uniform would.

What inspired you to write the article in the first place?

Well I love what The Drop is about. It tackles issues more relevant to students than other publications. The whole issue of sex was a talking point at the time as it was close to Valentine’s Day. Talking about sex is still a bit of a taboo, but I hope my article gave quite a light-hearted approach to the subject.

It was one of the most read articles on the site at the time. Have you had positive reactions – any phone numbers?!

Haha, no phone numbers yet but I have been approached by some other publications asking if I want to write for them too, like Exetera magazine. There is definitely a market shall we say, for what I’ve written about.

So do you think the University is missing out on some of your talent?

Possibly. I think the university made it clear that they were looking for a particular type of Exeter Student, unfortunately I don’t really fit into that type. Maybe they are missing out, there is a huge spectrum of people across the student body so who knows what that type is.

In the middle of Diversity Week and just following the Guild asking us to think about not cross-dressing, how do you think the university has handled the situation?

More than anything I feel they’re scared. I feel the university is trying to be both extremely conservative and extremely liberal at the same time; I don’t think they are going about this in the right way. I feel that the idea that cross dressing offends the transsexual community is ridiculous. I have friends who are transgender and transsexual. While it is very much their way of life, it is also fun. Same as my article. I don’t expect people to go and buy bondage and whips now, it is there to entertain.

So do you think the Guild is engaging in the right way with students about these kinds of issues?

Absolutely not. You only have to look across the dancefloor at Arena to know that Exeter students know how to have a good time. Sex isn’t talked about enough – it’s an important part of student life not just at Exeter but at any university. Not many people are willing to talk about their sexual experiences, especially within the uni context. To try and hide the fact it is  happening is ridiculous.

Any more plans for future publications now?

I really want to write something on LGBTQ – or the lack of it. I think they have a real lack of presence here in comparison to other universities.


3 Facts about Harry:

1) Lady Gaga follows him on Twitter and has done since 2008.
2) His Grandad was a DJ on Radio One
3) He has recently become an Agony Uncle for Exeposé


View the original artile here:


The University says applicants for student ambassador roles should be:


  • Enthusiastic
  • Communicative
  • Good listeners
  • Good team workers
  • Able to use their own initiative
  • Well informed of the educational system in the UK
  • Normally be either in their first or second year of their undergraduate studies at the University.

Have your own opinion? We’d love to hear it below.