Students at leading British universities are showing their disdain for compulsory workshops on sexual consent by staging walk-outs or ignoring them entirely.
Undergraduates at York, Warwick and Cambridge universities have snubbed the re-education classes, which campus administrators are trying to make a compulsory part of university life.
Proponents have defended the classes by claiming they help cut rates of sexual assault – a claim questioned by critics, who contend they are patronising, ineffectual and make the assumption that all men are rapists-in-waiting.
Hooray for this. Compulsory consent workshop left empty as not one fresher turns up https://t.co/yeEOtysXxS
— Joanna Williams (@jowilliams293) October 6, 2016
The movement began last year at Warwick, an early adopted of the classes, when student George Lawlor refused to go and was pilloried on campus.
His efforts have been echoed this academic year at the University of York, where a quarter of students walked out of a session.
Ben Froughi, who helped organise the protest, told the Nouse student newspaper: “Consent talks are patronising. If students really need lessons in how to say yes or no then they should not be at university.
“There is no correct way to negotiate getting someone into bed with you. In suggesting that there is, consent talks encourage women to interpret sexual experiences that have not been preceded by a lengthy, formal and sober contractual discussion as rape.
“Consent talks propagate the backward message that all women are potential victims and all men potential rapists.”
Ben Froughi explains why he encouraged students to boycott sexual consent classes
— i newspaper (@theipaper) October 4, 2016
The trend continued this week at one of the constituent colleges of Cambridge University, where every single student had better things to do.
According to a report in the Varsity student newspaper, the mass no-show prompted a rant from the student official who organised the event.
Rosie Boxall said: “This is the number of Clare College freshers who thought it worth their time to show up to the consent workshops this morning, who thought that an hour out of their morning in Freshers’ Week was too much to ask.”
She mourned the chance to tell them right from wrong, adding that the absconders missed “a chance to collaboratively set the culture in College, to establish what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour.”
Boxall claimed that everyone had been reminded about the event several times – contradicting later claims that it was a scheduling mix-up.
Students were later reminded of their obligation to attend and did as they were told.
Featured image of Clare College, Cambridge, via Flickr/Paul Stainthorp