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Warwick University student George Lawlor defends his controversial ‘rape consent’ article and claims he has been driven out of lectures

The student says being invited to a sexual consent workshop was ‘insulting to the people who raised me, the upbringing I’ve had, and the education I’ve already had’

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Wednesday 25 November 2015 14:46
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Lawlor also tells Victoria Derbyshire he has been called a rapist and that public criticism has 'been fairly relentless'
Lawlor also tells Victoria Derbyshire he has been called a rapist and that public criticism has 'been fairly relentless'

A student has described how he has been driven out of lectures and called a rapist after writing a controversial article opposing sexual consent classes.

The politics and sociology student at the University of Warwick, George Lawlor, appeared on BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire programme to further defend his original article as it appeared last month on student news site The Tab.

In it, the 19-year-old described how it was “the biggest insult I’ve received in a good few years” when he received a Facebook event invite to ‘I Heart Consent’ workshops which were being hosted by Warwick Students’ Union (WSU) during freshers’ activities.

WSU described how the interactive sessions “provide a safe space for you to discuss the myths and facts around sexual violence,” and added: “Our team of trained Warwick students will guide you through discussion of definitions of consent and healthy relationships.”

This accompanying image posted online by Lawlor provoked much criticism online

Mr Lawlor sparked fury online after he posted a picture of himself in response to the invitation, holding a sign that read: ‘This is not what a rapist looks like’.

But speaking to Derbyshire, Lawlor remained unyielding on his views on the workshops.

He told the broadcaster: “It was quite insulting to be invited to a class that implies, at this age, I don’t know not to rape people. I already know not to do that. It was quite insulting to my humanity and empathy.”

Not only was it insulting to him, Lawlor added it was also offensive to “the people who raised me, the upbringing I’ve had, and the education I’ve already had.”

Lawlor also said it was “condescending” to provide such lessons as soon as young people enter university, and added: “There might be a need for them - and there definitely is a problem - but I took it as in, ‘I don’t need it’.”

University College London Union (UCLU) women’s officer Natalie James also appeared on the show and refuted Lawlor’s claims. She said the workshops’ aim is to learn through discussion and are open to a variety of different students. James told Lawlor: “It’s not an implication that you’re a ‘rapist-in-waiting’.”

Referring to research undertaken by the National Union of Students (NUS), according to James, 68 per cent of female students have experienced sexual harassment while at university. As well as this, James added one in 14 has experienced “serious sexual violence.”

Highlighting how there is a “big problem”with sexual harassment and sexual violence on university campuses, James said acknowledging the problem is one thing and insisted: “But we’re posing a solution here.”

Derbyshire then challenged Lawlor over the controversial sign he held when she revealed 82 per cent of victims of sexual assaults “do know their attacker.” Lawlor responded it was “misunderstood,” and added: “Perhaps it was sloppy on my part, but people saw the picture and didn't see George Lawlor the individual who doesn’t look like a rapist - because he’s not a rapist. They saw a white person and, it’s true, white people can be rapists.”

Appearing nervous in his seat and unsure of his words, he added: “It’s not really about identity or race or class. I meant as an individual. Because rapists are individuals and not groups of people - there’s no rapist demographic. That was the point I was trying to get across with the sign. But that was a faux pas, admittedly.”

Reflecting on the public backlash since his “angry article” which Lawlor said “had to be provocative,” the student acknowledged people have the right to debate. However, he said: “There has been a lot of ad hominem and mudslinging. It’s been fairly relentless.

“I’ve been called misogynist, rapist, naive. It really gets you down. Individually, people are rational and fine. But with anonymity on the internet, and with strength in numbers, they’re a bit more aggressive.”

He also revealed how he has been skipping lectures and seminars in recent weeks because his coursemates have been among those to criticise him online, and said: “I wouldn't feel comfortable going with people who have been aggressive to me. That’s my choice not to go.”

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