Sex

A New Sexual Revolt Is Underway at British Universities

Could this be the start of an uprising?

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credit: pedrosimoes7 / Foter

It hasn't quite reached the boob-baring, free-lovin' level of Woodstock yet, but a sexual revolt of sorts is underway on campus. In Britain, some male students are refusing to attend their university's sexual-consent classes, and I reckon this could be the first salvo in a sexual uprising against the gender-studies prudes now running (and ruining) student life.

George Lawlor, a student at Warwick University, started a firestorm when he wrote a piece for a student newspaper called The Tab, headlined "Why I Don't Need Consent Classes." Not only did he tell the "self-appointed teachers of consent" to "get off your fucking high horse"—even worse, in the eyes of the raunch-allergic feminists who staff Britain's students' unions, he posted a photo of himself holding a sign saying: "This is not what a rapist looks like."

Cue global media outrage. Pretty much every liberal broadsheet in Christendom asked, "Well, what DOES a rapist look like?," hinting that Lawlor, by virtue of the fact that he has XY chromosomes, does look like a rapist. A Guardian writer suggested every man in the world, including the Dalai Lama, should post photos of themselves holding a sign that says "This is what a rapist looks like." Because, yep, any man might be a rapist. Maybe every woman in the world should post a pic of themselves with a sign saying, "This is what someone who commits infanticide looks like"? No, best not — the women who do that are a tiny minority, as are the men who rape.

A few days later, another Warwick student, Jack Hadfield, announced that he, too, would not be attending campus consent classes. We are witnessing "the demonisation of men," he said, the promotion of the idea that "men are dangerous sex pests."

Then came The Tab's poll on consent classes. Sure, readers of The Tab, Britain's spunkiest student newspaper, which often raises a very arched eyebrow at the buzzkilling shenanigans of student unions, might not be completely representative. Yet it's striking that of the 4,440 people who voted in its poll, 2,708 said they were against consent classes, with 1,732 in favour. That's 61 percent who don't think they need to be told how to have sex.

The big question is: Why didn't this happen earlier? Consent classes have been taking place on campuses in Britain for more than a year, and they're deeply patronising. In an irony that would make Orwell proud, or mad, they're compulsory on some campuses, including Cambridge and Oxford. Compulsory consent education—you couldn't make it up.

They treat students like children, telling these men and women, many of whom will have already had sex, how to express and recognise consent. They tell students that consent must be "active," "ongoing," and "sober." So no more drunk sex. Lawlor is right that students don't need worthy lectures about "basic human interaction."

A new sexual revolution is overdue. From Britain's consent classes to California's affirmative-consent laws to the explosion of sexual-assault kangaroo courts on U.S. campuses, the sexual freedom of young people is being subtly but significantly corroded.

Their ability to experiment, to screw around, to negotiate the ups and downs of relationships for themselves—as adults have done for centuries—is being undermined by finger-waggers determined to throw their sexual encounters open to public and even pseudo-legal scrutiny.

Students' sexual appetites are seen as "problematic"—the PC irritant's favourite word. That's why Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" is banned on more than 30 campuses in Britain; why Britain's National Union of Students rails against chat-up culture in student bars (including the making of "sexual noises"); and why American student leaders rage against fraternities and scaremonger about women's safety: because they see sexual relationships as a minefield to be minutely policed.

The end result is a new climate of fear on campus: women encouraged to fear the drunken line; men fearful of being hauled before the legal-ish overlords of campus sex life authorised to rule on regretted sex, drunken sex, bad sex.

Where yesteryear's youth struggled against priests and prudes and blue-haired ladies-who-lunched, today's young people who want to find out for themselves what sex is all about, and to enjoy it guilt-free, will need to rise up against a new breed of bores: not nuns, but Dworkinites; not conservative old women, but pseudo-punkish student leaders who want saucy books trigger-warned and Safe Spaces to protect women from being approached by men who want sex. (Women want sex too, of course, but, as in Victorian times, you're not allowed to say that.)

Today's encroachment into students' sex lives is actually worse than the religious moralism of old. At least those prigs only told us that certain acts were Wrong and we should hold back from doing them; today's prigs think all sex that happens outside of their purview is by definition dangerous and that young men and women are incapable of negotiating even bar life, never mind sex life, by themselves.

Yesterday's moralists warned us against being wicked; today's moralists warn us not to do anything at all without first being advised by self-elected sexperts. The old prudish brigade said "Don't do certain things"; the new prudish brigade calls into question our very ability to act autonomously.

So, yes, revolt. Do all the things you're told not to: drink, fumble, enjoy, regret, cope—all the stuff adults have always done.

But can we please not turn this into a "men's rights" issue? Too many of the revolters are presenting these first shoots of a sexual revolution as a case of brave men standing up to "feminazis" (man, I hate that word). Consent-class rebel Jack Hadfield's talk about the "demonization of men" and some media commentators' handwringing over wicked feminists gives the impression that men alone are damaged by the stifling anti-sex climate on campus. That is wrong. The new campus climate is as damaging to women as it is to men—more so, in fact.

It might hint that men are rough and untrustworthy, but it does something worse to women: reduces them to childlike creatures in need of protection against the whistles and chatter and larks of life. As Nadine Strossen said in the 1990s: Victim feminists don't only resuscitate the Victorian notion of "man as voracious satyr"—they also rehabilitate a view of women as "sexual victim."

Rise up, students. Demand your right to have sex as and when you please, as drunkenly as you please. But don't make this about men vs women, or even men vs feminists. This should be men and women united against the creeping official colonisation of ever-more areas of our private lives.