A letter sent round to new graduate students by Christ Church’s Graduate Common Room (GCR) has been attacked by members of the Facebook based group for the student magazine Cuntry Living, for trivialising the consent workshops it was describing.
The message, in the listing for workshops in ‘TheOldÆdesian,’ the GCR’s newsletter, read, “Consent is a thing now. Apparently it hasn’t always been (see Ancient Rome), but now it is. In a somewhat pleasant irony, you must attend, whether you consent to or not. But fear not, the atmosphere will be cordial and there will be delicious nibbles. GCR 3:00”
Alice Nutting, an undergraduate at Exeter, commented, “I thought the wording of the newsletter was really insensitive as it appeared to trivialise the subject of consent and drew a bizarre comparison between having to attend a sexual consent workshop and being raped. It was also misleading as it didn’t stress that anyone can leave at any time, for any reason. The newsletter was screenshotted and discussed at length on Cuntry Living and the general reaction was one of horror and disgust.”
Lucy McDonald, another undergraduate, said, “To imply that being forced to attend a sexual consent workshop (which is not happening anyway – the workshop at Christ Church is voluntary) is in anyway analogous to being raped is not ‘ironic’ or funny. The misogyny and general lad culture at Oxford is intimidating enough as it is, and now new students are being given the impression that their student body doesn’t care at all about sexual violence. It’s disgusting.”
However, when contacted by Cherwell, the GCR President replied, “I would like to be absolutely clear that the topic of sexual consent is no joking matter in Christ Church. The inclusion of a joke by the writers of the newsletter was certainly not intended to trivialise the issue of consent, but was inappropriate and ill-judged nevertheless.
“I would like to apologise unreservedly on behalf of the entire GCR committee, and hope that anyone who attends the consent workshops on Friday will see how seriously they are taken by all members and peers. Committee members have put in a lot of effort to ensure that these workshops are held in the first place, and by choosing to conduct them compulsorily during 0th week, our hope is to provide a safe space where members can evaluate and further their understanding of consent, and also to encourage community-wide conversations.”
Meanwhile, Jordan Black, the original author of the text, commented, “The newsletter was written and edited in close conjunction with people of all genders, including survivors. These workshops are designed to spark a positive and productive discussion about consent, and in that light I would like to make it absolutely clear that the joke in question was not intended to trivialise the issue, but rather to highlight just how overdue these workshops are.”
He added, “I worked to bring these workshops, which are currently completely optional for Oxford college common rooms, to the Christ Church GCR to make it clear from the outset that the issue of consent is taken extremely seriously.”