AIBU to thank that my nephews university womens society were wrong in..

(84 Posts)
Immycupoftea Sat 13-Oct-12 14:56:46

My nephew is a fresher at a University in Kent. In an introduction speech to a large hall of freshers the Womens Society officer proclaimed that "All men were potential rapists" AIBU in thinking this is not a point of view to express to 18 year olds. I realise we all have to be careful, but....
I must add this was not an employee of the uni, just a society officer.

Toombs Sat 13-Oct-12 14:58:50

YANBU, imagine if a man stood up and said "All women are potential prostitutes".

cantspel Sat 13-Oct-12 14:59:53

That is just so wrong on so many different levals

FreudiansGoldSlipper Sat 13-Oct-12 15:00:10


We could all be classed as potential abusers potential murders. I agree it is a little outdated now but the emphasis is on the word potential

It's the same as saying that all people are potential murderers. I suppose you could argue a case for it being true, but I don't believe it. I also think it's a pretty dim view to hold of the world in general, and if someone tried teaching my daughter the same thing, I'd probably tell her it was bullshit.

UltraBOF Sat 13-Oct-12 15:01:25

They were doing that one in 1991, and it was old then. I suppose the point is to start a debate though.

It depends on what the next bit contained.

How we think and act is down to social conditioning, the law against rape in marriage was opposed, for example.

There are some cultures that don't believe in rape, as they see men as having the right to use women how they choose.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 13-Oct-12 15:01:56

What did she go on to say?

Nancy66 Sat 13-Oct-12 15:03:06

tedious and tiresome. Shock tactics for the sake of it.

SigmundFraude Sat 13-Oct-12 15:04:06

Gross. Grim. Totally unsurprising, sadly. Tell your nephew to stay well away from anyone who went to the meeting.

An easier way of explaining what i mean is, that one person's would see an act as a right, another person as abuse.

Which is an on going debate when starting to teach social conditioning and sociology.

It is' zzzz' to older adults but not to teens starting out, all at different levels.

We forget on MN what it was like to be a teen, with fixed ideas and we needed information being given in certain ways to get a whole class's attention and for them to talk about it afterwards.

Lectures should promote debate and this one has, not goin one ear and out the other.

Immycupoftea Sat 13-Oct-12 15:07:36

Thank you for your comments.

I'm not sure what she followed it up with- I shall enquire. I just found it insulting to vilify an entire sex. Apparently none of the students uttered a word.

18 year olds at university should be capable of critical, rational thinking and of accepting or rejecting what they are told though. They are not children to be protected from extreme views and they are not intellectually vulnerable.

Presumably the comment was intended to be thought provoking rather than definitive, but even if the student rep who said it believes it to be unequivocal fact university students should be capable of deciding how to deal with the statement rather than be shocked to the core or accept it - otherwise what, to be blunt, are they doing at university?

lovebunny Sat 13-Oct-12 15:10:02

how bizarre. i suppose its like saying that marriage is the cause of divorce.
perhaps the speaker just has poor social skills.
thinking of how a man would sound saying 'all women are potentially up for it, so watch out, they might take you by force'.
not sure how their being 18 affects anything. except that 'we adults' might see 18 year olds as bigger children, innocent and hopeful as they go off to university, whereas they might see themselves as fully adult, ready to take on the world and all its opportunities.

I just found it insulting to vilify an entire sex.

Unless you know the full lecture, you cannot assume that.

Most Sociology teachers (and others,but my sociology lectures were the worse) start off their lessons with contraversal statements.

i suppose its like saying that marriage is the cause of divorce.

I have heard teachers say that, it starts debate.

FredFredGeorge Sat 13-Oct-12 15:13:47

It's not true, as not all men have penises - therefore they cannot be rapists.

MayTheOddsBeEverInYourFavour Sat 13-Oct-12 15:15:34


Just as nothing a woman do can cause her to be raped nothing a man who is not a rapist will do will make him rape. It is not men that are the problem it is rapists

Technically we are all potential murderers, child abusers and paedophiles but I'd be very pissed off if anyone called me any one of those

YouMayLogOut Sat 13-Oct-12 15:16:23


Maybe she was trying to say that you can't tell a potential rapist just by looking at them. But what she said is wrong of course.

MayTheOddsBeEverInYourFavour Sat 13-Oct-12 15:17:02

And also this wasn't a lecture in sociology or a debate so it seems highly inappropriate

Immycupoftea Sat 13-Oct-12 15:17:24

Also I heard that one of the later statements was "As long as men abuse their power....."
It certainly didn't sound like an open debate!

WithoutCaution Sat 13-Oct-12 15:19:14

... They should have said that all men and women are potential rapists

It's complete bull anyway. It's a bit like saying that all strangers want to abduct your child

Brodicea Sat 13-Oct-12 15:20:32

Definitely OTT of them to say this, plus it will put off some young women from joining the society or even thinking they could be involved, which is a shame.
BUT this is university, and all the students should be challenged with a range of opinions. I don't think it matters that he is 18, he is an adult and he will need to learn to engage with and challenge any views he doesn't agree with.

UltraBOF Sat 13-Oct-12 15:22:31

Why are women potential rapists? confused

You need a dick, at least in British law.

Isn't it kind of the expectation of the Women's Society to be fairy extreme in their views? Are freshers sheep nowadays? It is a big part of being an undergraduate to be exposed to semi shocking "new" (to you not to oldies) ideas, absorb and debate them... Its a sad thing if 18 year old degree students need to be sheltered even from silly opinions these days, they are at uni (party) to use their brains and form opinions of their own...

If nobody said anything hopefully its because they were all too hung over grin

GhostShip Sat 13-Oct-12 15:30:48

UltraBOF - it's not common knowledge that 'rape' is abuse with the penis ONLY.

personally I would class any sort of sexual abuse that involves insertion, as rape.

GhostShip Sat 13-Oct-12 15:31:40

And I think whether or not that line was to spark debate, you're going to still get some girl walking away with that quote in her head who'll go on to take it as truth.

Immycupoftea Sat 13-Oct-12 15:33:49

Thank you Ghostship, I agree completly.

Northernlurkerisbehindyouboo Sat 13-Oct-12 15:35:07

Well - assuming they have a functioning penis then yes all men do have the potential to forcibly penetrate a woman. The potential IS there, inherent in the male sex. Furthermore women are at far greater risk of attack from men they know than from strangers. So I don't think it's that controversial a view point for a Womens' Officer to express. What is she supposed to say? Some men have the potential to be rapists? How exactly would 'some' be defined? Abusive men don't come with a label. They look like all other men.

If your nephew was offended, I think that may have a positive outcome. He can reflect on his behaviour and make damn sure no woman ever has cause to say the potential converted to reality in his case.

Hmmmm I still don't think undergrads should need nannying or thought-policing and should be old enough to know not to take everything anyone ever tells them as 100% literal truth...

Also 18 year olds from sheltered homes living away for the first time who are naive enough to be shaken by that statement might be naive enough to trust the wrong person just because he is her age/ on her course/ has a nice face... shocking them into thinking twice might be a not altogether stupid aim...

Bluestocking Sat 13-Oct-12 15:42:20

I'd like a bit more context. Why was the Women's Society officer talking to a large hall of freshers? It can't have been a talk to all freshers, as annual intake is about 4000. Was the society officer giving a talk to encourage new students to join the Women's Society, or was it a talk about personal safety? What did the officer say after the proclamation about all men being potential rapists? Without knowing a bit more, I can't tell you whether this was wrong or not.

Bluestocking Sat 13-Oct-12 15:43:39

Right on, EnglishWoman. I am a bit fed up with eighteen year olds simultaneously expecting to be treated like adults, but then also babied and spoonfed when they feel like it.

GhostShip Sat 13-Oct-12 15:47:12


It's silly to point it out though, and a really negative and insulting thing to say.

We all have potential to be murderers
We all have potential to be paedophiles

We all have 'potential' to become rape victims. < bet she didn't say that one.

Talyra Sat 13-Oct-12 15:48:47

Without hearing the rest of the speech, I'd reserve judgement. Could have been making this sort of point for example:

GhostShip Sat 13-Oct-12 15:48:55

And englishwoman is right, BUT I'd be more concerned with what context they took that sentence in, and how they processed it. Did they realise it was suppose to shock? Or did they take it as gospel?

Talyra Sat 13-Oct-12 15:48:56
TeddyBare Sat 13-Oct-12 16:11:13

How did the speech continue? It's not a nice thing to say but I would guess it was said to highlight to the women that actually they aren't safe with a guy just because he is a student / someone they recognise. Most rapists attack women they know therefore I think it's better to say that than give the women lots of warnings about short skirts, spiked drinks and walking home alone. Perhaps it was also supposed to highlight the importance of actually getting positive consent from partners too? There is a fairly high chance that someone in the audience has / will rape someone so it might have been said in an attempt to tackle rape myths.

Is it maybe making the point that until you know someone better you should bear in mind that you don't know them
<clutching at straws>

WithoutCaution Sat 13-Oct-12 16:23:48

So even if a woman technically rapes a man or another women it isn't classed as rape? shock What is it classed as, assault? sexual harassment?

TeddyBare Sat 13-Oct-12 16:27:05

WithougCaution, there are actually a whole range of sexual criminal offences. Rape is the most well know word therefore it is often misused outside of it's legal definition. That doesn't mean that other situations aren't criminal, or are less severely punished, it just means they have a different name. It is a crime for a woman to force sex on a man or another woman, we just don't call that crime "rape" when it's in court.

WithoutCaution Sat 13-Oct-12 16:50:20

Ah, ok then blush Thanks TeddyBare

The Women's Society Officer is presumably just a student a year or 2 older than the ones she was talking to...

I don't see that students need a group of aunties/ mums policing what is suitable for their delicate little ears by a fellow student...

Oops I made no sense there, I meant what is said to them by a fellow student.

ZonkedOut Sat 13-Oct-12 17:16:24

I was thinking along the same lines as EnglishWoman. It's hard to tell without being there.

The point could be a shock way to say that you don't know which men could be rapists, which might cause the students to be more careful.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 13-Oct-12 17:23:31

When she talked about men abusing their power, I imagine she meant "men as a class". Given she was the University Women's Officer, it's unsurprising that she considers men as a class to have more power (privelige) than women as a class.

lottiegarbanzo Sat 13-Oct-12 17:24:55

Well what was the purpose of the speech? Did she go on to say 'so be careful out there, take responsibility for yourselves, don't be too trusting but here are the support facilities if you need them'? Or was she trying to provoke thought about the role of the women's soc?

Either way, an intelligent person ought to be able to understand the point being made, distinguish between that and hyperbole, ask questions, argue or dismiss exaggeration for what it is. I agree with the poster who asked what anyone incapable of critical listening is doing at university. Part of the point is to be exposed to new and extreme ideas.

lottiegarbanzo Sat 13-Oct-12 17:31:03

And assuming they're still going, just wait til the SWSS get going. Then he'll hear all about the diabolical actions of all sorts of groups of people defined 'as a class' (and learn to listen selectively).

mayorquimby Sat 13-Oct-12 17:51:09

"Why are women potential rapists? confused

You need a dick, at least in British law."

Well technically a woman could be guilty as an accessory or through the doctrine of innocent agency even though in reality it's not going to be the case, but they'd still be charged with the same crime as the primary culprit if they were an accessory.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 13-Oct-12 17:57:14

All men are potential rapists comes from Reclaim the Streets doesn't it? So it is in the context of women being told they must take precautions, such as not going out alone at night, rather than men (the group from whom rapists come) being told they should be the ones staying in.

Impossible to get my knickers in a twist about it with all context removed...

lottiegarbanzo Sat 13-Oct-12 18:03:56

So essentially, YABU to think ANYTHING is 'not a point of view to express to 18 year olds' (i.e. young adults), especially when those 18 year olds are university students. All speakers, including lecturers but especially other students, are free to speak as provocatively a they like, within legal limits, and should always be listened to with an open but critical mind. Your nephew will get used to it.

flow4 Sat 13-Oct-12 21:08:59

This is a real old chestnut. Every Women's Society at every university in every year since 1978 has made a speech that includes the statement "All men are potential rapists".

It is a phrase first coined in Marilyn French's feminist classic novel "The Women's Room", by the mother of a young woman who has been raped. (Though I doubt most students these days realise that!)

It's a piece of polemic - a rhetorical claim - just like "Meat is Murder" and "The only good Tory is a dead Tory" and "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others". grin

Like other rhetoric, it contains some truth, yet is not entirely true. People who say it generally mean to highlight some facts: that rape is an abuse of power in sexual relationships; that rape is more widespread than people think; that almost all rape is perpetuated by men; and that 80% of raped women know their rapists, so it's unlikely that you can tell which men are dangerous and which are safe.

Also like other rhetoric, it's intended to grab an audience's attention. Some listeners will be outraged, some will be hooked, some will think it's ridiculous... In a world where 18 year olds will all (almost without exception) have been exposed to images and descriptions of graphic violence, heads exploding, war, casual images of death, political scheming, global exploitation, sex scenes, and indeed probably scenes of rape, it seems a little odd to want to protect them from ideas - especially ones as obviously simplistic as this one...

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 13-Oct-12 22:19:42

Great post flow.

GhostShip Sat 13-Oct-12 22:38:09

Thanks for that post flow!

I do still think though that some people make take it literally. I'm 21 and have 18 year old 'aquaintences' who I can imagine now saying 'a woman told us that all men are potential rapists and that'

flow4 Sat 13-Oct-12 22:43:18

Thanks, Doctrine and Ghost smile
I'm sure you're right that some people will take it literally, Ghost. There are people who are certain that the Apollo moon landing was faked, too! wink grin

flow4 Sat 13-Oct-12 22:55:12

Sorry Ghost, that sounded dismissive, and I don't mean to be. blush In my opinion, bits of polemic like this are interesting and sometimes even useful, because they catch the attention of people who would otherwise be apathetic and not bother to form an opinion at all. So the acquaintances you have who might say "Women think all men are potential rapists!" are likely to be those who would not otherwise have even considered the subject of rape, let alone reflected on their own sexual behaviour...

GhostShip Sat 13-Oct-12 22:55:43

But the flag waves and there's shadows shock

WorriedBetty Sat 13-Oct-12 22:57:12

Typical woman's officer, in my recollection! Bet she kicks men in the shins if they smile at her grin

WorriedBetty Sat 13-Oct-12 22:59:18

Al-so.. maybe its because of wine but I can't help thinking of a men's officer standing up and saying 'just remember guys, every girl you go to bed with could put a finger in your bottom whilst you sleep... just saying..' grin..

GhostShip Sat 13-Oct-12 23:01:29

Worra I think some men might get excited at that thought... Some I know anyway!

Alliwantisaroomsomewhere Sat 13-Oct-12 23:35:38

lovebunny : "thinking of how a man would sound saying 'all women are potentially up for it, so watch out, they might take you by force'. "

COMPLETELY different. If you think about it for a minute, maybe two, you will realise the difference. I hope!

Alliwantisaroomsomewhere Sat 13-Oct-12 23:38:04

I love Flow4. Completely. Undeniably. Utterly.


Alliwantisaroomsomewhere Sat 13-Oct-12 23:43:41

Knew I should have read the whole thread first - grin at WorriedBetty!!!

WorriedBetty Sun 14-Oct-12 00:23:00

Just out of interest, do you think a University Lecturer should be fired if he was viewing pornographic videos on a University computer, in view of students, for two and a half hours?

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 14-Oct-12 00:29:52

Worried wouldn't he have been in breach of the university IT use rules, along with his other misdemeanours? That would be a firing offence at my work whether anyone else observed or not.

WorriedBetty Sun 14-Oct-12 00:44:09

Well this is a case at the University of Warwick - a lecturer, in engineering I think, was watching porn for two and a half hours, and was watched doing so by students, and he wasn't fired.

flow4 Sun 14-Oct-12 00:54:03

Awwww shucks, Alliwantis blush grin

Pictureperfect Sun 14-Oct-12 01:01:23

Maybe it went onto be a good lecture, there was a campaign a little while back saying you walk into a brothel a man and might walk out a rapist as you don't know if the prostitute is there willingly or by force.

Bluestocking Sun 14-Oct-12 10:53:49

Fab post, flow4!
"WorriedBetty*, if this really happened, and you know who the lecturer is and the date and time on which it happened, you should report it to the Head of IT at Warwick, who is easy enough to find on Warwick's web pages. PM me if you can't find him and I'll send you his email address. This is something universities take very, very seriously.

grovel Sun 14-Oct-12 15:52:26

This happened at my DS's university when he was a fresher a couple of years ago. The Womens Society officer went on to talk about sexual harrassment.
A boy asked for guidance as to when a man could use a spontaneous show of affection on a date (take a girl's hand, put his arm round her shoulders) without the risk being accused of sexual harrassment. The officer said that this should never happen without the girl consenting first. Most of the female students took exception to this and a huge row erupted (the male students just observed).
Not easy - but on reflection but I'm glad the debate took place and got the students (of both sexes) thinking. So I'm with flow4.

Under Scots Law, I believe, a woman who is an accessory to rape would be charged with rape. (Re English Law, wasn't Rose West charged with rape back in the day?)

WorriedBetty Sun 14-Oct-12 17:08:28

Oh the University were very well aware of it. It was witnessed by students, including him returning from a coffee break and continuing to look. His excuse was that it was an accident.

grovel Sun 14-Oct-12 18:17:06

WorriedBetty, where was he watching the porn? In a lecture theatre?

WorriedBetty Sun 14-Oct-12 18:43:50

I don't think so, I think it was in an open study area because his excuse was that he found the porn in the internet history accidentally... but then watched it for 2 and a half hours hmm

grovel Sun 14-Oct-12 20:57:24

They must have got very lax contracts/procedures.

He's an adult. Porn is not illegal. Presumably he was not supposed to be teaching at the time?

The problem then is inappropriate behaviour - hard to nail.


allthefun Sun 14-Oct-12 21:07:38

Just plain wrong.

All men are potential rapists is like saying "all dogs are capable of turning nasty" or "a mothers love is the strongest love of all".
Lots of men,dogs and mothers are not that way inclined at all.

flow4 Mon 15-Oct-12 00:10:22

Watching porn at work would be considered gross misconduct by my employer, and probably also misuse of electronic equipment. Depending on where he was watching and in front of whom, it would very likely also constitute sexual harassment - i.e. if he was doing it where anyone would be made to feel uncomfortable. It does sound like the lecturer was disciplined, but they stopped short of firing him. He may have a big black mark on his record because of this - but because disciplinary action is confidential, no-one would know.

Dominodonkey Mon 15-Oct-12 00:42:25

Women's officers are very out of date now apart from at rabid left wing places. Any sensible uni now has an equality officer but yabu. The point of uni is to hear controversial and varying opinions and if people are do stupid they take it as literal fact they probably shouldnt be in HE at all.

KRITIQ Mon 15-Oct-12 01:26:10

Obviously I didn't hear the presentation, but have heard and read many similar ones. Unfortunately, many folks seem to "mishear" or at least misunderstand what the speaker is saying.

Basically, the point is that any man could be a rapist. Rapists don't have horns and tails, nor do they carry placards that say, "I'm a rapist." They look and often behave pretty much like any other guy, until they start to assault you.

Many young women (and men) going to university, probably living away from home for the first time, will be getting to grips with a lot of new experiences, probably very excited about being at uni and all the "freedoms" that come with it. Many will feel invincible.

Many may have been fairly sheltered. Many will believe that rape is something that involves a violent, deranged, monstrous man attacking a woman by surprise using a weapon and superior force, most likely in a dark, secluded place. They won't necessarily be thinking it's something that can happen when you've had a couple of drinks, or someone's slipped you drugs. They might not think that pushing someone's boundaries when making out, ignoring when they say they don't want to go further, thinking they can be "convinced" is rape.

The blokes may not believe they are capable of rape (even if they have sex with a someone too drunk to consent, or push someone to do what they don't want in the belief they'll like it.) Women (and men) may not believe all those nice guys sitting around them could be rapists.

So, the speaker just gave everyone the heads up - to the men to think about what they do and whether they have the enthusiastic consent of the other person before proceeding and to the women, not to be lulled into a false sense of security because they're with a "naice" guy.

Surely, informing young women (and men) of the risks of sexual assault is more important than avoiding some men getting huffy at the suggestion that they or someone like them just might be capable of sexual assault. People recover easily from getting noses out of joint. They don't recover easily from rape.

And for those who think this isn't a big issue, have a peek at this article about the culture of sexism at universities and how many social activities are set up so that women are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault.

I think others have covered this, but as the law currently stands in the UK - one must have a penis to carry out a rape, so only men can rape. Either men or women can be convicted of sexual assault, however.

Latara Mon 15-Oct-12 07:25:25

Agree with Kritiq - it's wrong to make a 'blanket' statement; there could have been some better way of putting the message across... but the truth is that most rapes & sexual assaults are committed upon women by men we know in some capacity; often when alcohol is involved.
University is definitely a high risk environment for sexual assault.

& Rape, attempted rape or sexual assault by a man known to you is the ultimate betrayal; it does make it hard to trust any man.

WorriedBetty Mon 15-Oct-12 09:44:33

You can view all men as potential rapists, if you want to spend your whole life paranoid and want to unlearn trust. In the same way you could go around believing 'every <perjorative word for black person> is a potential thief'.

I think she was wrong to state this frankly out of date piece of fear-mongering crap from her speech - but then perhaps she was trying only to appeal to that type of feminist?

enimmead Mon 15-Oct-12 09:50:54

One problem is the word "rapist" - to some men, I should think it conjures up the image of a stranger in an alley, not that nice guy who you go to bed with but you have not consented to have sex with. Yet that is what a rapist is. Anyone who has sex with you without your consent. I don't think even that definition is well known amongst teenage girls.

limitedperiodonly Mon 15-Oct-12 09:51:12

As others have said, the operative word is 'potential'. I think 18 year olds can handle a bit of debate. It's how attitudes change.

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