Posts Tagged ‘consent’

Kyle L Murray & Tara Beattie are both PhD candidates at Durham Law School.

The Case

Gayle Newland’s case is likely not news to many – her retrial and conviction for sexual assault of a female friend has attracted wide-ranging media coverage. This is perhaps no surprise, given the numerous case-elements which challenge typical expectations of the nature of sexual assault, and the profile of an offender. As the Telegraph reports, “a woman who preys on another woman confounds expectations” – the public often picturing sex offenders “as seedy men who lie in wait for strangers.” But so too does the nature and extent of the deception surrounding the assault. The victim believed that she was in a romantic, sexual relationship with a man named ‘Kye’ – a false persona created by Newland. Although the two met, ‘Kye’ was never seen in person, with the victim being requested to wear a mask during their meetings, on account of supposed embarrassment at a disfigurement. When together, Newland carried out sexual acts using a prosthetic penis, and forbade the victim from touching her.

The case raises ethical and legal considerations surrounding deception, identity and consent. For some, Newland’s conviction is a worrying reflection of the state of gender and consent in criminal law, and something which could have repercussions for the LGBTQ community. For others, those voices do not fully acknowledge the damage caused by building a relationship upon lies.

For two law researchers, with respective backgrounds in moral scepticism and sexual privacy, this was the topic of an afternoon conversation which proved troubling to both parties. Our full commentary is provided in in dialogical form here. A summary of the issues discussed is provided below.

Trans rights, deceit, and bodily autonomy (more…)

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Last week, the End Violence Against Women Coalition sent the following open letter to the Prime Minister. It has been reproduced here with permission and thanks:






Rt Hon David Cameron MP
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA

Dear Prime Minister

Urgent action needed to prevent abuse of women and girls

86% of people want compulsory Sex and Relationships education to address abuse in the wake of the multiple prosecutions of groups of men for raping and sexually exploiting girls, the murders of Tia Sharp and April Jones, the ongoing child sexual abuse allegations, as well as weekly accounts of domestic violence murders of women and children, we are writing to ask you to put in place a Programme of Work to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls. In particular, we are asking you to ensure that all schools tackle harmful attitudes and behaviours amongst young people and to ensure that survivors are supported. This will build on good work that your government is already carrying out and ensure that the pledge to prevent violence in the Home Office-led Call to end violence against women and girls becomes more than just a promise on paper.


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Jamie Heckert (guest blogger)

Lambeth Council in London is attempting to address sexual violence committed by men with a website and poster campaign: Know the difference.

While the council might be appreciated for encouraging men to take responsibility for their behaviour, the campaign is full of contradictions that I fear will undermine that intention. The posters try to draw a very neat line between good and bad sexual behaviour – the difference between “back to mine” and “back off” or between “get it on” and “get off me”. They then go on to say, “Real men know the difference. And so does the law.” The difference, of course, is between consensual and nonconsensual, between desired and undesired, between playful and harassing.

But does the law really know the difference? The basis of the state is a social contract to which we are deemed to have already given our consent. Consent here means to put up with rather than to actually desire [1]. We aren’t asked our desires (other than to vote for very limited options every 4-5 years).  If law assumes that we consent to its authority without caring about the complexity of our desires, how can it possibly “know the difference”? If the law is the role model for “real men”, it doesn’t surprise me that we still see so much sexual violence in our culture. Sex, we might hope, takes place between free and equal people choosing together to make it happen. State law, on the other hand, is imposed by a small group and enforced by another. It is neither free nor equal. (more…)

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