Tampon Tax Explained

 

The Tampon Tax Story

Sanitary towels and tampons are taxed in the UK at 5% due to European regulations on Value Added Tax. People are angry and kind of amused about it. There are campaigns to end this tax on women all over the world.

The Consent Class Debate Explained

A Warwick Uni student has divided opinion by standing up against sexual consent workshops in universities, describing his invitation to attend the NUS-led classes as “a massive, painful, bitchy slap in the face.” He posted a picture of himself in his article in The Tab holding a sign which read “This Is Not What A Rapist Looks Like”. The consent class organiser then posted a response, also in The Tab, saying that she’s not sorry her workshop made this writer feel uncomfortable because in truth, that is what a rapist looks like.

 

George Lawlor and Josie Throup holding signs

Faintly Written Sign Wars

 

Some reckon this guy is awesome for standing up and saying what a lot of people were thinking. Others are properly pissed off, saying that he clearly does not get how rape culture and consent actually work.

 

Sure, a lot of people think they know how rape culture and consent work – but researching for this story we found it’s a crazy twisty debate. This student-tabloid-faintly-written-signs-frenzy has shown how worried and confused we are about these issues. We knew people were worried about “rape culture”, but now it’s emerging that some people are worried about “consent culture” too.   

 

Scenes of Reason like things simple. So that’s what we did.

 

Consent and Rape Culture? Explain It to Me Like I’m Seven

 

Nothing explains consent better than this video about tea. The making them drink tea bit is the rape bit. Rape is sex without consent.

 

 

The idea of rape culture is simple. This Buzzfeed article does a great job. This video gives it to you straight.

 

 

In a nutshell, rape culture is everything from the images we see and the songs we hear to the media portrayal of rape which all combine to make us think that rape is only something that happens at knife point in a dark alley, and that all other forms of unwanted sex are the fault of the victim by ‘asking for it’, being drunk or being overtly sexually attractive.  

 

It means accepting violent sexualised images of women as the norm. Rape culture makes it seem like having sex with someone who hasn’t given you a resounding, enthusiastic ‘yes’ is not doing anything wrong.

 

The Consent Class Debate: One idea at a time

 

A lot of sticky issues have been brought up in this debate. We’ve broken down what was said by each side to take you through it one idea at a time.

 

#1 There seems to be confusion over what a rapist looks like

 

Let’s start with the picture George Lawlor posted alongside his article opposing the NUS consent classes. It reads “This Is Not What A Rapist Looks Like”. That’s nowhere near the whole point he was making, but let’s stick to this one sentence for now.

 

George Lawlor holding a sign saying "This Is Not What A Rapist Looks Like"

This was the picture accompanying his article

#2 There’s no single profile for a ‘rapist’ – it’s often someone known to the victim

 

Josie Throup, the consent class organiser, responded to this picture saying “the truth is, it is” what a rapist looks like.

She told the BBC: “Obviously, I’m not suggesting for one minute this guy is a rapist. But 80% of rape survivors know their attacker.

“So when you post a picture and say ‘this is not what a rapist looks like’ you’re wrong.

“A rapist looks like someone on your course, someone you work with, a friend, a neighbour, a date.

“Suggesting a rapist does not look like an ordinary man or woman – that’s perpetuating the myth that rapists are strangers lurking in dark alleys.”

What is often forgotten (like we forgot until a reader kindly pointed it out to us!) is that men can also be victims of rape. There’s really no single profile of what a rapist looks like.

 

#3 It’s insulting to assume people don’t understand consent

 

George Lawlor now sees the wording on his sign as “probably a faux pas on my part”, recognising that of course someone who looks like him could be a rapist – anyone could be a rapist.

He explains what he really wanted to say: “It’s not about gender, class or ethnicity. It’s was about me, personally, being offended, as a human being and an individual.”

Why was he offended? In his article, he explained: “I already know what is and what isn’t consent. I also know about those more nuanced situations where consent isn’t immediately obvious as any decent, empathetic human being does. Yes means yes, no means no. It’s really that simple. You’d think Russell Group university students would get that much, but apparently the consent teachers don’t have as high a regard for their peers as I do.”

Russell Group means a specific bunch of universities, btw. So his point is that it’s an insult to assume that people with brains enough to get into uni need to be taught about consent. It’s just not good manners to point at someone and say you probably need to know more about consent.

 

#4 The numbers of women being assaulted suggest not enough people do understand consent

 

Josie Throup responded: “If, as this writer claims “Russell group students” understand the nuances of consent, how do we explain the fact that one in seven women students will be raped or sexually assaulted during their time at university? This epidemic is going unseen and un-talked about.”

That 1 in 7 statistic is taken from an NUS report based on a survey of over 2,000 woman university students. We so rarely get to bust out our stats knowledge at Scenes of Reason that we don’t mind telling you now that a survey involving upwards of 1,000 participants, so long as those participants were selected fairly, is likely to produce pretty valid results.

It seems fair enough that George Lawlor feels he doesn’t need to be taught not to rape. Most of us probably feel that way about ourselves and our friends.

This is partly down to the “dark alley myth” we talked about in #2 – we don’t tend to think about rape as something that happens between people who know each other, even though that is the case most of the time.

It’s also because different kinds of unwanted sexual behaviour, including women forcing men to have sex with them, are often not associated with the word “rape”. The law isn’t even clear on this front! Sometimes both people involved are unsure whether what happened was consensual or ‘counts’ as rape. Some are calling this grey rape, and is what we should be worried about more than stranger danger.

 

 

You wouldn’t think there was a problem from talking to your friends. Often you can’t tell there’s a problem until you look at the bigger picture. That’s why statistics can be so important.

It’s natural to feel offended by the implication that you personally need to understand more about consent. But what this 1 in 7 statistic tells us is that more people – both men and women – clearly do need to understand more about consent, and the way rape is talked about today means that we may understand even less than we think.

 

#5 It’s NOT actually as simple as “yes means yes” and “no means no”

 

Lawlor reckoned he had this “no means no” version of consent down, and that’s why he was offended by the suggestion that he couldn’t get his head around something so simple.

People who run the I Heart Consent workshop, like Josie Throup, reckon this understanding isn’t good enough though: “…many people think it’s as simple as “Yes means yes” and “No means no” when our workshops teach there’s a spectrum of misunderstandings in between, and consent can only be an enthusiastic yes.”

 

 

consent

 

Consent workshops aren’t about teaching men not to rape. They also look at rape culture, and how things we might think of as normal or harmless jokes may do serious harm. They also discuss slut shaming and prude shaming. This means respecting people’s choices whatever they are, so long as they’re their choices.  

 

#6 Do rape consent classes even work?

 

Here’s something Lawlor said that made us stop and think for a second: “…do you really think the kind of people who lacks [sic] empathy, respect and human decency to the point where they’d violate someone’s body is really going to turn up to a consent lesson on a university campus? They won’t. The only people who’ll turn up will be people who (surprise, surprise) already know when it’s okay to shag someone. No new information will be taught or learned. It will just be an echo chamber of people pointing out the obvious and others nodding along, thinking the whole time thinking that they’ve saved the world.”

Hhhhmmmm… does teaching consent in this way do much towards solving the problem?

 

#7 Consent classes empower people to actively counter rape culture

 

Josie Throup had a good example to show that consent classes are small first step towards making a difference.

It is possibly true that someone likely to commit a rape won’t fancy going to a consent class. BUT, someone who that person respects might attend a class!

Throup explains: “On this campus, Warwick sports teams chant songs about rape. A friend of mine from a club here at Warwick told me about a pre-drinks in which members of his club raised their voices as one in the chant. An exec member who had attended an I Heart Consent workshop last year told them to stop, mindful of survivors in the room who would be traumatised, and perpetrators who would be empowered.”

So teaching consent in workshops begins to create a culture on campus, one which empowers people to actively counter rape culture – embodied by chants about rape.

 

#8 Some people apparently feel uncomfortable about this new “consent culture”

 

This less evenly put copycat article by fellow Warwick student Jack Hadfield proclaimed:

I am not a rapist. But I’m in my second week as a university student, and already modern feminism and “consent culture” is trying to pin that label on me.

“I think we all know what goes down at these [consent classes] anyway, don’t we? The male students will be bombarded with stats about “1 in 4 women,” bogus and offensive conspiracy theories about “toxic masculinity,” and suggestions that yes, all men are potential rapists.

Hadfield was being very smart there and parodying the #yesallwomen hashtag. Here’s what that hashtag was meant to mean.

 

web image saying "the point is not that all men harass women [we realize they dont] the point is that all women have been harassed by men"

 

The consent class debate explained: Consent classes are not about assuming that all men are rapists. It’s fair enough to feel offended if someone doubts your personal ability to understand consent, but the number of women being sexually assaulted during their time at uni show us that there is a big problem to solve. Everyone – men and women – need to make sure they are down with all the ins and outs of consent.

 

Fancy digging deeper?

 

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GCSE Reform: Proof that we are too old to say we miss school

Education is getting a shake-up. GCSE reform is just one of the governments latest plans to improve the school system. Here are some major changes to education over the years; we’ll leave it to you to work out if things are better or worse.

 

1) GCSE reform means tougher exams?

Education GCSE reform means calculators may be used for more than writing "boobs"

Wait, what?

New changes announced by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan mean students will have to work harder to get a pass. The traditional A-G grading system is being replaced by a 1-9 numbered system. 

9 is high, 1 is low. Should it not be the other way round?

Anyway students will now have to get a grade 5 to pass; the same as a low B or high C grade. Prior to GCSE reform a normal C grade was still considered a pass. So things are gonna be tougher; now are you glad you’re not at school anymore?

 

How long will it be before students are attempting to get the grades 5,3,1,8,0,0 and 8 in different subjects, so that they can turn their results paper upside down to spell “BOOBIES”?!

 

2) Sex Education

Sex Education - will this change under GCSE reform?

Awks. Maybe a GCSE reform on Sex Ed should be top of the agenda.

Back when you little things were innocent. It was pretty racy to be holding someones hand, or passing them a note.

In a piece for the Open University Professor Michael Reiss explains how sex education was very limited before World War Two.

Before that girls were tutored on self-control and modesty, whereas boys were taught about the temptations of “factory life”. Because it’s obvious that to lose your virginity you go to a factory, right?

Today, with high numbers of Sexting in schools maybe it’s a good thing that kids have all the factsBut is it possible sex education can go to far? Recently it was reported that Harvard University is now going to give an Anal Sex workshop as part of their Sex Week Program. Yes, that’s right. Anal 101. Maybe the UK government should have included foreplay lessons in the GCSE reform plan. Just kidding. 

 

3) University U-Turns

Back in the good old days university was free. You could even get grants to help pay for living costs. The Labour government spoiled things slightly by bringing in tuition fees. Which were then raised by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition. Guys, you really don’t need to try to out-do each other.

Education is a pricey one - university tuition fees are on the rise.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Despite the increase more young people are applying to university; in 2013, nearly 50% of young people were going. This was the highest amount on record.

Whether people are going to study or just for the cheap booze and banter is hard to tell. But the debt is going up, up, up. Some worry this will lead to people being priced out of an education.

Forget GCSE reform; is it time we had a reform of tuition fees?

 

4) Girl Power

Education GCSE reform An image of Emma Watson as Hermione in the Harry Potter Series

Five Points to Gryffindor

The days of Home Economics, where girls were taught how to cook and clean, are long gone.

What ever your views on feminism, things have drastically changed. Subjects are no longer specified for girls or boys.

In the past boys and girls were kept separated; people thought that girls would struggle academically compared to boys. Now, academically girls are outperforming boys at GCSE level.

 

5) #NewTechology

education gcse reform. An image from the TV show the IT crowd

Can your fancy coding tricks stop a fire? Wait, they can? Get outta here.

Typewriting lessons were once considered pretty rad. Computers arrived; they were for playing snake and creating presentations with clip art (a great way of not doing much and making it look awesome).

Now kids in secondary school are being taught how to code from an early age. Children use video, online tools and photoshop. Interactive online lessons have become popular; though so far this hasn’t meant we can work from home.

But… what happens to people who aren’t tech-savvy? If you’re a millennial who just missed out on the coding revolution; start crying, we’re screwed.

 

6) No more beatings.

Education GCSE reform - image of Bart Simpson writing lines from TV show the Simpsons

Only 257 lines to go.

You might think your teachers are tough on you, but in the past it was a lot worse.

In the past, you could expect to be beaten if you stepped out of line. The practice of hitting misbehaving students with canes was still allowed until 1986. Mental, huh?

Now as attitudes have changed new rules to protect students are much, much stricter. Punishments are often designed to make students think about what they’ve done wrong. Does this mean children are less likely to misbehave?

As well as knowing you’re not going to be beat up, student’s mental wellbeing is monitored by teaching staff. It’s hard deciding which topics should be included in a GCSE reform; exam board AQA have decided to take suicide off their education curriculum as it was too upsetting.

 

What we learned; if you’re 23/24, looks as if our kids are going to be screwing up their faces when when we mention GCSE’s, just like we did when our parents told us about O Levels. Welcome to the adult world.

Are schools better than they were in the past? Is the GCSE reform a good idea? What more needs to be done to improve our education system?

 

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Armpit Hair: To Shave Or Not To Shave?

Why do we have armpit hair?

armpit hair to shave or not to shave, if your eating stop, disgusting, woman eats weird looking soup and spits it out

Hair is basically made up of dead skin… sorry if your mid mouthful!

Let’s get back to basics. Armpit hair occurs naturally on our bodies.

If you’re eating you may want to stop now. Hair is basically dead skin. Part of our skin is called the follicle. Hair cells are constantly growing. When they die they are compacted in the follicle and make a protein called Keratin. This is then pushed out of the body and you get hair.

Armpit hair starts growing around puberty. It’s unclear why we still get it; after all the days where our ancestors were covered in hair were long, long ago. It may be to keep us warm. Or to stop friction when the arm is used. Another theory is that it’s there to soak up our underarm sweat. Lovely stuff.

Armpit hair helps to transmit pheromones. These are substances released when you sweat into the atmosphere. They send signals to other members of the species. Pheromones cause alarm, tell you to back off and even make you horny.

When did women start shaving their underarms?

This is not a modern thing. As far back as 4000 BC women were using stuff like arsenic to keep smooth. Just like an ancient version of Veet. By 500 BC the Romans used pumice stone to shave. They even created a prototype razor. But apart from that what did the Romans ever do for us?

Myth: Shaving your armpits is more hygienic.
Actually armpit hair means less smelly bacteria.

But it was around 1915 when the modern obsession with shaved underarms became all the rage. Before that point, fashion meant that women were covered from head to toe. New fashion trends meant that a woman’s whole arm was on show for the first time. Believe it or not, this was revolutionary.

armpit hair to shave or not to shave, ginger armpit hair, sleeveless fashion, girl strokes her armpit hair

In 1915 sleeveless fashion became all the rage…and armpit hair was out!

A 1915 Harper’s Bazaar advertising campaign stated that sleeveless fashion and “modern dancing” meant “objectionable” underarm hair had to go. Why Harper’s Bazaar decided a shaved underarm was the definition of femininity is unclear. It may be linked to renaissance art where women are portrayed as completely hairless. Maybe that’s taking artistic license too far?

Myth: French women don’t shave their armpit hair.
This myth apparently started just after World War II. It’s untrue.

Whatever the reason, over the years it has become a societal norm that women shave their armpits and men don’t. Chest and armpit hair have traditionally been related to masculinity. However some men are breaking the trend. A lot of male athletes prefer a smooth cut and 16% of young British males shave their armpits.

Why are we talking about this?

Thousands of girls in China are taking part in an armpit hair competition. They are posting images of their underarms on a social media website.

Activist Xiao Meili started the competition to combat the view that you must have shaved armpits to be attractive. Shaving armpits has only become the norm in China in the past decade.

And before you take sides in this debate why not check out other famous examples of women who let it grow.

Learnings; it doesn’t matter if you’re a feminist – armpit hair is a natural occurrence.

Girls – Would you ever consider not shaving your armpits? Lads – Would you give it a try?