“When they are drunk, think twice about it.”
That’s not the advice the footballer Ched Evans actually took himself, of course, four years ago. There doesn't seem to have been a whole lot of thinking twice going on, as he blagged his way past a hotel receptionist into the room where he knew his mate was having sex with some nameless stranger, and took his turn on the bed – all without personally exchanging a single word with a girl, who was so drunk that the next day she couldn’t remember any of it.
But it's the advice he was solemnly dishing out last weekend, after an appeal court decided that whatever you might call this behaviour, it wasn't rape. People “need educating on alcohol and consent”, Evans told the Sunday papers: “I was young at the time and stupid and I wasn’t aware of the situations you could potentially find yourself in that would land you in trouble. I have never been taught about anything like that. You get your gambling and drinking training but nothing else on top of that.”
Certainly one look at Evans’s vociferous online supporters, still furiously tweeting abuse and occasionally rape threats at any woman who doesn’t agree that their guy is a hero, confirms some people really do “need educating”. But please God, not byChed Evans.
The case for compulsory sex education in schools, laser-focused on consent and on exploding dangerous myths peddled by porn – because that hotel room scenario frankly has flimsy porno script written all over it, complete with Evans’s mates trying to film through a window on their mobiles – was unarguable already. But if there’s any justice in this world, this case should make it politically inevitable too.
Britain now has a female education secretary in Justine Greening, and a female home secretary in Amber Rudd, both of whom are known to have strong views on combating porn – one of the vanishingly few feminist causes that's uncontroversial even with highly traditional true blue Tories, who see it as upholding decent family values.
The case for compulsory sex education in schools, laser-focused on consent and on exploding dangerous myths peddled by porn, was unarguable already
Theresa May, meanwhile, is understood to have been one of several women ministers privately supporting compulsory sex education during the last parliament.
It was David Cameron, of course, who got cold feet and blocked the idea then; bruised by the criticism he got for legalising gay marriage, he was clearly worried about provoking another faith-based backlash by denying strictly religious parents the right to withdraw their children from sex education classes.
But when even the 66-year-old Radio Four Woman’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray is suggesting kids should be asked to analyse and deconstruct porn films in school, you know something in middle England has shifted, to the point where the vast majority of parents are less scared of what might be said in class than of what’s being said outside it. A new prime minister – and perhaps especially a vicar’s daughter like May, who understands any sensitivities involved – has the political capital to tackle this and she should use it.
A generation ago, perhaps it was possible (if not necessarily desirable) for devout parents to keep their children ignorant. But the net has effectively stripped away that choice anyway, with research suggesting the average age of first exposure to explicit material online is just 11. When all it takes is one kid in the playground with a mobile phone, all the parental controls in the world can't keep it out – and if parents can't or won't talk about this stuff, who else but a teacher is going to explain that the violent, exploitative stuff they see on screen has nothing to do with what real women want?
However awkward the argument, there are times when having women in positions of power actually has to mean something. This is one of them.