Tony Benn - An Apology
18th September 2012 4:26 pm Author: Søren Goard, Conrad Grant, Samson Osun and Tama White
This summer has seen a worrying number of apologies for rape from prominent figures. This led to the surfacing of a video of Tony Benn in which he commented that ‘non-consensual sex’ is ‘very different from rape’.
Tomorrow (Wednesday 19th September) Tony Benn, former MP and veteran campaigner will recieve an Honorary Degree from Goldsmiths.
Because Tony Benn is not only receiving an Honorary degree from the University but also an Honorary President of the Student Union we thought it important to request an apology. Below is our original letter to Tony Benn:
"Dear Tony Benn,
We are writing to request you apologise for and retract the comments you made at the Stop the War ‘Defend Wikileaks’ rally in February 2011  and make clear your support for the position we hold that non consensual sex is always rape and no means no. We don't think that it is possible to be 'for sexual equality' and then describe 'non-consensual sex' as different from rape.
As honorary president you have a level of accountability to Goldsmiths students, and they have a responsibility to hold you to that.
The idea that rape is defined by the survivor not having consent is far from controversial. It is the definition found in most dictionaries and, more importantly, the definition that the trade union and student union movement has argued for over years of struggle.
You have been a respected figure on the left for many years. It is precisely because of that, and because people therefore take your opinion seriously, that we are making this request. We hope you recognise that for many members this position is also informed by years in the struggle against sexism.
We cannot and should not fail to challenge people who are part of the left if they voice opinions that go against the hard-won values of liberation movements.
We hope you are able to retract your comments.
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyBcqPwuQE8 "
Tony Benn has responded to our communication. He wished to apologise and to pass on this statement.
"I wish to apologise sincerely for my previous remarks on rape at the ‘Defend Wikileaks’ meeting in February 2011. These comments do not represent my position. As an Honorary President of Goldsmiths Student Union, I share the union’s position. Hence my position is that non-consensual sex is rape, that no means no and that all allegations of rape must be treated with the utmost sincerity. I have been involved in support for women's rights for all of my political life and would like to state clearly that I stand with all those committed to sexual equality."
We feel this is a welcome response. As two of our sabbatical team are themselves graduating tomorrow we would like to congratulate Tony Benn on his Honorary Degree.