Cambridge ‘drinking society initiation’ exam question

Trigger warning.

Drinking societies have secured themselves an even deeper place in Cambridge culture after an initiation was used as the subject of an exam question on sexual offences.

The question appeared in the 2013 Criminal Law paper which was sat this morning by over 200 students, the majority of whom are in their first year.

Sexual offences have to be examined on in either an essay-style or problem question format, so there will often be a hypothetical scenario set.

The events and the drinking society involved are both fictional.

It reads:

Sandra is President of The Vizards, a College drinking society. She is organising the initiation of new members. After a great deal of alcohol has been drunk, the members of the society form a circle around Billy, Gilbert and Richard who are to be initiated.

(i) Sandra blindfolds Billy and tells him that Tracey will suck his penis. Jonny does so.

(ii) Sandra penetrates Gilbert’s anus with a bottle. Although Gilbert appears to resist, and has to be held down by Tracey, he actually enjoys the experience.

(iii) Sandra waxes Richard’s pubic hair and pulls it off with such force that she removes a significant part of his skin. The wound becomes infected, but Richard is so embarrassed that he does not get medical help and dies.

Consider what offences, if any, have been committed.

Edit: Wow, this blew up. Featured in: BBC NewsThe Times (free version here), The IndependentThe TelegraphThe SunThe MirrorThe Daily MailMetroThe Huffington PostDer SpiegelThe Times of IndiaThe Irish IndependentBusiness InsiderBusiness StandardCambridge NewsThe Cambridge Tab.

Bin the banknote boys’ club

In a few years’ time, everybody on British bank notes who isn’t the Queen will have a willy.

My last post triggered a few responses from people who were totally cool with that. Here are some of their arguments, each followed by my response.

1. It’s positive discrimination!

The only criterion for appearing on a bank note is being a meritorious British figure. Therefore, it should be pretty unlikely that every single one of those people is male. It should be even less likely that this is the case in another 20 countries around the world.

Evidently, society favours men.

So it’s not positive discrimination. It’s redressing the current imbalance.

2. There are just way more notable men than women in history!

Easy mistake to make – history is told with a masculine bias. But are we going to celebrate that fact or are we going to put it right?

Oh, and: Jane Austen, Betty Boothroyd, the Brontë sisters, Agatha Christie, Emily Davison, Princess Diana, George Eliot, Millicent Fawcett, Audrey Hepburn, Margot Fonteyn, Rosalind Franklin, Vera Lynn, Edith Nesbit, Emmeline Pankhurst, Beatrix Potter, Jacqueline Du Pre, JK Rowling, Mary Seacole, Margaret Thatcher, Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf.

(Also, for maximum Queen-related confusion, Helen Mirren)

3. It’s only a bloody bank note!

Yes, that’s exactly the point. The more mundane and arbitrary something is, the more it enters our subconscious and changes the way we look at our society. This is especially dangerous for young children who are particularly impressionable. It’s also an outward-looking thing – our currency reflects who Britain thinks are some of the most notable figures in our history.

It’s all terribly perpetual and at some point or other it really needs to stop, so why not now?

4. Churchill was a dude!

Great, slap him on a note, but why replace the only woman? She hasn’t even been there the longest (Darwin has).

5. What about the Queen?

Quite a common one floating around on Twitter, this. The fact of the matter is that, whatever you think of the royal family, the only thing the Queen has done to get herself onto our currency is to be born. It’s a tough life…

6. The designs change all the time anyway!

The turnover for the design on banknotes is roughly one change every 6-7 years. There are five notes in circulation. Assuming that every change after the one in 2016 replaces a woman with a man, the earliest that at least 50% of banknotes would feature women would be in 2034. By that time I will be old. And grumpy.

If you fancy signing the petition, click here.

Ratio of women to men on bank notes

In 2016, Sir Winston Churchill will be replacing Elizabeth Fry on the £5 note.*

When this happens, the only woman on British currency will be the Queen. This news left me wondering what the proportion of men to women looks like on bank notes around the world. I figured that the ratio would say a little bit about the state of gender equality in each country (though of course it’s not wholly representative – recognition of a few doesn’t mean equal opportunities for everyone).

A few things to bear in mind about the graph:

  • Most of Western Europe doesn’t feature because of the euro.
  • Only notes that are currently in circulation have been considered.
  • People who have appeared on more than one note are only counted once.
  • Reigning monarchs have been excluded because I’m concerned with figured who have been selected to appear on notes because of their own merits.
  • Although there are different notes in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, they’ve been presented together as it’s all the same currency.
  • Being the hardcore statistician I am, my source is Wikipedia. If you notice anything not quite right, do let me know.

* Annoyed? Make your voice heard.