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The Consent Debate: Louis Theroux Set to Explore Sexual Assault at American Universities

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By Jack Warne

Brace yourselves: Louis Theroux is back.

This time around, in the form of an one-off BBC 2 Special, The Night in Question, he travels to the US to explore the consent debate occurring at university campuses around the country.

Universities, most notably in America – Theroux’s area of expertise – have been rightly forced to clamp down on the rise in sexual assault and rape cases in recent years in the form of strict guidelines, designed to ensure that students feel safe.

Whilst these guidelines seem clearly justifiable, enforcing the bare minimum in terms of how people should treat one other, a debate has arisen between those who are strong advocates of the guidelines and those who feel that their personal and academic reputations have been wrongfully tarnished by their enforcement, with many of the accused arguing that they have been punished for actions which wouldn’t constitute a criminal offence.

This is ultimately the debate that Theroux will explore in his new BBC documentary, making it potentially his most controversial yet – despite him having previously explored subjects such as euthanasia, far-right extremism and alcoholism.

Theroux will speak to those on both sides of the debate: survivors of sexual assault who believe that guidelines are needed on campuses in order to create a safe environment on the one hand, and those who feel they’ve been wrongly punished or had their reputations ruined on the other.

Additionally, he will speak with university officials who face the task of dealing which allegations and essentially judging if they should result in the exclusion of students from the institutions in question.

Theroux most recently returned to our televisions in autumn last year with his three-part series, Altered States, in which he explored the issues of polyamory, euthanasia and open adoption in the US.

As well as this one-off special, Theroux has teased the return of his much-loved early 2000s series, When Louis Met, in which he met such controversial figures as Anne Widdecombe and famously attempted to prod Jimmy Saville with allegations of sexual abuse many years before he was eventually exposed.

Details are scarce, but Theroux has hinted towards potential interviewee subjects: “I’m more interested in stories about people who maybe are not riding as high as they once were — maybe Nigel Farage or Julian Assange. Farage seems to be more in the wings, more in the margins.”

At present, the air date for The Night In Question is unconfirmed. Further details are to be announced.

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Jack Warne

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