Anti-rape campaigners have reacted with horror after British MP George Galloway became the latest supporter of Julian Assange to claim that the sexual assault allegations against him should not be considered rape.
In a video podcast which sparked outrage, the Bradford MP and notorious polemicist suggested sex without consent should not always be thought of as rape, if a woman has previously consented to what he called "the sex game". He added that Assange was merely guilty of "bad sexual etiquette".
Galloway's comments were delivered in a defence of the WikiLeaks founder, which he released online as part of his weekly podcast series, "Goodnight with George Galloway". Twenty minutes into his speech, he turns his fire on the rape allegations Assange is facing in Sweden, saying it should be acceptable to have intercourse with a sleeping woman if she had previously consented to sex.
"What I am going to say is going to be controversial, because somebody has to say this," he said.
"A reign of intellectual terror has descended on this subject. Even taken at its worst, if the allegations made by these two women were true, 100 per cent true, and even if a camera in the room captured them, they don't constitute rape. At least not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it.
And somebody has to say this."
He then turns to the case of "Woman A", one of Assange's two accusers, who claims he forcibly had sex with her without her consent without wearing a condom. "Woman A met Julian Assange, invited him back to her flat, gave him dinner, went to bed with him, had consensual sex with him. Claims that she woke up to him having sex with her again. This is something which can happen, you know."
Galloway added: "I mean, not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion. Some people believe that when you go to bed with somebody, take off your clothes, and have sex with them and then fall asleep, you're already in the sex game with them."
Galloway joins the ranks of prominent supporters of Assange who are playing down the nature of the sexual claims against him. Monty Python star Terry Jones has tweeted his support by attacking Sweden's rape laws and incorrectly saying the charges would not be considered a crime in Britain.
A spokeswoman from Rape Crisis said: "Having had consensual sex with a woman once does not give a man licence to then have sex with her again at any time and in any way he pleases and assume consent is given.
"Mr Galloway's description of such sexual violence as 'really bad manners' is offensive and deeply concerning."
Sarah Green, from the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said: "The Assange case has revealed some very worrying attitudes to rape and sexual violence among many commentators as to what constitutes 'real rape'."