David Starkey says violence, not consent, should be the classification of rape.

The controversial gay historian made the comments on Question Time last night.

He was asked whether defendants should have their identities protected after the not guilty verdict in the case of Coronation Street actor Bill Roache.

Speaking on the BBC political panel show, Starkey said the current law was not working because of the “complicated” concept of consent.

“The word ‘rape’ means violence,” Starkey said. “That is the Latin route; that is how it has always existed in English; that is how it has always been understood.

“What we have tried to do is to take that word, with all of its terrible associations, and apply it to a whole series of much more awkward, much more difficult to establish, much more contested and contentious sexual encounters by focusing on this issue of consent, which so often boils down to his word against her word.

“Now I cannot see how the law is at all good in dealing with this. It really isn’t, it works very badly.”

The historian went on to say: “We are in a state of complete confusion about sexual etiquette, aren’t we? Complete confusion on what is right and what is wrong.”

Respect Party MP George Galloway, himself no stranger to the debate having previously said sex assault claims against Julian Assange amounted to nothing more than “bad sexual etiquette”, described Starkey’s comments as “utter reactionary tosh”.

The MP said: “Rape does not have to involve violence. No means no. If you proceed it’s rape.”

Defending his comments, Starkey went on to say: “I’m not heterosexual. I have been in very complex sexual situations. Being gay I am actually used to, in one sense, of what it’s like on the other side. I know what’s involved, I know the complexities.”

Starkey questioned whether the phrase, “no means no” could adequately be used in the debate, saying it amounted to just “words”.

The 69-year-old is known for his outspoken views.

Appearing on Question Time in 2011, he warned against creating a “new tyranny” after a Christian couple with anti-gay views were stopped from fostering children.

Starkey said he had profound doubts about the decision and that being “nice and sweet about gays isn’t wholly a good thing”.

Writing in The Telegraph in June 2012, Starkey questioned whether equal marriage was really necessary at all.

In a discussion on Newsnight about the riots of 2011, Starkey said: ”The whites have become black”.