The strongest oaths are but straw to the fire in the blood

Rolling Stone starts to walk back it’s story?  Either a calumny needs to be debunked or guilty parties need to be held accountable—by the police.

pic_giant3_120614_SM_UVA-Rolling-StoneMegan McArdle has an excellent piece at Bloomberg about how Rolling Stone’s U-Va rape story fails victims:

But the very seriousness of the accusations, the very horror of rape, means that the reporter must try to get all sides of the story before it goes to print. The failure to do so did not mean that Jackie’s story was a hoax — but it adds plausibility to the suggestions that it might be. And as writer Caitlin Flanigan told Rosin and Benedikt, “If this turns out to be a hoax, it is going to turn the clock back … 30 years.” Sabrina Rubin Erdely should have done everything she could to foreclose it. She didn’t. Her editors didn’t.

So now the next time a rape victim tells her story to a journalist, they will both be trying to reach an audience that remembers the problems with this article, and the Duke lacrosse case, and wonders if any of these stories are ever true. That inference will be grotesquely false, but it is the predictable result of accepting sensational stories without carefully checking. The greatest damage this article has done is not to journalism, or even to Rolling Stone. It is to the righteous fight for rape victims everywhere.

Today’s college campuses may be the last place one can have a serious discussion about the prevalence of sexual assault and how allegations ought to be handled.  Campus rape is real;  what’s going on in many (most?) cases, however, is something else: a hook-up culture that empowers the worst kind of men, adjudicated by kangaroo courts.  Whatever they’re teaching at freshmen orientation about drinking and sex isn’t working.

At some point over the past 40 years we threw the baby out with the bathwater, and now are trying to get “it” back via “a bizarre hybrid of liberationist and traditionalist values” that attempts to “rehabilitate the “no” default for premarital sex, despite a backdrop of permissiveness.

As much as I’d dearly love to “rehabilitate the no” for the sake of my two daughters, I doubt this version of campus feminism will protect them.  But, hey – at least it’s patronizing!

In The End of Feminism, Bruce Thornton writes:

(T)he old feminist claim to equal treatment based on a woman’s equal capacity to control her sexual choices has been transformed into an old-fashioned Victorian notion of women as weak creatures who need to be protected from sexually feral males.

He goes on to quote Shakespeare’s Prospero – “The strongest oaths are but straw to the fire in the blood” – to make the point that “regulatory intrusions into sexual intimacy between legal adults” are doomed to fail.  It’s hard to replace jettisoned taboos with bureaucracy and star chambers.

When a college establishes co-ed dorms (and in some cases, bathrooms), uses freshmen orientation as an opportunity to encourage incoming students to explore better sex, and turns a blind eye to binge drinking… the results should not surprise anyone over 25.  As Jonah Goldberg writes:

For instance, it would be commonsense to our grandmothers that some drunk men will do bad things, particularly in a moral vacuum, and that women should take that into account. I constantly hear that instead of lecturing women about their behavior we should teach men not to rape. I totally, completely, 100 percent agree that we should teach men not to rape. The problem is we do that. A lot. Maybe we should do it more. We also teach people not to murder — another heinous crime. But murders happen too. That’s why we advise our kids to steer clear of certain neighborhoods at certain times and avoid certain behaviors. I’m not “pro-murder” if I tell my kid not to walk through the park at night and flash money around any more than I am pro-rape if I give her similar advice.

Of course, the problem is that feminists want to expunge any notion that women are gentler and fairer. This requires declaring war on chivalric standards for male conduct, which were once a great bulwark against caddish and rapacious behavior. Take away the notion that men should be protective of women and they will — surprise! — be less protective of women.

None of this means we’d all be better off with women in corsets on fainting couches. (I like strong, assertive women so much I married one. I’m also the son of one, and I’m trying to raise another.) But somehow feminists have gotten themselves into the position of adopting the adolescent male’s fantasy of consequence-and-obligation-free sex as an ideal for women. Uncivilized and morally uneducated men have, for millennia, wanted to treat women like sluts. And now feminists have embraced the word as a badge of honor. Call me an old-fogey, but I think that’s weird.

Here’s Thornton again:

(N)othing infantilizes women more than the sexual codes promulgated by numerous universities. Obviously, sexual assault properly defined is a crime that should be investigated and the guilty punished. But getting drunk and then sleeping with an equally intoxicated partner is not a crime. It’s a learning experience about taking responsibility for one’s actions, and practicing the virtues of prudence and self-control.

By criminalizing young adults’ complicated sexual experiences, feminism is betraying its original call for sexual equality and autonomy by making women perpetual victims too weak to be held responsible for their choices, and too incapable of painfully learning from their mistakes and thus developing their characters. At the same time that feminists still call for unlimited sexual freedom, they treat women as Victorian maidens who lack agency and resources of character, and thus must be defended against sexual cads and bounders. As the Manhattan Institute’s Heather MacDonald puts it, this “new order is a bizarre hybrid of liberationist and traditionalist values. It carefully preserves the prerogative of no-strings-attached sex while cabining it with legalistic caveats that allow females to revert at will to a stance of offended virtue.”

Speaking of MacDonald, here are a few long excerpts from “Neo-Victorianism on Campus,” her article in The Weekly Standard:

It is impossible to overstate the growing weirdness of the college sex scene. Campus feminists are reimporting selective portions of a traditional sexual code that they have long scorned, in the name of ending what they preposterously call an epidemic of campus rape. They are once again making males the guardians of female safety and are portraying females as fainting, helpless victims of the untrammeled male libido. They are demanding that college administrators write highly technical rules for sex and aggressively enforce them, 50 years after the proponents of sexual liberation insisted that college adults stop policing student sexual behavior. While the campus feminists are not yet calling for an assistant dean to be present at their drunken couplings, they have created the next best thing: the opportunity to replay every grope and caress before a tribunal of voyeuristic administrators.

The ultimate result of the feminists’ crusade may be the same as if they were explicitly calling for a return to sexual modesty: a sharp decrease in casual, drunken sex. There is no downside to this development.

Let us recall the norms which the sexual revolution contemptuously swept away in the 1960s. Males and females were assumed on average to have different needs regarding sex: The omnivorous male sex drive would leap at all available targets, whereas females were more selective, associating sex with love and commitment. The male was expected to channel his desire for sex through the rituals of courtship and a proposal of marriage. A high premium was placed on female chastity and great significance accorded its loss; males, by contrast, were given a virtual free pass to play the sexual field to the extent that they could find or purchase a willing partner. The default setting for premarital sex was “no,” at least for females. Girls could opt out of that default—and many did. But placing the default at “no” meant that a female didn’t have to justify her decision not to have sex with particular reasons each time a male importuned her; individual sexual restraint was backed up by collective values. On campuses, administrators enforced these norms through visitation rules designed to prevent student couplings.

The sexual revolution threw these arrangements aside. From now on, males and females would meet as equals on the sexual battlefield. The ideal of female modesty, the liberationists declared, was simply a cover for sexism. Chivalry was punished; females were assumed to desire sex as voraciously as males; they required no elaborate courtship rituals to engage in it and would presumably experience no pang of thwarted attachment after a one-night stand. The default for premarital sex was now “yes,” rather than “no”; opting out of that default required an individualized explanation that could no longer rely on the fact that such things are simply not done. In colleges, the authorities should get out of the way and leave students free to navigate coital relations as they saw fit.

Four decades later, the liberationist regime is disintegrating before our eyes. The new order is a bizarre hybrid of liberationist and traditionalist values. It carefully preserves the prerogative of no-strings-attached sex while cabining it with legalistic caveats that allow females to revert at will to a stance of offended virtue. Consider the sexual consent policy of California’s Claremont McKenna College, shared almost verbatim with other schools such as Occidental College in Los Angeles. Paragraphs long, consisting of multiple sections and subsections, and embedded within an even wordier 44-page document on harassment and sexual misconduct, Claremont’s sexual consent rules resemble nothing so much as a multilawyer-drafted contract for the sale and delivery of widgets, complete with definitions, the obligations of “all” (as opposed to “both”) parties, and the preconditions for default. “Effective consent consists of an affirmative, conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed upon (and the conditions of) sexual activity,” the authorities declare awkwardly. The policy goes on to elaborate at great length upon each of the “essential elements of Consent”—“Informed and reciprocal,” “Freely and actively given,” “Mutually understandable,” “Not indefinite,” “Not unlimited.” “All parties must demonstrate a clear and mutual understanding of the nature and scope of the act to which they are consenting”—think: signing a mortgage—“and a willingness to do the same thing, at the same time, in the same way,” declare Claremont’s sex bureaucrats. Never mind that sex is the realm of the irrational and inarticulate, fraught with ambivalence, fear, longing, and shame. Doing something that you are not certain about does not make it rape, it makes it sex.

The policy’s assumption of transparent contractual intention may be laughably out of touch with reality. But its agenda is serious: to rehabilitate the “no” default for premarital sex, despite a backdrop of permissiveness. In fact, the policy goes even farther into the realm of Victorian sex roles than simply a presumption of female modesty. Females are now considered so helpless and passive that they should not even be assumed to have the strength or capacity to say “no.” “Withdrawal of Consent can be an expressed ‘no’ or can be based on an outward demonstration that conveys that an individual is hesitant, confused, uncertain, or is no longer a mutual participant,” announce Claremont’s sexocrats…

It turns out that when you decouple the sex drive from modesty and prudence, it takes armies of elected officials, bureaucrats, and consultants to protect females from “undesirable” behavior. … Gloria Steinem and a gender studies professor from New York’s Stony Brook University explain in the New York Times: The California law “redefines that gray area” between “yes” and “no.” “Silence is not consent; it is the absence of consent. Only an explicit ‘yes’ can be considered consent.” In other words, California’s new statute, like many existing campus policies, moves the sexual default for female students back to “no.”

But isn’t this bureaucratic and legislative ferment, however ham-handed, being driven by an epidemic of campus rape? There is no such epidemic. There is, however, a squalid hook-up scene, the result of jettisoning all normative checks on promiscuous behavior

This finding rests on a neo-Victorian ethos which makes the male the sole guardian of female safety. John and Jane were equally drunk. They both agreed to have sex. Neither of them remembered the actual moment of intercourse afterwards (though Jane remembers the oral sex). Yet John is viewed as the primary mover in that sex act, and the only member of the pair obligated to evaluate the mental capacities of his partner. Jane, however, could be deemed equally guilty of having sex with a partner who was too drunk to consent. In the neo-Victorian worldview, however, females have no responsibility for their own behavior, while the male is responsible not only for himself but for his partner as well.

Pace the feminists, the Occidental case is emblematic not of “rape culture” but of the emotional fallout from sexual liberation. Jane was a virgin before her tryst with John. She only decided to report her intercourse to the Occidental authorities, after prompting from her college advisers, when she realized how much it had affected her psychologically. She saw that John “wasn’t fazed by what happened at all” and appeared to attend classes without difficulty, whereas she found herself distracted and unable to concentrate. She should not have to risk the discomfort of seeing him, she concluded, and thus, Occidental should expel him.

Jane’s reactions are understandable, if hardly grounds for expulsion. While there are thankfully few actual rape victims on college campuses, there are thousands of girls feeling taken advantage of by partners who walk away from casual sex with no apparent sense of thwarted attachment. That such behavior conforms to the ground rules for campus sex doesn’t matter. What campus feminists call “post traumatic stress disorder” and fear of getting “raped” again is often rather a female’s quite natural embarrassment at reencountering a sex partner whom she barely knew and with whom she has no continuing relationship. Girls losing their virginity are at particular risk of being emotionally ambushed by drunken hook-up couplings. Though sexual liberation has stripped virginity and its loss of any formally recognized significance, the lived experience can be more momentous than girls are prepared for

While few boys are guilty of what most people understand as rape, many are guilty of acting as boorishly as they can get away with. Sexual liberation and radical feminism unleashed the current mess by misunderstanding male and female nature. Feminists may now be unwittingly accomplishing what they would never allow conservatives to do: restoring sexual decorum.

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