Campus rape dogma in the age of promiscuity
By Heather Mac Donald | February 11, 2016, 6:23 EDT
Today girls constitute a large majority of students on college campuses. And yet, if we are to believe college feminists and their counterparts in the Obama administration, we are sending our daughters off to a crime scene of unprecedented proportions.
According to campus rape dogma, one in five female undergraduates will be the victim of sexual assault during their college years.
Let’s put this claim in perspective.
The violent crime rate in Detroit for all four violent felonies included in the FBI’s crime index — murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — is 2 percent. Detroit’s rape rate is 0.05 percent. And yet, despite an alleged campus sexual-assault rate that is 100 times greater than Detroit’s, female applicants are beating down the doors of selective colleges in record numbers.
Harvard, for example, had a record number of applications for the class of 2019 last year, driving its acceptance rate to a record low of 5.3 percent.
If rape is really as rampant on American college campuses as the activists claim, why do young women continue to apply to college en masse?
Because the campus rape epidemic doesn’t exist.
A 1986 Ms. Magazine survey is instructive: 73 percent of respondents whom the study characterized as rape victims said that they hadn’t been raped when asked the question directly. Forty-two percent of these supposed victims had intercourse again with their alleged assailants — an inconceivable behavior in the case of actual rape.
Sixty-five percent of females whom a 2000 Department of Justice study deemed “completed rape” victims said that they did not think that their experiences were “serious enough to report.”
Such finding have been confirmed again and again, most recently in last year’s multi-college American Association of Universities sexual assault survey.
So what is going on on college campuses? In a nutshell, “sexual liberation” is having a nervous breakdown.
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 desires regarding sex;
— The male was expected to channel his urge for sex through the rituals of courtship;
— 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;
— Campus administrators were expected to enforce these norms through visitation rules designed to deter student couplings.
The sexual revolution threw these arrangements aside. From that point forward, 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;
— Females were assumed to desire sex as voraciously as males, they required no elaborate courtship rituals to engage in it and experienced 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;
— College authorities now leave students free to navigate coital relations as they see fit.
Four decades later, the liberationist regime is disintegrating before our eyes.
It is impossible to overstate the growing weirdness of the college sex scene.
Campus feminists are re-importing selective portions of a traditional sexual code that they have long scorned, even as they carefully preserve the prerogative of no-strings-attached sex.
They are demanding that college administrators write highly technical rules for sex, requiring affirmative agreement to participate in each and every action or movement. And they are demanding that college administrators then aggressively enforce these rules, 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.
Unfortunately, rather than shrinking from this Peeping Tom role, college administrators are drafting new sex rules that require even more minute analysis of drunken couplings.
Harvard, assuming that delicate co-eds cannot summon the will to say “no,” now allows females unfettered discretion after the fact to allege that they were sexually assaulted by conduct they silently regarded as “undesirable.”
Claremont McKenna College in California elaborates at great length upon each of the “essential elements of Consent” — concluding with the mandate: “All parties must demonstrate a clear and mutual understanding of the nature and scope for 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.”
Memo to girls and their bureaucratic handlers: This is sex that we’re talking about, the very realm of the irrational and inarticulate, fraught with ambivalence, fear, longing, and shame. Doing something that you have no “clear understanding” about does not make it rape, it makes it sex.
It seems that today, some feminists wish to have it both ways — to rehabilitate the “no” default for premarital sex while maintaining the backdrop of permissiveness.
The alleged campus-rape epidemic could be stopped overnight if women’s advocates sent a simple message to girls: Don’t get drunk and get into bed with a guy whom you barely know. Keep your clothes on and go home to your own bed at night.
But when I suggest to campus sexual assault administrators that they could stop the alleged “rape pandemic” immediately if they persuaded girls to exercise more prudence, I inevitably receive responses like the following: “I am uncomfortable with the idea of ‘recommending that female students exercise more modesty and restraint.’ This indicates that if they are raped it could be their fault, but it is never their fault.”
While there may be few actual rape victims on college campuses, there are undoubtedly thousands of girls feeling confused, betrayed, and exploited by partners who leave their bed with no emotional pang whatsoever.
Why does this happen?
Because today’s promiscuous mores liberate young men to behave like boors. Young men, you see, are the main beneficiaries of no-commitment sex, for males and females are not equals on the sexual battlefield. And while few college students are guilty of rape, despite what feminists tell us, they are almost certainly guilty of taking remorseless advantage of the sexual caravansary.
Of course, male students could choose to respond to the one-sided distribution of risk and responsibility by becoming sexual prudes until graduation, at no social cost whatsoever. But don’t count on the male libido to do anything so sane.
Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute.