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    Your eyes say yes / Even when you tell me no

    I can’t tell whether Eric Scheie is seriously stumped or playing up the naive tone for effect, but all the questions he raises about some current definitions of rape are good ones. Not for the first time, a woman college student who got drunk and went back to a dorm room with two college guys is accusing them of rape.

    In an accompanying article, a “mutual” standard is announced, and the reason I’m putting it in my blog is that I am having conceptual difficulty understanding it:

    “The good that can come out of this is that more people will see the problem for what it is,” Bath said. “We have to educate young women about this issue, and we also have to educate young men. Don’t put yourself in position to be a victim or a perpetrator.

    “Young men, including athletes, have to be made to understand: You’re not entitled to sex. And if the woman is drunk, you’re even less entitled to sex. It’s a crime.”

    OK, let’s parse that.

    I think I have a pretty good idea how to avoid being a victim. But how do I avoid putting myself “in position” to be “a perpetrator”? Any idea what that means? I mean, usually, the way I manage not to perpetrate crimes is simply by not perpetrating them.

    Position? Do they mean sexual positions? Or merely in any tempting locations? There are sexually attractive people in many locations; does this mean that there should be no dating? No kissing? No heavy necking?

    Analogizing to other forms of crime, does that mean that people shouldn’t work near money lest they put themselves “in position” to be a perpetrator?

    Then there’s the entitlement issue. Certainly, I am not entitled to sex. Agree completely. I never thought I was. The statement makes me wonder whether there is an entire new class of people out there who believe in sexual entitlement as a matter of right. Is that true? What have I been missing?

    Then there’s this:

    if the woman is drunk, you’re even less entitled to sex. It’s a crime.

    Only if the woman is drunk? Isn’t that sexist? Or is all drunken sex a crime?

    (The article he links to is here.)

    Part of the problem may be a generation gap. When we arrived at college in 1991, there was a sexual assault session as part of freshmen orientation. It was one of those that we were herded to–you didn’t just show up and have the ability to skip out on it. In it, we were given to understand that, basically, a woman was permitted to say no at any point between “Hi, can I buy you a drink?” and orgasm. If the man didn’t stop, he was a rapist. (Yes, they kept the language scrupulously gender-neutral, but we all knew they weren’t trying to prevent crew guys from being mounted and pinioned by sorority girls.)

    This was before the infamous Antioch College behavior code, which required explicit verbal consent at every step along the way. Still, the undisguised intention was to let men know that they could be considered rapists if they did anything to displease the women they slept with. So even though I think such a definition of rape is inequitable, infantilizes women, treats straight men like lowest-common-denominator barbarians, and prevents everyone from assuming adult responsibility–though I think all those things, I’ve been hearing people talk that way since I was 19. It repels but doesn’t faze me.

    Along those lines, I was most interested by this: “The statement makes me wonder whether there is an entire new class of people out there who believe in sexual entitlement as a matter of right. Is that true?” I don’t think it’s true specifically. What I think is that the leftish nannies in charge of student life programs can’t resolve a certain conflict in their thinking. (Well, there are many conflicts they can’t resolve, but I’m speaking of just one here.) Their overarching message is that all choices are equal and that individualism means feeling free to act on whatever impulse wafts into your pretty little head.

    Naturally, 18-year-olds living away from home are going to take this to mean free sex, as part of a more general sense of entitlement. Then student life dean-types have no choice but to back and fill and point out that, well, no, dear, you aren’t really entitled to sex with anyone and everyone just because you want it. Desires must be refereed, and since academic feminism is the highest priority among such people, the woman gets to make all the choices and the man gets to make none of them.

    One of the most darkly hilarious aspects of our freshmen orientation about sexual assault came at the end. The perky graduate student had led our group of ten or so students through discussions about why you were a rapist if you had sex with a partner who was drunk, a partner who was high, a partner who said no but didn’t stop you later when you fumbled with her bra again, or a partner who tried to push you away when you’d already been copulating for ten minutes. She wrapped things up by saying, “Well, I’d just like to point out that, while it’s okay to say no, it’s okay to say yes, too.” Really? Well, there you go. That makes it all clear. It isn’t surprising that, after four years in the charge of such people, a lot of college kids end up more confused about sex and sexuality than when they arrived as teenagers.

    Added 5 seconds later: I would just like to point out that I’m aware of the ambiguity in “there was a sexual assault session as part of freshmen orientation” and decided to leave it in because I got a giggle out of it. Rest assured that the only things actually being assaulted during the session were morality, ethics, logic, and common sense. This is why we go to college, right?

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