In an anticipated speech yesterday, delivered at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia School of Law, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the U.S. Department of Education is moving to end the reckless Title IX enforcement regime adopted by the Obama administration. The speech reflected a welcome regard for statute after years of executive-branch adventurism and, more important, a much-needed push to begin correcting for the kangaroo-court insanity that Obama-administration ideologues unleashed on college campuses.
DeVos appropriately framed her remarks by hailing twin imperatives: the need to protect all students on college campuses from sexual harassment or assault, and the need to ensure that those accused of such acts are treated fairly. Especially for someone who has had her share of stumbles in public remarks, DeVos delivered a well-crafted speech with aplomb. The balance and tenor of her remarks was just right.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos makes remarks during a major policy address on Title IX enforcement, which in college covers sexual harassment, rape and assault, at George Mason University, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., September 7, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
She opened by flatly declaring, “Let me be clear at the outset: Acts of sexual misconduct are reprehensible, disgusting, and unacceptable. They are acts of cowardice and personal weakness. . . . One rape is one too many. One assault is one too many. One aggressive act of harassment is one too many. . . . Survivors aren’t well-served when they are re-traumatized with appeal after appeal because the failed system failed the accused.”
But DeVos also proceeded to do something that her Obama-era counterparts never did, which is to carefully affirm that we do not protect or support victims by railroading the accused through sham processes. As DeVos put it, “One person denied due process is too many. . . . Every survivor of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously. Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined. . . . Due process either protects everyone, or it protects no one. The notion that a school must diminish due-process rights to better serve the ‘victim’ only creates more victims.”
DeVos addressed the worrisome way in which Title IX enforcement has grown into a tool for policing speech. She highlighted the need to be “more precise in the definition of sexual misconduct” and observed:
Schools have been compelled by Washington to enforce ambiguous and incredibly broad definitions of assault and harassment. Too many cases involve students and faculty who have faced investigation and punishment simply for speaking their minds or teaching their classes. . . . But if everything is harassment, then nothing is. Punishing speech protected by the First Amendment trivializes actual harassment.
Bizarrely, DeVos’s sensible stance represents a sea change from current policy. In April 2011, responding to hyperbolic claims of a “campus rape epidemic” fueled by junk science, the Obama Department of Education issued a “Dear Colleague” letter that dramatically altered Title IX enforcement on college campuses. The letter greatly expanded federal reach into how colleges should adjudicate sexual-harassment investigations if they wanted to steer clear of a potential federal investigation.
The 2011 guidance, issued without the required notice-and-comment rulemaking process, informed schools receiving federal funds that they should use the “preponderance of evidence” standard — the lowest possible standard of proof in our judiciary system — in all investigations of sexual offenses, ranging from unwelcome sexually charged speech to rape. The preponderance of evidence standard means that if the campus administrator thinks there is a 50.1 percent chance that accusation is true, the accused is to be found guilty. The letter also imposed a form of double jeopardy by requiring that schools allow accusers to appeal not-guilty rulings. It further “strongly discouraged” institutions from allowing accusers to be cross-examined. Campuses that failed to abide by any of these “suggestions” would be vulnerable to federal civil-rights investigations.
Subsequent Obama-era Title IX guidance imposed further federal strictures on higher-education institutions, including telling them to adopt a remarkably expansive (and unconstitutional) definition of sexual harassment. A self-proclaimed “blueprint” for Title IX compliance issued in 2013, for example, reaffirmed OCR’s expectation that schools treat any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including speech, as sexual harassment, despite the Supreme Court holding otherwise. It also made clear that conduct which a “reasonable person” would not consider “objectively offensive” could still be deemed to constitute harassment.
The consequences of all this were as unfortunate as they were predictable. K. C. Johnson, co-author of The Campus Rape Frenzy, has noted that a district-court decision against Appalachian State University last month marked the 60th time that courts have ruled against colleges and universities in campus due-process cases since the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter. This September, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) released a study of campus due process in which it reported that of 53 of the nation’s leading colleges and universities, 85 percent maintain policies that grossly violate due-process protections and nearly three-quarters don’t even presume the accused innocent until proven guilty. In one striking instance, Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis found herself subject to two Title IX investigations in 2015 following an essay she had written for The Chronicle of Higher Education about campus sexual politics and paranoia. Other instances of accused students and faculty being railroaded by university kangaroo courts can be found in nearly any major news outlet.
DeVos’s speech marks a promising turn. While the education press reported that DeVos was, for now, leaving the 2011 Obama guidance intact, a senior Department of Education official told us that this is misleading. Rather, the official says the department has already filed paperwork with the Office of Management and Budget to rescind the guidance and adopt new interim guidance in its place.
The interim guidance will stipulate fair-treatment standards for both parties involved in these investigations. This means no more star chambers: All the evidence available to one party is to be available to the other, and institutions will be required to notify the accused of any charges levied against them. The interim guidance will also take Washington’s thumb off the scale in terms of evidentiary standards, cross-examination, and the like, allowing campuses to reinstate due-process protections without fearing they will trigger a federal civil-rights investigation. DeVos also announced that she will launch a “transparent notice-and-comment process,” in accord with federal law, to develop guidelines that can more responsibly and effectively promote safe campuses, provide justice to victims, and safeguard the rights of the accused.
Secretary DeVos’s fine speech and pledge to act are worth commending — especially given the caterwauling and vitriol with which she knew she’d be greeted by the Title IX lobby, campus ideologues, and old Obama hands. If she’s able and willing to follow through, DeVos’s articulate and measured challenge to campus kangaroo courts will prove to be a heartening win for common sense.
Some years ago, near the end of the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” scare, it occurred to me to wonder how much of the trauma experienced by kids was due to their having been sexually abused, and how much by the constant drumbeat of expectation that they had been traumatized. (Not talking about cases where physical damage occurrs — more like the Kliban cartoon, “Uncle Sid’s Birthday Peek” (good luck finding that one.)
Someone acts in a creepy way, or maybe a very creepy way, and the target is told this is the worst thing that could ever happen to her. She gets the message that unless she recognizes how traumatized she is, maybe there’s something wrong with her. (Some of the interviews of children at the Mc Martin Preschool went awry in this very way.) So she confesses trauma. She rehearses it in interview after interview, conversation after conversation. Eventually, she believes it. An event has progressed from “boy that really creeped me out” to “he ruined my life!”
I don’t know if that ever happens, or how often it might happen. But in the middle of the hysteria, it was probably not safe even to ask the question.
Under this theory, hormones and other neurotransmitters go mad and can cause temporary brain damage; memories of an assault are stored perfectly somewhere in the brain but are “fragmented” at first, so it might take victims time to piece together the true story of what happened. College Title IX coordinators—the folks responsible for adjudicating claims of campus sexual misconduct—are told that “the absence of verbal or physical resistance, the inability to recall crucial parts of an alleged assault, a changing story—none of these factors should raise questions or doubt about a claim,” explains Yoffe. “Indeed, all of these behaviors can be considered evidence that an assault occurred.”
But science offers little evidence to support these claims. In fact, they fly in the face of almost all recent research on memory and trauma. (See Yoffe’s piece for plenty of backup on this front.) Rather, the “neurobiology of trauma” movement seems to have become popular because it plays so nicely into progressive ideology.
We have been here before.
In the 1980s, the idea that childhood sexual abuse caused later psychological troubles, substance abuse problems, and repressed memories grew quite popular. The medical mechanism through which this occurred was supposedly trauma, or more specifically, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Activists alleged that child sexual abuse victims experienced PTSD in the same way soldiers did.
The trauma theory arose in response to questions about why many victims didn’t recall or report abuse until later. Trauma, PTSD, and repressed memories provided an explanation that avoided any emphasis on victims’ actions or behavior. To suggest that they waited out of shame, because they didn’t understand the meaning of the abuse until later, or for any other reason involving the remotest bit of agency on the victims’ parts was seen as too close to victim blaming. Any questioning of quack psychologists who “uncovered” repressed memories was viewed as saying most accusers were making their stories up.
PTSD also provided a semi-plausible biological mechanism for how childhood sexual abuse could directly cause mood disorders, drug abuse, excessive drinking, relationship and sexual problems, eating disorders, personality disorders, and other issues later in life—problems that were proclaimed to arise in almost every case.
Yet “the theory of PTSD did not readily adapt to the experience of sexual abuse as described by victims,” writes Clancy, who began focusing on the issue as part of her doctoral research at Harvard in the 1990s.
At the start, Clancy expected her interviews with survivors of childhood sexual abuse to confirm conventional wisdom: that this type of abuse was always traumatizing to children as it occurred, that this trauma could cause them to block it out or detach from it until years later, and that the result was always lifelong psychological, sexual, and relationship problems. But what she found was more complicated. Most of those she talked to—as patients and as part of her research project—knew their abusers, were not physically harmed by them, and recalled feeling more confusion than fear at the time.
In other words, they had not experienced the abuse as particularly traumatic when it occurred. The negative psychological effects of the abuse came later, in adolescence or early adulthood, when a victim could fully conceptualize and understand what had happened. That didn’t fit the PTSD model.
To be clear, she does not suggest that sexual molestation isn’t traumatizing—just that it traumatizes victims in a different way than was commonly understood. But when she began putting this out there, it was not taken well by her peers in the psychology community or by feminist activists. Clancy was accused of victim blaming and of being a “friend of pedophiles.” At the very least, critics asked, why did it matter? If the new trauma paradigm had mobilized mass attention and opened Uncle Sam’s pocketbook for research studies, child abuse hotlines, training programs, and awareness campaigns, then why quibble over the psychological particulars?
The answer, to Clancy, is simple: “To truly help victims, our theories need to be based on the empirical knowledge—and not on assumptions, politics, and lies.”
As she interviewed more and more survivors of childhood sex abuse, Clancy realized that misinformation about trauma was further victimizing them and causing even more psychological harm. For most—those who had not “fought back” against the abuse or reported it until later, those who hadn’t developed crippling psychological problems in the aftermath, etc.—the conventional wisdom on trauma only compounded feelings of insecurity, shame, and self-loathing. If they weren’t terrified in the moment and traumatized forever after, they took that as a sign of their own complicity, deviance, or flaws.
“The reason the truth matters—the reason advocacy is best based in truth—is that our lies about sexual abuse are not helping victims,” writes Clancy.
On campuses today, we may be making things worse for young people by embracing “science” because it feels right rather than because it reflects the empirical evidence. As before, this comes in reaction to a real problem—a historical disbelief in rape victims’ stories and a tendency to treat any minor memory inconsistencies as proof they are lying—but it has veered into a damaging overcorrection.
“This information sends the message to young people that they are biologically programmed to become helpless during unwanted sexual encounters and to suffer mental impairment afterward,” writes Yoffe. “And it may inadvertently encourage them to view consensual late-night, alcohol-fueled encounters that might produce disjointed memories and some regret as something more sinister.”
In today’s climate, this can lead to some major miscarriages of justice for those wrongly accused. But it’s also no boon for preventing sexual victimizaiton or for encouraging sexual safety and fulfillment among young people more broadly.
In survey after survey, students speak of incidents where they never communicated a desire to cease sexual activity because at that moment they felt “frozen,” even though the perpetrator was not (by their own accounts) violent, threatening, or otherwise acting in a manner that should inspire terror. Read about recent campus sexual assault investigations and you’ll find all sorts of cases where the sexual activity started consensually—often under the influence of alcohol—and then one partner had enough but didn’t say or do anything to indicate that. The other party, who cannot read minds, then continued…and later was accused of rape.
An attorney who defends students accused of Title IX violations told Yoffe: “I don’t think I’ve seen a complaint in the past year that didn’t use the word frozen somewhere.”
Of course people should take responsibility for ensuring a sexual partner’s consent. But in the absense of this affirmative consent—i.e., in the vast majority of sexual encounters today, on campus or off—it helps for people to speak up when they don’t want sexual activity to go on, to be forceful about it, and to physically attempt to leave if necessary. Obviously this isn’t realistic in every situation: Attacks involving strangers, violence, threats, etc., do not lend themselves to polite conventions and conversation. (And no victim should be disbelieved or blamed simply because he or she didn’t respond in some idealized way.) But the vast majority of campus sexual assaults that get reported do not involve violence or threats, do occur between people who know each other, and seem to involve some degree of genuine confusion over consent.
Rather than wade into what sorts of cultural messages and factors could contribute to all this, activists have invented a biological explanation and started teaching it through college pamphlets and websites, Title IX training modules, and more.
We are constructing a new trauma myth.
To challenge it is to be accused of victim-blaming, of putting the onus “on women not to get raped instead of on men not to rape,” of being a “rape apologist.”
To not challenge it is to deprive a lot of young people of skills necessary to avoid being assaulted.
Freezing up should be understood as something that’s understandable in the face of an unwanted sexual advance. It should not be our presumed default. Yet we’re teaching a generation of people new to sex that if they feel any hesitation about someone’s advances, it’s perfectly natural to say nothing and, because it’s the other person’s job to ask for affirmative consent, later report them for rape. Who is this helping?
Jackie’s story of fraternity rape at UVA remains an exception in that it was exposed as false beyond any reasonable doubt. But Sulkowicz’s claims look increasingly unlikely, especially since her new interviews point strongly to habitual mendacity. (A recent Daily Beast story quotes her as saying that it was Nungesser, not she, who publicized his identity—even though there is an extensive record of her admitted efforts to make his name public.) Several of the stories featured in the 2015 campus rape documentary The Hunting Ground have been effectively debunked in critiques by the veteran journalist Emily Yoffe, the legal scholar Stuart Taylor Jr., and the Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk.
If rape culture in America is real, why does the case for it rest on so much fabulism?
CATHY YOUNG: Betsy DeVos is right about campus sexual assault. “Why the fury? DeVos offered a full-throated defense of due process, asserting that ‘every survivor of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously’ but “every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined. It is the right message, whatever one thinks of the messenger.”
FROM USA TODAY, A STRONG EDITORIAL IN FAVOR OF BETSY DEVOS’S CHANGES: Campus rape cases don’t deserve second-class justice. “Sexual assaults are serious crimes best handled by the criminal justice system. The most stringent punishment schools can order is expulsion. That can be appropriate for cheating on a term paper, but not for rape. . . . At the same time, when universities employ tribunals or other quasi-judicial systems, they have an obligation to follow due process.”
EMILY YOFFE: The Uncomfortable Truth About Campus Rape Policy: At many schools, the rules intended to protect victims of sexual assault mean students have lost their right to due process—and an accusation of wrongdoing can derail a person’s entire college education. “The way in which Bonsu’s case was handled may seem perverse, but many of the university’s actions—the interim restrictions, the full-bore investigation and adjudication even though R.M.’s own statement does not describe a sexual assault—were mandated or strongly encouraged by federal rules that govern the handling of sexual assault allegations on campus today. These rules proliferated during the Obama administration, as did threats of sanctions if schools didn’t follow them precisely. The impulse behind them was noble and necessary—sexual assault is a scourge that should not be tolerated in any society, much less by institutions of higher learning. But taken in sum, these directives have left a mess of a system, and many unintended consequences.”
The Atlantic has published part three of its series exploring the parallel justice system that investigates and hands out punishment in cases of campus sexual assault. Part one outlined standards the Obama administration pushed schools to adopt, standards that often provide little protection for the rights of the accused. Part two dealt with the bad science being used to back up this approach. Part three is about the race of those being accused in these incidents and how it probably differs from the public perception of what a campus rapist looks like.
Black students made up approximately 4% of the student body at Colgate. So black and Asian students combined were about 7% of the population on campus but made up nearly 40% of those accused and 42% of those referred for hearings.
What accounts for this disproportionate representation? Yoffe writes, “as the definition of sexual assault used by colleges has become wider and blurrier, it certainly seems possible that unconscious biases might tip some women toward viewing a regretted encounter with a man of a different race as an assault.” If anything is likely to lead progressives to reconsider their support for low standards for adjudicating campus sexual assault cases, this would seem to be it.
The “rape culture” worm is slowly turning. Betsy DeVos struck a blow for due process and against misanthropy when she announced that the Trump administration is withdrawing the vile “Dear Colleague” letter that Obama sent to colleges all over America. That’s the one that used the threat of withdrawing federal funds to bully colleges and universities into savaging men accused of “rape,” even when those accusations were utterly risible. Of course, with the third-generation feminists taking over campus administration — the feminists who aren’t about equality but are about man hatred — the letter was a green light for things that most of them had been itching to do anyway.
For people who had not pickled their brains in the Leftist Kool-Aid that passes for “thought” on college campuses, the kangaroo court stories periodically emerging were becoming untenable. Emily Yoffe, a Leftist who wrote the “Dear Prudence” advice column at Slate, got absolutely trashed when she dared to point out that women need to take responsibility for their own safety on campus. Moreover, she suggested that a lot of the “rape” stories involved alcohol.
Rather than backing down, Yoffe has come back with a three-part series being published in The Atlantic about the biased, totalitarian nature of campus “anti-rape” policies. Part 1 offers just some examples of men whose lives were destroyed when women claimed rape. What’s so surreal is that, as often as not, the women admit that they were the aggressors:
Kwadwo “kojo” bonsu, 23, was on track to graduate in the spring of 2016 with a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Bonsu, who was born in Maryland, is the son of Ghanaian immigrants. He chose UMass because it gave him the opportunity to pursue his two passions, science and music. He told me he hoped to get a doctorate in polymer science or chemical engineering. At UMass he was a member of the National Society of Black Engineers. He also joined a fraternity (he was the only black member), played guitar in a campus jazz band, and tutored jazz guitarists at a local high school.
In the early hours of Saturday, November 1, 2014, Bonsu, then a junior, was at the house where many of his fraternity brothers lived. There he ran into another junior, whom I’ll call R.M., a white, female marketing student. According to a written account by R.M., who declined to be interviewed for this story, the two started talking and smoking marijuana; eventually they kissed. As she wrote, “It got more intense until finally I shifted so that I was straddling him.” She told him she wasn’t interested in intercourse and he said he was fine with that.
Then, she wrote, “I started to move my hand down his chest and into his pants.” R.M. interrupted this to take a phone call from a female friend who was also at the house and trying to find her. The call ended and then, R.M. wrote, “I got on my knees and started to give him a blow job.” After a short time, “I removed my mouth but kept going with my hand and realized just how high I was.” She wrote that she felt conflicted because she wanted to stop—she said she told him she was feeling uncomfortable and thought she needed to leave—but that she also felt bad about “working him up and then backing out.” (In Bonsu’s written account, he stated that R.M. said she needed to leave because she was concerned her friend might “barge in” on them.) The encounter continued for a few more minutes, during which, she wrote, he cajoled her to stay—“playfully” grabbing her arm at one point, and drawing her in to kiss—then ended with an exchange of phone numbers. R.M. had not removed any clothing.
R.M. then went down to the kitchen to find her friend. As she explained in her statement, “[My friend] knows I was with Kojo. She probably told all the brothers in the room, and they’re gonna hate me when they find out”—she didn’t explain why. “I can never come back here.” Her friend started teasing her, asking how it had gone. R.M. was a resident adviser in her dormitory—someone tasked with counseling other students—and at that moment, she wrote, “as my RA training kicked in, I realized I’d been sexually assaulted.” She wrote that while in retrospect she should have left if she didn’t want to continue the encounter, she hadn’t wanted to be a bad sport—“that UMass Student Culture dictates that when women become sexually involved with men they owe it to them to follow through.” She added, “I want to fully own my participation in what happened, but at the same time recognize that I felt violated and that I owe it to myself and others to hold him accountable for something I felt in my bones wasn’t right.”
As she talked with her friend, R.M. wrote, she became distraught. She contacted the RAs on duty and reported that she had been sexually assaulted. The RAs called the campus police, who notified the Amherst police. R.M. gave her clothes to a police officer for evidence, although she said she was not ready to file charges. Then she went to the hospital, where she was given a battery of medications for possible STDs.
Just before Thanksgiving, according to a federal lawsuit filed against the university by Bonsu’s attorney, Brett Lampiasi, R.M. went to the dean of students and filed a complaint against Bonsu. She also reported him to the Amherst police. The police investigated and closed the case with no charges filed. On January 12, 2015, Bonsu got an email from a school administrator informing him that a “very serious” allegation had been lodged against him and that until a hearing was held, he was subject to “interim restrictions”: He could not contact R.M., he could visit no dormitories other than his own, he was limited to eating at a single dining hall, and he was forbidden from entering the student union.
What happened there was “gray rape”: A girl felt guilty about her own promiscuity and assuaged that guilt (egged on by her feminist friends) by destroying a young man’s life. I applaud both Yoffe and The Atlantic for having the courage to stand up to the man-hating feminists on this one.
Meanwhile, at USC, the powers that be are determined to destroy a young man’s life, even though he and his girlfriend both argue consistently and vociferously that they were engaging in fun, and consensual, rough-housing. Worse, USC is sticking to this position even thought it has video proving that there was no sexual assault.
Start with the Mike Pence rule.
File this under “unintended consequences”.
In the past three years, male students accused of sexual misconduct have filed hundreds of lawsuits, charging that they were the victims of both false allegations and school procedures that failed to properly vet the claims.
Jazz Shaw comments:
Suing a woman who was allegedly raped? But there have been simply too many cases dredged up where the charges either turned out to be vastly overstated or completely unfounded, combined with instances where there simply were no legal protections in place for the accused that what else can be done?
The truly sad part of this, as in so many instances, is that it’s really not the fault of the woman bringing the allegations. It’s the social justice warrior climate permeating so many schools, filling everyone’s heads with stories of a “campus rape culture” and a distrust of law enforcement and the court system. It’s easy to see why so many would disregard the normal protections and requirements of the legal system and listen to professors or administrators whispering in their ears, telling them that they can simply “handle it at school” so they won’t need to get the cops involved.
This, of course, is a betrayal of not only the victim and the accused, but of all other women in the surrounding community. As has been repeatedly noted, if a rape takes place, these college kangaroo courts can’t do more than issue a reprimand and boot the alleged offender out of school. If he was actually guilty, this basically means that you just turned a rapist loose on the rest of the community with far more time on his hands. Tell me, advocates of such systems… is there nothing worrisome to you about such a scheme?
No woman needs to be “put on trial twice” in these situations if you actually put the accused through a real trial the first time. That means filing police reports, having them gather evidence, interview witnesses and bring charges. And the accused gets to mount a legal defense and have his day in court as well. (I’ll say “his” because it’s nearly always a man.) Yes, it can be uncomfortable for any victim of any crime and I have all the sympathy in the world. But in case it’s any consolation, if a crime actually did take place and the guy is guilty, the judge can lock him up for a very long time and I’ll be there right alongside you cheering for the most severe sentence possible.
Merv Benson at Prairie Pundit notes:
I have noted before how ill-suited colleges and universities are for handling these matters. Many of them routinely deny the accused due process rights including the right to an attorney and the ability to cross-examine their accuser. What they should be required to do is turn the matter over to local law enforcement such as a district attorney’s office to determine if there is sufficient evidence of a crime.
Now attorneys for the accused are suing their accuser alleging defamation which at least gets the matter in front of a real court and not some campus star-chamber proceeding. Colleges who thought they were protecting the accusers now find those same accusers having to pay attorney fees to defend themselves. If the case had been turned over to the DA’s office, to begin with, this could have been avoided and both sides would have had a better chance of getting due process.
When I first heard, in March 2015, that students at the university where I teach had staged a protest march over an essay I’d written about sexual paranoia in academe, and that they were carrying mattresses and pillows, I was a bit nonplussed. For one thing, mattresses had become a symbol of student-on-student sexual assault — a Columbia University student became known as “mattress girl” after spending a year dragging a mattress around campus in a performance-art piece meant to protest the university’s ruling in a sexual-assault complaint she’d filed against a fellow student — whereas I’d been talking about the new consensual-relations codes prohibiting professor–student dating. I suppose I knew the essay would be controversial — the whole point of writing it was to say things I believed were true (and suspected a lot of other people thought were true), but weren’t being said for fear of repercussions. Still, I’d been writing as a feminist. And I hadn’t sexually assaulted anyone. The whole thing seemed incoherent.
According to our student newspaper, the mattress carriers on my campus were marching to the university president’s office with a petition demanding “a swift, official condemnation” of my article. One student said she’d had a “very visceral reaction” to it; another called it “terrifying.” I’d argued that the new codes infantilized students and ramped up the climate of accusation, while vastly increasing the power of university administrators over all our lives, and here were students demanding to be protected by university higher-ups from the affront to someone’s ideas — which seemed to prove my point.
The president announced that he’d consider the petition.
Last week Inside Higher Ed published an essay from an anonymous feminist professor that truly has to be read to be believed. In it, she describes being triggered into literal hysterics by a male student’s essay (at one point saying that she screamed at her computer screen, “Zero! You get a f**king zero!) This student, who allegedly rather bluntly questioned the existence of “rape culture,” caused her to compare the student to the man she claimed raped her many years ago. Here are her exact words:
I imagined him being friends with my rapist (though the man who raped me is now significantly older than this student, he is frozen in the 18-22 age bracket in my mind). How, I wondered, could I possibly evaluate this student’s work in an “unbiased” fashion? Such a request would involve me living an entirely different life than the one that I have had.
It’s worth highlighting her essay not so much because of one professor’s unbalanced reaction to one student’s essay but because of something else — something far more indicative of campus propaganda on rape and sexual assault. Here’s her description of teaching about “rape culture.”
It was the middle of the semester, and we were covering rape culture. As any feminist instructor who has ever taught about rape culture probably knows, covering this topic is challenging for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes we encounter students who realize that they have been raped who come to office hours looking for resources. Other times, students learn that they have actually perpetrated rape and struggle to reconcile that with their images of themselves as “good people” and “not one of those (usually) guys.” And many feminist instructors, especially those who are women, know all too well what it is like to navigate the “mansplaining” of a few men students who would like to ardently deny that rape culture exists. (Emphasis added.)
Read the italicized portion again. She’s claiming that thanks to feminist instruction, some students actually “realize” that they’ve been raped, while others “learn” that they’re rapists. This is extraordinary. Rape is not difficult to define — unless, of course you’re redefining it. And if she is describing people who “learn” that they’ve committed actual rape, why is she not calling the police? If she’s not calling the police, is she placing other women in danger? After all, didn’t she just “learn” that a sexual predator is on the loose?
Here’s a fundamental problem with campus “rape culture” arguments. On the one hand, campus feminists argue that colleges are in the grips of an extraordinary crime wave — with women at astounding risk of experiencing sexual violence. On the other hand, these same feminists will argue that it’s entirely fine if women choose to leave these crimes in the hands of campus tribunals – that people they believe to be actual criminals should receive academic discipline only, leaving them free to rape again.
Do feminists want to take rape seriously? Then they should define it according to the law and refer every single rape claim to law enforcement. But if they’re really talking about drunken hook-ups or radical new concepts of consent, then they should speak the language of morality and manners, not crime and punishment. Otherwise, they drain the word of its real meaning and contribute to the skepticism they so loudly condemn.