February 9, 2014
An unusual article appears in the Education Life section of Sunday’s New York Times. The headline is disturbing: “If She Can’t Stop Him, YOU CAN. Bystander intervention may be the best hope to reduce sexual assault on campus.”
The strong implication here, and in the article, is 1) that rape is out of control on our campuses, and 2) that women, confronted by so many would-be rapists, can’t do much about it, or shouldn’t have to. So, 3) bystanders appear to be the best hope of intervening to save women from rape.
The article lists a few possible rape-averting interventions: turning on the lights or the music off at parties, spilling a drink on the guy, or perhaps saying to the potential rapist, “This woman doesn’t want to talk to you, but there’s another woman downstairs who likes you.” (There would be no other woman downstairs). According to the article a female friend might say to the rape target, “Here’s the tampon you asked for,” thus decreasing the sexual ardor of the nearby rapist-to-be.
This a very bleak view of men and not a very positive one of women either.
Women are depicted as fragile flowers, so passive and unable to cope with campus parties that they need outside protectors playing weird tricks to ward off sexual assault. The article, like the feminist campaign behind it–from college skits to an advertising effort–has nothing to say about how women might take action themselves, such as not getting blind drunk in the company of solo males they don’t know well.
President Obama has signed onto the call for male protectors, announcing on January 22, “Bystanders must be taught and emboldened to step in and stop it.” Nothing wrong with that, of course. It used to be known as “chivalry.” But the absence of advice to women operating in the boozy campus hook-up culture is remarkable. The suggestion that women should avoid getting drunk at parties would come under the heading of blaming the victim.
What is the evidence that rape is so out of control on campus? Feminists cite studies estimating that approximately one of five female college students will be sexually assaulted. This appears in The Times article as “nearly one in five women is sexually assaulted during her college years.” Can this be? That would mean as many as two million of the 10 million women now on campuses either have been raped or will be raped. That’s a rate far higher than our most dangerous urban areas. If the rape rate were a tenth that high, the National Guard would be a permanent presence on campus.
The Times article also swerves around the ambiguity of so many sexual encounters in the boozy hook-up culture of the modern campus. Many couples are too drunk to remember who did what, with what consent. Morning-after regrets can be reconstructed as rape, and on some campuses, the definition of rape has been broadened beyond recognition. As KC Johnson reported here, at Yale “actual or threatened physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic abuse” can count as sexual assault. So a remark or withholding of a loan could count as a serious sexual offense.
President Obama who accepts the factoid that one if five women will be raped at college, has appointed a panel to make recommendations on what to do about campus rape. Members announced so far are Democratic appointees of the administration. Nobody from the ACLU or FIRE to protect the rights of accused males and guarantee fair procedures. Since the feminists calling for harsher anti-rape measures are an important part of the Democrats’ base, it’s all the more important that this panel is seen as a broad and fair one.