[TW: rape, rape apologism]
This is article is a bit dated, but I’m absolutely disgusted and horrified at the implications in this article, especially since Deborah Nolan, quoted in this article, is the dean at my college. The author’s opinion can basically be summed up in the last passage: “When I was in college, back in the heady ’70s—when we battled hard for the Equal Rights Amendment, when Ms. magazine was still new—I and the women I knew got drunk a lot, and woke up in bed with guys we didn’t always like or know. They never asked us, “Can I put my finger inside you?” We never accused them of sexual assault. We were, all of us, learning about limits and needs and wants. There were a lot of teachable moments along the way. Those days are gone. I guess Joe Biden would rather talk about epidemics of sexual assault than a dearth of common sense.”
The article is from September 2011, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s still relevant, and still being used as a thinking model.
There are several things wrong with this article. To start with, in it’s fantastical little intro, it frames going to jail, being expelled, etc, for raping someone, as the worst thing to come out of this situation. It is yet another article about something happening to a woman being told from a man’s point of view, where the woman is a hypothetical victim and the man a hypothetical perpetrator.
This paragraph is pretty much a good indicator for the rest of the article (bold mine):
While women’s rights advocates have lauded Ali for finally putting teeth in Title IX—the 1972 federal law that prohibits colleges from discriminating on the basis of gender—a quieter groundswell of protest has charged her with trampling on the rights of young men accused of sexual assault in her rush to protect victims. College deans say she’s stripped their ability to deal with delicate he-said-she-said cases in fairer, more nuanced ways. Other administrators warn that even with the guidelines, campus hearing boards are ill-equipped to investigate assaults and rapes—all in the midst of another epidemic, binge drinking. Peter F. Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University, told the Chronicle of Higher Education, “We’ve been lured into doing something in a criminal justice model that the criminal justice system itself hasn’t been able to deal with.”
Number one: Worrying about the rights of the accused - the only person who so far always has rights in a sexual assault charge. There are laws in place for slander/libel, there are provisions for the accused to have a lawyer when charged (where typically a person who needs to come forward does not have that luxury, and must find one on their own when they need one), and it does not go to court even half of the time, due to the myriad unofficial defenses for the accused… young women being denied rape kits in hospital? People being bullied at their campus even for confiding in friends? The police constantly suggesting that the person should reconsider, they don’t believe it happened or making it like their own time is more important than the crime that was committed? That sounds familiar to a lot of people, and yet we’re expected to be worried about the poor defenseless accused?
Number two: I don’t think I need to underscore the irony of suggesting that provisions against very real sexist imbalances of power make it somehow more unfair when trying to deal with “delicate” cases. If they understand how delicate such a situation is, it is honestly the stupidest thing to fight against something that actually provides further insight - the fact that we need Title IX should tell us all we need to know about the position of young women on campus in relation to young men, and should give us insight to the modes of sexual violence in that context.
Number three: Using your lack of preparation and the fact that the justice system is also unprepared as an excuse is shit. That is not the way it should be, they know it is not the way it should be, they should damn well get prepared. They are responsible for the wellbeing of their students, as much as they like to shirk that responsibility with disclaimers and vague policies, and it’s about time that they understood that the amount of work they’re worried about having to do is nothing compared to the danger that is faced by their students for all kinds of reasons - the frats and college clubs don’t just use their parties as opportunities for sexist displays, but there are homophobic/transphobic and racist practices as well, included in things like hazing, “theme” parties, etc. where the behaviour can be taken to the extreme, and students of colour, female students, and gender variant or queer students are made to feel unsafe.
This whole “nanny state” scare tactic is bullshit - nobody is suggesting that young adults are not allowed to be sexual, or incapable of healthy sexuality, except for the people who want to defend rapists. Those of us who recognize what these provisions mean know that we are holding people to the exact standards we should: you must understand consent, you must not use your position of power to take advantage of others, you must not treat people in your community like the Other. In what way is this coddling them?
The whole rest of the article is more “what about teh rapist?” and “what about teh poor lazy colleges?” crap, complete with “I’d be afraid to send a son to college” quote. There’s also the typical amount of “well these people don’t say they’ve been raped/I don’t think it was rape when I was having drunk sex…” designed to invalidate the claims of those who do feel violated - it is seriously disgusting to me that we cannot get past the idea that experiences vary, that rape does not have one singular manifestation which can be defined absolutely (the only correct definition: “proceeding sexually without consent from the other person”, and the fact that this is a broad one should be refreshing, not upsetting; it protects all genders, it acknowledges all abuse forms present in rape, it makes provisions for understanding the actual events rather than what we think the events are…). The whole thing glosses over the fact that young people are going to school afraid of being physically attacked, coerced, or abused, in a sexual manner, something that should never be allowed to happen at a school, while getting mad that they’re expected to enact discipline on those who have done such a thing - something that is genuinely necessary, and all people should be able to see the importance of.
I just… ugh. I’m so sorry that you had to read this sort of stuff coming from your college dean.