Drawing the Line

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I’ve been thinking about Voltaire lately. Specifically, one of his most famous quotations: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Last Monday, my campus newspaper printed a column by a male writer. In this piece, he called feminists and gay activists “a sniveling bunch of emotional cripples,” declared that date rape is an “incoherent concept,” and essentially that drunken flirtation is consent.

As a result, the internet exploded. Angry Facebook statuses and comments on the article grew. Some people said they were ashamed to go to a school where such views would be espoused, and that it was a sad day for the campus. Apparently threats were made against the writer, and the story grew until it got picked up on some major feminist websites and the local news, including the Washington Post. A quick google of my school’s name comes up with headlines along the lines of “’Rape Apology’ Angers Students.”

In addition to this, though, attacks were directed at the newspaper. Issues were stolen en masse from newsstands and the Editorial board was maligned and accused of having no journalistic integrity, and being rape apologists themselves. Amid the controversy, the paper has since admitted mistakes in their editorial process, and apologized for mistaking “better editing for censorship.”

I think the views the article espouses are uninformed, ignorant, misogynistic, and arrogant. But here’s the thing. I’m glad this article was published. I’m sorry it caused people pain and I agree there were editorial mistakes, but the potential of offending people is not grounds for censorship.

The writer’s opinion is extreme, but the fact is, he’s not alone—not close to it. I know people who tend to agree with him—that girls who get drunk too often cry “rape” when it was more accurately a poor decision. As romance readers, the issue is often presented to us, with heroes thinking “no” means “yes,” and we accept it because we know what’s really between these characters is True Love, and the heroine ends up enjoying it anyway so no harm done. Remember Whitney, My Love, whose first edition included the hero raping the heroine and hitting her with a riding crop? Most books wouldn’t get away with this anymore, but the issue of consent still finds itself drowning in shades of gray.

But let’s consider the result of the article. People are discussing what “consent” means and whether or not drunk sex (or forced seduction) is rape. People are coming out of the woodwork in support of rape victims and women’s rights and creating organizations that support victims of sexual violence. People are exercising their own freedom of speech by writing letters to the editor of the paper. There are plans to host a “constructive dialogue,” and students are debating censorship and the freedom of speech. Are these things bad?

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sometimes we need something inflammatory to spark action. There is such beauty in the peaceful counter protest and the respectful exchange of ideas. We need more of that. We should be discussing what constitutes as consent and where editing stops being for the good of the reader and starts being censorship of ideas and opinions. Romance readers should be talking about whether heroes too often cross the line and if that’s okay in that context.

So don’t let even hateful speech create anger and retaliation. Let it create dialogue and discussion.

- Jane Granville

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169 Responses to “Drawing the Line”

  1. AAR Rachel says:

    I agree with Alex Knepper. I am SO tired of women thinking that since the Sexual Revolution, sex is now roped off and controlled, bureaucratized, no longer subject to natural law or the lusts of man (and woman).

    Men do not go to frat parties or bars during meat market rush to talk Plato and sample the culinary repast. They go to 1) get drunk and 2) get laid. Do women not know that? Come on, they have to know that. If you go to these venues scantily dressed, intend to flirt a lot, get all kinds of validating male attention, and go home on an ego high, you are a tease. You get something, they get nothing. Again, they don’t care what your thoughts on Plato are. Men accept the possibility of failure, but still it’s a set-up. They provide the booze and atmosphere, and hopefully you provide the ____.

    If you walked into a bordello and got drunk, would you expect to wake up with your panties still on? No. Why are you getting drunk if you’re inserting yourself into an unstable situation? If a romance novel heroine blithely walked down a dark alley that other people had been mugged in after being told of these muggings, we readers would call her Too Stupid To Live. Frat parties are dangerous. If you don’t crave danger, don’t go. There are lots of other fun things women can do besides go to frat parties – any number of them involving single men of the potential boyfriend persuasion.

    But most of those activities don’t involve drenching themselves in male admiration, wallowing in it a bit, and going home on a power high.

    You can’t have it both ways. Don’t want to be unsafe? Don’t put yourself in unsafe situations. Don’t try to get something for nothing.

    Women can not count on absolute safety no matter the situation. They still need to exercise common sense. What makes me so impatient about this failure to comprehend reality is that women ARE actually vulnerable to assault and rape. Real rape, not fuzzy participatory “rape.” I’m not very big and I’m not very strong, and that makes me feel vulnerable in parking lots and certain other places. So I’d just as soon not have women teasing men into a frenzied rage and looking to vent that rage on a bystander to this sexual chaos (me). I managed to make it all the way through college, life abroad in a collapsing system, and a number of other situations without getting raped. I’d like to keep it that way.

    • Lee says:

      AAR Rachel: I agree with Alex Knepper.I am SO tired of women thinking that since the Sexual Revolution, sex is now roped off and controlled, bureaucratized, no longer subject to natural law or the lusts of man (and woman).Men do not go to frat parties or bars during meat market rush to talk Plato and sample the culinary repast. They go to 1) get drunk and 2) get laid. Do women not know that? Come on, they have to know that. If you go to these venues scantily dressed, intend to flirt a lot, get all kinds of validating male attention, and go home on an ego high, you are a tease. You get something, they get nothing. Again, they don’t care what your thoughts on Plato are. Men accept the possibility of failure, but still it’s a set-up. They provide the booze and atmosphere, and hopefully you provide the ____.If you walked into a bordello and got drunk, would you expect to wake up with your panties still on? No. Why are you getting drunk if you’re inserting yourself into an unstable situation? If a romance novel heroine blithely walked down a dark alley that other people had been mugged in after being told of these muggings, we readers would call her Too Stupid To Live. Frat parties are dangerous. If you don’t crave danger, don’t go. There are lots of other fun things women can do besides go to frat parties – any number of them involving single men of the potential boyfriend persuasion.But most of those activities don’t involve drenching themselves in male admiration, wallowing in it a bit, and going home on a power high.You can’t have it both ways. Don’t want to be unsafe? Don’t put yourself in unsafe situations. Don’t try to get something for nothing.Women can not count on absolute safety no matter the situation. They still need to exercise common sense.What makes me so impatient about this failure to comprehend reality is that women ARE actually vulnerable to assault and rape. Real rape, not fuzzy participatory “rape.” I’m not very big and I’m not very strong, and that makes me feel vulnerable in parking lots and certain other places. So I’d just as soon not have women teasing men into a frenzied rage and looking to vent that rage on a bystander to this sexual chaos (me). I managed to make it all the way through college, life abroad in a collapsing system, and a number of other situations without getting raped. I’d like to keep it that way.

      This is the post I objected to. The very first one. In response to a blog on freedom of speech. Rachel is first complaining that the women’s movement is responsible for the fact that “sex is now controlled [presumably by women], no longer subject to natural law or the lusts of man (and woman).” What does that mean? Did “natural law” result in less rape? Did giving women the right to control their bodies somehow cause rape to occur more frequently?

      In Rachel’s world, women who go to parties, scantily clad [which is in the eye of the beholder] are teases, not girlfriends out to have fun (and men are slavering beasts, btw). What does “fuzzy participatory rape” mean, other than date rape? She also states emphatically that she agrees with the author of the article who clearly does not believe in date rape. She resents other women “teasing men into a frenzied rage and looking to vent that rage on a bystander to this sexual chaos (me).” Frenzied rage? That sounds like the purplest of prose. And such an innocent bystander as Rachel would never put herself in the atmosphere of danger. I also would not be happy if I was a man reading her posts- not exactly flattering talk about them in that post either.

      As Rachel says above, you cannot have it both ways. Rachel can later post that she knows date rape happens, but that it is inconsistent with her first post. Rachel can now say that date rape is wrong, but it is inconsistent with the teasing behavior comment she made earlier. She clearly has some friends on this board who are willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. That’s to be expected, and I’m not faulting other women for defending a friend. But I was reading this with the view of Rachel as a writer and an owner of this site, so I don’t know all of her wonderful qualities. I just know what was on the screen in front of me and that’s what I was commenting on. And I stand on what I’ve said earlier.

      But if that’s her official position now I have no quarrel with her. It’s just that the timing is suspect and I find it difficult to believe in light of the inconsistencies. But I will be reading in the future to see if these inconsistencies are still present.

  2. Patricia says:

    About 30 years ago, when I was at Smith College (a women’s college) and Amherst College was still male only, five colleges had (and still have) an interchange system so that students at one college could attend colleges at the other. One of the other five is Mount Holyoke, also a women’s college. There are regular shuttle buses that run between and among the five colleges that ran late-ish on Saturdays but probably stopped at around midnight. The Amherst College newspaper published an article with a attention getting title purporting to extole the frat party culture and how great it was that all these woman were bussed in from other schools, getting drunk and then stranded at Amherst and giving advice on how to maximize the experience and how to get rid of the women on the early morning shuttle. The article created a an uproar with many angry letters to Amherst, much discussion at the various colleges, so much so that I still remember it. In this case, however, the article was never meant to actually celebrate that lifestyle, but was a commentary on it and an condemnation of it. Many, if not most, lost that nuance, or did not read the actual article and just reacted to the summaries that people were discussing. The writer was soundly condemned, as was the student newspaper for publishing it. I thought the article did a great service, especially if it made the woman think about the attitudes of at least some of those guys at the frat parties and the need to be very careful about their own behaviour. In any case, it should not have been censored, even if it had been what it appeared to be on the surface.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by allaboutromance and Melissa Hartsell, Melissa Hartsell. Melissa Hartsell said: RT @allaboutromance: Drawing the line on censorship: http://bit.ly/cHsZBX [...]

  4. AAR Rachel says:

    It also sounds like AU has no problem with the silencing tactics Knepper’s opponents are using. Washington Post reports Knepper will not be returning as a columnist next semester. My bet is he finds a wider audience outside of the PC university group think crowd.

  5. AAR Sandy says:

    Rachel, the WaPo reports that Knepper decided not to reapply for his columnists position, which is very different from AU “silencing.” And, sadly, i agree that he will find an audience elsewhere.

    Some writers enjoy the outrage that is the fall out from expressing extreme views. I get the feeling Knepper is one of them.

    Jane, I think this story is appalling, but am glad that it has galvanized the university community. As for the AU editors, it’s time for a refresher course in Editing 101!

  6. AAR Rachel says:

    I didn’t say AU was silencing him, I said AU’s student body was deliberately trying to shut him up. From the WaPo article:

    Early Monday, hundreds of copies of the Eagle were dumped in front of the student newspaper’s office, under a sign that read: “No room for rape apologists.” Similar signs were placed on many of the paper’s distribution boxes across campus.

    On Tuesday, a group of students composed a list of demands for the newspaper: Publish an apology, fire Knepper, produce an ethics statement and publish the university’s sexual assault policy.

    I do find the attitude of AU’s newspaper distressing:

    “We realize that this column was probably not — no, it was not — in the best taste,” Jen Calantone, editor in chief of the Eagle, said Tuesday. “The column offended a lot of people, and as a human being, that upsets me.”

    When I was in college I was offended DAILY by the opinions expressed in the ultraliberal University of Michigan student paper. Somehow I don’t think the editors there lost any sleep over my tender sensibilities.

    This is par for the course on college campuses: all the free speech you want as long as you agree with us liberals completely.

  7. Lee says:

    Rachel, so a young woman can’t wear a tank top and shorts to a fraternity party and have a few drinks without risking getting raped? When have fraternity parties become dangerous? And why would the college administration allow such a dangerous situation to continue? Why is the punishment for being a tease rape? Yeah, frat boys might go to parties to get laid, but does that mean they should expect it from every young woman who walks through the door?

  8. maggie b. says:

    So much food for thought here! I agree that discussion is always good. And I think sexual mores have to change as our culture changes and that discussions about that issue most especially need to be brought up and brought up often.

    But I will say that making drunken sex rape is, to me, akin to saying women are fragile flowers who have to be protected even from their own decisions. If a girl chooses to drink at a public party, where she will be shoulder to shoulder with guys who might also be inebriated and not making the best choices, she needs to either stay sober enough to be make wise decisions or assign a designated chaperone to make them for her. She should not cry foul when she finds herself in bed with a loser unless she can prove there was a roofie in her drink.

    I have known people to make many bad decisions under the influence. It is always dangerous to over indulge but I think the responsibility needs to lie with the drinker, not the people around them. I would hate to start giving drunk drivers some leeway because they weren’t fully aware of what they were doing.

  9. Lynn Spencer says:

    “drenching themselves in male admiration, wallowing in it a bit, and going home on a power high”

    Maybe we went to different kinds of parties in college, but that’s really not what my experience was like at all. Fraternities and sorrorities were pretty big at both schools I went to, and I went to plenty of parties with my friends. There were certainly guys there who were just looking to get laid. Most of us could spot them pretty quickly and generally stayed away. The rest of us were just having fun. Most men are not scary beasts with an inability to hold back from jumping on anything that moves. I can’t imagine how guys must feel knowing that there are some people out there who treat them all as if they are potential rapists – if I were a normal, decent guy, I’d be very insulted.

    Do creepy things happen at parties? Oh yes, but not every frat house is a rape den. A lot of these guys were our friends and they weren’t all monsters waiting by the punch bowl to haul off their conquests. We had fun dancing, goofing off and just hanging out. Most of us had enough sense to travel with friends so that if anyone got drunk, she’d have someone to get her home safely. However, just because someone goes to a party, flirts, and drinks doesn’t mean that she’s getting off on a power high or that she’s free to all comers. Some people just find those environments fun and they fully intend to head home alone when they’re done.

    Men may go to these parties hoping to hook up with someone. But – that doesn’t mean they’re entitled to it. The idea that men have uncontrollable urges and that women must constrict their lives as a result is an old one that needs to die. Just as women should treat men with respect, so too should men learn self-control and treat women with respect.

  10. AAR Sandy says:

    I certainly made some foolish choices in college. I also managed to graduate without ever being sexually assaulted.

    What I find particularly appalling about this POV is it seems to be predicated on the idea that once men get a whiff of it, they can’t control themselves. (THEY certainly told us about blue balls, but I never once believed it. I still don’t.)

    Young women make foolish choices. But foolishness is not a rapeable offense.

  11. Amy says:

    I’m glad that the community did not sit back and let this guy get away with his views. Just because you have freedom of speech doesn’t mean u won’t have to pay the consequences of whatever it is you’re spewing. It sends a message to the rest of the guys with the same views that this will not be tolerated. It’s also great to see that there is a debate on what is consent in situations where one is drunk. I would not include date rape or marital rape in this category though, it’s very hard for women to come forward as it is in these situations. I still feel that once a woman has said No then it should be taken for face value especially when she’s drunk. Any person that thinks it’s ok to take advantage of a drunk/unconscious person needs serious help!

  12. Rachel, Rachel, RACHEL… why don’t you just advocate the veil and be done with it? Is it different? Well, not really, we’re just bickering about what it is that causes men to ‘lose control’, the sight of a woman’s ankle, or flirtation.

    And frat parties are dangerous places where a woman can expect to get raped? Good GOD! And people not only allow it, but should expect it?

    I live in a university town, and I have never heard such a thing.

    Good lord! We’re talking about young men, and you expect us to believe that the future leaders of our countries are entitled to rape a girl if she gets drunk? Foolish choices are punishable by violent crime? And it’s all right?

    That’s what I’m getting, here, from your reply, Rachel.

  13. Diana says:

    Very polarizing topic. Rachel and Maggie, I totally disagree.

    Yes, young women need to be responsible but how about holding young men up to a higher standard. It is 2010 and men don’t live in caves. Civilized society and the law say that rape is not okay. Parents of boys have the same responsibility to not raise savages as girls’ parents do to warn them to beware of savages.

  14. AAR Rachel says:

    I don’t think of rape as the punishment for a crime committed. I think of it as cause and effect. Frat parties happen on campuses all the time all over the country and abroad and the vast majority of girls who attend them are not raped. The vast majority of guys are not rapists. Most young guys will feel sufficiently uncomfortable with a mid-sex protest to stop if they are not completely drunk. Girls who get drunk, go off with men, and decide that this is not what they want midway through are not doing anything to advance male/female harmony, though. And they are being utterly irresponsible with their own safety. This should be pointed out to them. Loudly. Repeatedly.

    I don’t think guys are savages. I think they respond to stimulus and girls that age are very stimulating. College age men are at the age when their sexuality is pretty overwhelming. Play with fire if you will, but acknowledge that it’s fire.

    Then there are the angry guys and the sociopaths.

    As humans we constrict our behavior all the time to avoid danger. This is only one more situation that calls for caution. Women don’t like this because it means they can’t have the same freedom men can because they are more physically at risk. But that’s just the way it is.

  15. Susan/DC says:

    I think discussion is important as long as it does not crowd out other POV (which is why I have a problem with the recent Supreme Court decision about corporations as individuals, but that’s a topic for another day).

    Do I think that many young women dress far too provocatively? Yes. Do I think there are young women who cry rape when it wasn’t? Yes. Do I think there are young men who heard no but thought she’d be too drunk to remember or care? Yes. Each situation is different. But think about the uproar if a young man went to a frat party and then claimed nonconsensual sex. I think the standards would be different than for a woman. If his alleged assailant were male, the purported victim would more likely be believed. OTOH, if the alleged assailant were a young woman, he’d be met with disbelief or people would laugh it off with a variant of Rachel’s comment that men go to these parties to get laid so what’s the big deal. I sometimes make the analogy to robbery: If you leave your house unlocked and someone burlarizes it, you were foolish and will get a lecture from the police, but it’s still the thief who is blamed and goes to jail. Young women may dress or act foolishly (they are young, after all), but as Sandy says, foolishness is not a rapeable offense.

  16. maggie b. says:

    Diana,

    I am not sure what you are saying here. That a young man should be held to a higher standard than a young woman? The article is not talking about men seeing a drunk, passed out girl at a party and raping her. That is clear cut rape. What it was talking about was a girl going off to a guys room with both of them being drunk. To me that is not rape but drunken stupidity. She should not be allowed to cry rape because she was too drunk to know what she was doing. He was probably pretty darn buzzed too.

    Now if she is sober enough to say no, sober enough to fight, sober enough to scream for help and he still pushes then yes, of course it is rape. The absence of those things though makes it not rape. I do not think it is the responsibility of either party to do a constant “Are you OK with this?” check. Both are responsible to say “Stop right there” when things occur that they don’t want.

    I don’t think that a girl who goes to a frat party is asking for it. But I do think it is a woman’s responsibility to be responsible for her own sobriety. Many things can happen when you are drunk that are tragic, not just rape. I know people who have walked into on coming traffic and died. We all know of people who have died in their own vomit. I knew a girl who died falling down the frat house steps because she was drunk. An idiot at one of the parties drank a whole bottle of everclear and died. One guy fell off a porch onto a cement driveway and died. The line between fun drunk and dangerous drunk can be very thin. Other drunks (which would be your fellow partiers) are in no condition to be your protectors.

    Just my .02 of course.

  17. Diana says:

    Rachel, I still hear you placing the lion’s share of Responsibility/blame on the female. I have an adult daughter who partied hard in the DC club scene and I did and said everything I could think of to make her aware of the bad things that could happen to her. If I had raised a boy I would have hammered into his head that he could not force himself sexually on a girl/woman who said “NO.” No matter how blue his balls or his sense of unfairness.

    A female rape victim will suffer life-altering trauma. A man convicted of rape has pretty much ruined his future. That’s also the unpleasant reality.

  18. Diana says:

    Maggie, what I am saying is that in the situation you describe if a female says “stop” or “no” or struggles to escape at any point, she has the right to cry rape. I’m no lawyer, but I think that’s the legal standard. Lynn?

  19. maggie b. says:

    Diana,

    I would agree with that and in fact mentioned that in my post above. Once she says no, the discussion is over.

    But if she doesn’t? Then its on her. (Unless she couldn’t because she was passed out, which would put it back on him.)

  20. Lee says:

    But there seems to be some code going on here that all 18 year girls should know, but perhaps do not. I sure as hell wouldn’t have known that going to a guy’s room after a party meant I was consenting to sex. A make out session, quite possibly. Or don’t you 20-somethings do that anymore? Is it just sex or nothing? I find it hard to believe that every single 18-22 year old somehow knows that sex is expected if you leave a party with a member of the opposite sex. And if I’m wrong, I find that very sad.

  21. Lynn Spencer says:

    @Diana There’s some variation in state laws and all kinds of gray area in the case law, but the statute I pulled defines rape(paraphrasing here so I don’t write a booklong comment) as sexual intercourse that is (1)against the victim’s will, using force, threat, or intimidation, (2) where the victim is either physically helpless or mentally incapable, or (3) under age 13.

    Obviously, I’m not giving legal advice here, just paraphrasing the statute so don’t rely on my statement to make your legal decisions, etc…etc….

  22. maggie b. says:

    I don’t think going to a guy’s room means you are giving consent. But I do think going to a guy’s room, NOT saying no and then trying to argue that you were drunk and it was therefore rape is wrong. You must say no, imo, for it to be rape. (Or be incapable of saying no).

    Once the no is said, then it is rape from there on out.

  23. AAR Rachel says:

    How do you even prove rape? Unless there are witnesses it really is he said/she said, and her word isn’t necessarily more reliable than his.

    Look, the rapist is ultimately the one who commits the crime, I agree. But you can’t stop crime from ever being committed. There will always be criminals. You can, however, alter your exposure to situations in which crimes are more likely to occur.

    As far as girl/guy responsibility goes, girls are the gate keepers of fertility and family formation and guys are the gate crashers. Who has more responsibility for the gate? This may seem unfair, but look at how much easier it is for a woman to have a child without a man than a man to have a child without a woman. Not fair either – I know of some men who want children without having the hassle of a wife/girlfriend.

    I have a son and I will teach him to respect women and their sexuality. I’ll go one further and tell him to save sex for marriage because the current sexual environment is pretty toxic and can hold some nasty surprises for the unsuspecting. Also I will tell him that he will have no rights to any child of his while it is growing in utero but will be held financially accountable by the state for that child once it is born. So procreation will be a gamble for him unless he picks someone utterly trustworthy. I will strongly discourage him from living on campus at college as that can easily undo years of careful parental indoctrination regarding moral behavior and personal responsibility. Frankly, I had no business living on campus in the early 1990′s – I was a babe in the woods and the woods was a confusing and scary place.

  24. Lee says:

    You prove rape beyond a reasonable doubt by getting both parties, and any other witnesses, on the stand, before a jury, and have them decide who should be believed. Yes, I know some men have been wrongly convicted. But many more have not even been accused because of the very attitude you are espousing. I was also an 18 year old innocent when I went to college in the 80′s, had my share of parties and drinking, but still managed not to be sexually assaulted or lose all of my morals. And I doubt that I was the only one. There were a few alpha jerks and slutty girls, but they got their respective reputations because they stood out, and if you didn’t want anything they were offering, you stayed away. You seem to believe that a college campus is a dangerous place best avoided rather than a place to learn how to be a grown-up.

    As for the gate, of course the gate-keepers have more responsibility than the gate-crashers – the keepers are inevitably left holding the bag (or the baby). But the gate-crashers are always in the wrong, and should be held accountable. But anyone invited to the party has as much responsibility as the keeper.

  25. anon says:

    What I don’t get, and never have, is how when two drunk people go to bed, in the morning, the woman has been raped. If they were both drunk, neither could give consent. So if he’s guilty of rape, isn’t she also?

  26. Lynn Spencer says:

    “girls are the gate keepers of fertility and family formation and guys are the gate crashers”

    I’m not sure I follow this. Certainly, the women are the ones who can get pregnant so they need to keep that in mind when making some decisions. Beyond that, though, if I’m reading this right, I don’t think I can entirely agree. First of all, it sounds like a variant on the old, “Girls need to be extra good because boys just can’t help themselves” argument from way back when. Frankly, I think both sexes bear a burden when it comes to respecting one another. It’s not just women having to hold back the barbarians at the gate.

    Also, I know some men who would probably be offended at being considered gate crashers of family formation. Some men aren’t interested in commitment, but I know others who would dearly love to have a family.

    With regard to living on campus, my very conservative family tried to have me live at home in college and I am so glad I resisted it. In the end, they even agreed my decision had been a good one. I was much better prepared to face the world after learning how to stand up for my own beliefs and how to find my way in the rather sheltered world of campus life than I would have been had I gone from my parents’ home straight into the very unsheltered world.

  27. Lynn M says:

    I plan to teach my son that “No” means in no uncertain terms “No!!” I plan to teach him that a drunk girl who says “yes” means “No!!” I plan to teach him that a drunk him means “No!!” As dangerous of a place as a frat party might be for women, it’s also a pretty dangerous place for a guy to get himself into a heap of trouble. But I have no doubt that my son is fully capable of rising above his hormones, and I would hope that this is what is expected of EVERY young man at any frat party/bar out there. There is simply no excuse for such behaviour.

    No woman “deserves” rape for making a stupid decision such as getting drunk. She deserves a hangover. She deserves to be arrested if she’s underage. She deserves to puke and feel and look like crap and be made fun of by her friends for acting like an idiot. She does not deserve to be taken advantage of when she’s not fully capable of making a decision for herself. To imply that she made the bad choice thus she has to suffer the consequences is the same as saying that it’s okay to beat up and rob a guy who has passed out from being drunk.

    My best friend in high school was date raped by a guy she met at a college party. She wasn’t drunk at the time, and he was stone-cold sober. They’d flirted the night before so the next morning he felt perfectly entitled to force her to do things she didn’t want to do. And it happened before the phrase “date rape” had ever even entered the public consciousness, so we wrote it off as a horrible experience because it never even entered our minds that she had any power to do anything about it. If that happened to my daughter’s friend today, you better believe I’d encourage her to go after the jerk. I’m sadden to think that the power women have gained over the years to insist on being treated right is being questioned not only by idiots like Knepper but by members of our own sex.

  28. Anonymous J says:

    I was sexually assaulted in college.

    Here is my experience, and why I consider it assault — obviously, you can draw your own conclusions.

    I went to a frat party with friends, both male and female. I drank, as did mostly everyone else. I hit it off with an acquaintance, someone it didn’t occur to me not to trust, and late in the evening (morning?), after the party had mostly died down, I accompanied him back to his room to “talk.” When we got to his room, he began to pressure me to fool around. Suddenly, and I remember this quite distinctly despite still being intoxicated, I realized where I was and what I was doing, and I didn’t want to be doing it. I said, “I think I should go.” I said, “I don’t think this is a good idea.” I said, “I bet Friend X is wondering where I am, and I really don’t think we should do this.” I wanted to leave, but I didn’t, and I never actually said, “No. Stop touching me.” Why? Because he was continuing to pressure me, he was much bigger and stronger, he was a Big Man on Campus, and he was drunk, and I was scared.

    When he got up to go into the bathroom, I grabbed my shoes and ran out, reassembling my clothing as I made my way back across campus to my dorm, shivering.

    For what it’s worth, if anything, he was mortified the next day and apologized and eventually we even became friends, of a sort, though I took care never to be alone with him again when alcohol was involved. I never reported the incident, primarily because I knew what kind of character assassination consumes everyone involved in a rape claim and I just wanted to forget the whole thing had happened. I take full responsibility for my actions in going to the party, flirting with a boy, and being drunk. But I still think it was assault. The balance of power was entirely on his side. I didn’t struggle because *I was afraid and I didn’t think it would matter.*

    Are people going to abuse the system? Yes, if there is a system, some jerk will abuse it, and that’s unfortunate. But we do have to draw a line somewhere in order for there to be a measurable standard. Someone else used a theft analogy and I think that’s apt — yes, I tried, feebly, to lock the door after the burglar was in the house. But that doesn’t change the fact that he stole something.

    So, you know, that’s my take — YMMV.

  29. Becky says:

    I have always believed that until someone says an explicit YES, take everything else to mean a NO. I also believed that we lived in a more enlightened time where versions of “boys will be boys” and placing all the responsibility and blame on girls was an antiquated notion. I’m sad to see I am wrong.

    To the anonymous poster, you are absolutely right. It is about power in the situation, much like sexual harassment. Furthermore, no one has mentioned the possibility that drugs could be used in these scenarios, making rape all the easier because the girl is either passed out or completely unaware as to what she is doing, through no choice of her own. She didn’t say no and then cried rape in the morning, and that is wrong? She doesn’t deserve to speak out? It is attitudes like some of the ones mentioned that cause thousands of women to NOT speak out when they are attacked because of the character assassination and the fact that many won’t believe her. My heart aches for the women who maybe got too drunk and in the morning, discovered something more had happened to her than a hangover, and speaks out only to find that many are dismissing her and BLAMING her for this situation.

    Lastly, I think this was a great post that discussed how even the most negative things can spur positive action. As horrified as I am by the college student’s editorial, if it activates people to speak out for the victims, good. And censorship, even of material I disagree with most wholeheartedly, is not okay.

  30. Diana says:

    @Anon J. I had a similar experience in college. I willingly went to a boy’s room in the frat house. This good boy from a good family assumed that my virgin clueless self had consented to sex. There was a physical struggle, I was scared spitless and managed to escape still dressed from the waist down. He was drunker than I was, but much bigger and stronger. If he hadn’t been so sloppy drunk he could have easily overpowered me. The incident left a life-long impression on me, one that I shared with my daughter. It didn’t, however, ruin my life or wipe out the inflence of my mother and all the other positive things in my life. It was a learning experience and served to make me more cautious and aware. I would like to think that if a young woman reported an incident of this kind on a campus today that her complaint would be taken seriously. Back in my day the old you-asked-for-it was the norm and we remained silent. I’m glad that this issue is being examined at AU. Young women on college campuses have the right to be safe.

  31. Sandy C. says:

    There could also be a problem with perceptions on both drunken parties’ parts, yes? If a girl is drunk to the point of being dizzy, and she and the guy go stumbling into his room and fall on his bed together… Physical resistance on her part, especially if she’s trying to push him away but not very forcefully because she’s too drunk, might not register with a guy who is equally drunk. Is this rape? I’d hope she’d open her mouth and yell, “NO!” to put a stop to things, but what if she invests all of her focus in trying to get away or struggle and yet it’s not working?

    Like it or not, girls do need to take some personal responsibility about such situations before they get into trouble. Guys in that situation usually see an easy mark and not much else. The general attitude is, “What does she expect? She was putting it out there.” That may not be right, but that’s the reality. I wish we lived in a world where I could feel safe jogging in my local park at midnight, too!

  32. Lynn Spencer says:

    Turning the issue to books, do you think we’re more tolerant of bad behavior in books than in real life? The “no means yes” hero seems to show up with regularity , particularly in older books. Not to mention those punishing kisses! It’s an issue I think about largely because some of the forceed seduction scenes make me uncomfortable. Heck, we even soften the language for what we call those!

  33. kmredd says:

    So if a man thinks he might make poor decisions at a party maybe he should stay home? When I was in school it was UNDERSTOOD that girls who dressed in a certain way were ASKING to be RAPED! Ladies that wasn’t that many years ago! I still have relatives who were alive when women were not allowed to vote! We had NO rights at all. I ask myself how did it get to that point?? Were we so dumb back then that we couldn’t be allowed to have any rights? What I’m saying is we have not come as far as we think. We still have a very long way to go. Women need to stick up for women. This mentality of blaming other women and not sticking up for each other is how we lost all our rights not even a hundred years ago.

  34. Nancy says:

    Without a doubt this has been one of the more explosive commentary’s that has come up on AAR. Criminal behavior set aside, there will always be persons who are warped and will committ crimal acts against another person. My take is this: as long as individuals believe in free sexual relations outside the contract of marriage, what is being discussed above will exist. Rules of behavior exist for a reason – unwanted consequences.

    Every opinion above is stating all the consequences of why sex should remain between a married couple and as a society, how we are failing to teach standards of behavior to our children.

    When I was growing up, father’s told the young men in no uncertain terms that their daughters were to be returned home in the same condition as when they left or there would be consequences for their actions.

    Just my thoughts.

  35. JulieLeto says:

    I was in a sorority and I went to many “frat” parties. (I hate that word.) Anyway, I never got drunk and yet, managed to still have fun, though probably not as much fun as everyone else. My fun usually included making fun of the idiots who couldn’t hold their liquor. My point is that it is possible to teach our sons and daughters that going to a party–any college party–does not have a pre-requisite of intoxication.

    But here’s a point I’ve been wondering about for a while. I wanted to ask this question, but didn’t want to offend, so I kept my mouth shut. But in light of this discussion, I’d really like to ask it.

    Why is a certain line of romance novels such a “guilty pleasure” for so many readers when from what I’ve heard (I haven’t read one myself), they often contain rape. Glorified rape. Forced seduction. Whatever PC word you want to call it that assuages the guilt of those of who eat these books up as if they are bon-bons. I read a review a few months ago of one of these books and I was outraged. If what the reviewer said was true (and I had no reason to doubt her) the hero raped the heroine. It wasn’t even a forced seduction…she did not enjoy it. Where is the outrage and letters to the publisher? I’m flummoxed by this.

    It really makes me wonder if women have come as far as we like to think we have in the way we think, not only about each other, but about our own self-worth.

  36. KYoung says:

    @ Nancy – at the risk of taking this fascinating discussion into a completely different direction, what is so magical about the contract of marriage? Is non-consentual sex after marriage not rape? Marriage does not convey some sudden wisdom or maturity. We should be teaching our children to be responsible and to be critical thinkers, even when the brain is fogged by alcohol or other substances, regardless of whether they are married or not.

  37. Diana says:

    Julie, there is outrage expressed. If you’re referring to the book I think you are, there were discussions about it. I objected by not buying it. Since I make it a point not to wank off in a public forum on a book I haven’t read, I don’t know what else I could have done.

    I’m curious to know if there are that many books with an old timey rapist hero published now. Examples anyone?

  38. Nancy says:

    KYoung – for those of us in an older generation who got their butts spanked when we sassed our parents – we had boundaries. Do you not see the consequences of when people behave without boundaries? That is what this whole discussion is stating. What you are suggesting is this, since I know you are probably going to drink and drive and or do drugs despite how I raised you, I want you to act responsibly. Very good by your answer you just gave your complete understanding that you know your children are going to do the very thing that you do not want them to do, but you want them to act responsibly in doing those actions.

    My question to you is how do you think critical thinking is going to support your son or daughter after they are date raped, drink and drive or do drugs? Uh guess what – not much, after court/jail, hospital or therapy or worse death. How about if you teach them not to drink and drive, use drugs or go to parties where other individuals apparently will take advantage of them in our current society. How about taking them on a field trip to a jail to see what happens to those who break the law or a homeless shelter to show what drugs can do to the mind and body. How about teaching them not to abuse their bodies, minds and souls with lawless behavior?

    Marriage is for individuals who want to form lasting relationships, create a family in the process, teach the future generations your values.
    I am not stating that marriage is perfect, not in this world, it has been repeatedly shown by criminal behavior not to be, but when you are married to your life mate, it doesn’t get any better. If you are not fortunate in this, you do the best you can and still raise your children with your values and with boundaries.

    Answer this for me – do you believe that sex outside of marriage is OK? That the consequences from relationships outside of marriage are more positive and better than marriage? Think about what this discussion is about before you answer – the people who are part of these fraternities are the future of our nation.

  39. Katja says:

    Wow, interesting discussion. I wasn’t going to join un at all, but now I can’t help myself.
    I’d basically like to answer Nancy’s question (even though its’s clearly posed to KYoung) and perhaps push the topic even further in the completely oppsoite direction:

    Answer this for me – do you believe that sex outside of marriage is OK?

    Yes, I 100% think that sex outside of marriage is OK. Why on earth shouldn’t it be o.k. As long as it’s between consenting adults a marriage certificate doesn’t change a thing in my opinion.

    That the consequences from relationships outside of marriage are more positive and better than marriage?

    Well no, not better. But certainly not worse either. Which consequences anyway. If you mean pregnancy, than I suppose it might be somewhat better if the parents were married. But as long as people have a stable partnership a legal certificate doesn’t change much, and if the relationship is unstable. then they should have taken precautions anyway and there won’t be a child.

    But these questions and some of the comments above to me raise one important question: Why the assumption that it is o.k. for men to have sex with different partners, one night stands etc. etc., while women (girls) should really stick to a different moral code. Couldn’t it be, that if tgirls wouldn’t still be deemed sluts, morally suspect, not proper relationship material or whatever, just because they enjoy sex and like to experiment, they wouldn’t feel the need to be so ashamed if they had drunken sex.
    Note: I do think rape is a crime and needs to be punished. So if somebody (and I don’t care whether it’s the man or the woman) said no, then that’s it. But there are a lot of cases, where I think nobody really said no. After all (as pointed out in the original article) sex is intoxicating in its own right and one can easily get carried away (even as a woman!). But one might still feel horrible afterwards, afraid of the consequences to ones reputation … and thus tempted to say: But I didn’t really want this, I never consented. And in my opinion, there’d probably less cases of alleged rape, if the reputational damage to women wouldn’t still be so harsh.

  40. JulieLeto says:

    Diana, I appreciate that you didn’t buy it…but a lot of people did. And continue to. And I guess it’s okay because they’re entitled to their reading preferences. But if a book contained child abuse on the part of the hero, people would be writing letters to the publisher in outrage and organizing boycotts. But rape of the heroine is tacitly okay with the romance community. They laugh about it, make fun of it on blogs and websites…but no one actually stops buying the books. They call them guilty pleasures and write it off as okay. That perplexes me.

  41. Maria says:

    Rachel and Nancy, I totally agree! Sex belongs in marriage. For years now young people are being taught that sex outside of marriage is okay as long as they have protection. There is an old saying, ‘A lie will make its way around the world before the truth has had a chance to put on its shoes!” How true that is. People keep drinking the Kool Aid and buying the lies. Lies that are killing people with countless STD’s! There is no such thing as safe sex. The only safe sex is in a monogamous marriage or no sex at all. What is a life giving gift has been abused and distorted and turned into a sport. Our society criticizes young men who use steroids yet think its wonderful that young women pump their bodies with unnecessary contraceptive hormones. Fertility is not a disease to be treated, it is a gift. It is ridiculous to teach young people that they can say no to anything except their sexual urges!!!

    Sex outside of marriage is certainly worse. Look around you at all the consecuences. Abortion (murdering innocent children-4,000 a day, shameful), rampant divorce, unnatural sexual acts and relationships becoming mainstream and accepted as natural, STD’s, sexualizing our children, pornography becoming bigger than the oil industry, etc….. Yep, seems no worse to me!! I have no compassion for women who place themselves in dangerous situations. Actions have consecuences!!

    And I definately do not have to support women, especially when they are wrong. If both sexes would behave virtuously what a world we would have. Oh wait, virtue is so old school and boring!! I’m proud to have an old school view and a hope filled life. For women like to experiment, just remember how many experiments backfire and actually never work out. As much as that line has been blurred with lies, women always have much more to lose than men. If they want to behave like men they should be treated like men.

  42. Laurie says:

    Maria: Wow! I get your point. We women who have had sex outside of marriage with no STDs or abortions, etc (and yes, it can be done – there is such a thing as safe sex – you can choose to believe it or not) and are mentally fine with it years later, who are stupid enough to take birth control pills (again with no consequences or side effects because SURPRISE the vast majority of women who do so experience no side effects or consequences), who dress “a certain way” (maybe this means not covering every inch of skin from head to toe?), who maybe imbibed some alcohol or marijuana at a party once are all unvirtuous emotionally deficient sluts who deserve every bad thing the world has to offer. Just to say I did all of those things and here I am – sorry to say – 51 years old, happily married, with a fine family. And guess what. Most of the women I know who did all those things are just fine too. In my opinion, your essay states your personal beliefs/opinion and I respect that. However, to me it is also just a roundabout way of blaming/shaming women and preserving the she asked for it and got what she deserved attitude. I agree that in this we unfortunately have not progressed all that far. But then, the Victorian age was so much fun!

  43. AAR Rachel says:

    I have no problem bringing back shaming and blaming. They were very useful tools for getting people to own their mistakes and readjust their behavior. Now we spend our time shaming people into not shaming people – “Don’t judge!” etc. – which is ludicrous and leads to social anarchy and societal dysfunction.

    • Sandy AAR says:

      AAR Rachel: I have no problem bringing back shaming and blaming.They were very useful tools for getting people to own their mistakes and readjust their behavior.Now we spend are time shaming people into not shaming people – “Don’t judge!” etc. – which is ludicrous and leads to social anarchy and societal dysfunction.

      Shaming and blaming can cut both ways, Rachel. Because, believe me, I am judging right now.

  44. AAR Lynn says:

    I’m more wary about a return to “shame and blame”. I wouldn’t quibble with society deeming certain crimes or bad behaviors worthy of shame(speaking of which, it doesn’t look like Tiger Woods and Tiki Barber are getting free passes on adultery), but shaming and blaming has quite a history. I’ve heard too many of my mother and grandmother’s stories about the old double standards to blithely agree that a return to shame and blame days would be a good thing. After all, shaming and blaming by American society didn’t just refer to bad behavior but used to mean that men largely got a free pass while women who wore shorter skirts, flirted, worked outside the home or otherwise pushed the boundaries of the very traditional woman’s role got punished. Having heard 1950s-60s stories of women:
    -exposed to public opprobrium because they were widowed and had to work outside the home or
    – choosing to go to college and major in something other than teaching or nursing, and then being shunned and in some cases, thrown out of their churches or
    – fired from jobs for dating men of other races or religions or because their mothers or siblings got divorces,
    I have to say I’d be very cautious about how much shaming and blaming I’d want to see returned to society. Anarchy may not be a good thing, but neither is the smug self-righteousness that seems to creep into way too much of the shame game.

  45. Sue S says:

    “Consensual” *requires* CONSENT. “Not saying no” is NOT consent.

  46. Lee says:

    Rachel, judging is also used by readers in deciding whether to read articles by writers, such as Knepper and yourself, who evidence a bias not shared by the reader. Which is what the original blog was about – whether someone has the right to say something that is totally foreign to one’s own principles. Of course you and Knepper have that right, which is demonstrated by not one of your posts being deleted. But the right of the reader to no longer want to read what you write is also a consideration. I’m not saying that you should change what you write to pander to readers’ sensibilities, but you also shouldn’t be surprised if you have fewer readers. Unfortunately, I do not think I will be able to read anything on this site by you in the future without it being colored by what you said here. You probably do not care. But maybe you should examine why so many posters here were in disagreement with you. As my grandpa used to say, if 3 or more people tell you you’re drunk, go lie down.

  47. AAR Lynn says:

    “As my grandpa used to say, if 3 or more people tell you you’re drunk, go lie down.”

    @Lee – Not strictly on topic here, but I love that saying! Hadn’t heard it before.

  48. Maria says:

    The most intolerant people are always the ones who are always telling the world how tolerant they are. Rachel is absolutely right. The only point of view not tolerated anymore, at least in public, is the conservative one. The one that lays responsibility for peoples actions at their feet. The one that has to shut up because someones little tiny feelings might get hurt. Some of us do not worship at the altar of tolerance and do not think it is the only virtue that matters. And some of us definately do not think that we should go along to get along. When the world seems to be headed toward a precipice, the ones running in the opposite direction are told they are the crazy ones. I’d rather not jump, thank you! God bless you Rachel for your courage. It takes courage to go against the current not to go with it. As G.K. Chesterton used to say, ‘Only dead fish go with the current’.

  49. AAR Lynn says:

    >>The only point of view not tolerated anymore, at least in public, is the conservative one.

    @Maria That may be true in some venues, but I don’t see that here. Your right to express your view has been tolerated. However, while you are free to express your views, those who disagree with you are free to express theirs as well. Disagreeing with someone’s opinion is not intolerance. There are views all over the ideological spectrum being expressed here, and I see that making for the sort of debate and dialogue Jane referenced in her piece.

  50. Diana says:

    @Julie. I agree with you and it perplexes me as well. I have never complained to a publisher since we have these open forums where we can and do vent. The next time I inadvertently buy a book that whitewashes rape I will contact the publisher.

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