What are we to make of sexual behavior on campus? On the one hand, schools do their best to facilitate sexual activity between adolescent students by providing co-ed housing and bathrooms, frat parties and an atmosphere encouraging them to feel like independent and mature adults. Until the students realize that they aren’t, and that like all other relationships in the real world, sexual ones are fraught with misunderstandings, complications, differing interpretations and ulterior motives. At that point, the school steps in and attempts to act as judge and jury as to what happened between two individuals who have contrasting accounts of an experience that one calls rape.
MIT has just released the results of its highly praised survey on sexual assault revealing that among respondents, 17% of women and 5% of men claim to have been sexually assaulted. Let’s begin by noting that only 35% of the 11,000 undergraduates bothered to respond and that of those, the number drops to 11% of females and 2% of males when asked about actual rape. Let’s focus on the women since the percentage of men who experienced sexual assault as a problem is minimal enough to ignore. Included in this survey were questions about whether individuals had heard sexist remarks, comments about people’s bodies, tales of sexual exploits or offensive digital messages. If you’re a sentient woman in 2014 and if you ride the subway, work in an office, attend a party or simply chat with your friends, you would probably answer yes to all of the above. Is speech now to be included in sexual assault? Are we to conclude that it’s ok for schools to provide housing that encourages sexual congress but pretend to be offended at insensitive speech?
What are co-education and feminism about without the assumption that women are not too delicate to withstand inappropriate remarks? These can be ignored or answered but they hardly deserve a separate category of speech, especially one that is labeled “assault.” Faculty and administrators will allow protesters to call for the destruction of an entire country during the annual Israel Apartheid Week - pointing proudly to the sanctity of freedom of speech; shall they now wimpishly retreat to hide behind a separate code for sexual inuendo?
The worst lesson we can teach the minority of college women who balk at non-violent vulgarities that exist in our culture is that they are deserving of special protection. Even the youngest children in nursery school are indoctrinated with the instruction to “use their words,” making clear the distinction between verbal and physical assault. We should make up our minds about whether college women are kids or young adults. If the former, they are given way too much freedom by schools more interested in big tuitions than in imposing restrictions that would make them less popular. If they are young adults, they must take responsibility for themselves before they engage in sexual adventures. Step one is not getting so inebriated that you lose control of yourself; step two is not putting yourself in harm’s way with someone you hardly know. Step three is not confusing vulgar speech with bodily assault and not crying for protection when your feelings have been hurt. Including that category in a survey designed to set rules for “sexual assault” is a sure sign that a school is bending to gender politics instead of to the role it should play in loco parentis - to protect its students from bodily harm.
Creating an environment bland enough to guarantee that no woman would ever be offended is more patronizing and insulting to women than the sexist comments they might occasionally hear. The goal is to encourage women to have a voice, a mind of their own and the self-respect to take good care of themselves without relying on superiors to rescue those old fashioned damsels in distress.
Have PoliticalMavens.com delivered to your inbox in a daily digest by clicking here