The proponents of what is called rape culture assert that over 20% of college women have been raped. The statistics are subject to serious doubt. Scholars like Christina Hoff Summers have questioned the statistics, noting that women are safer on college campuses than they are in the society at large.
The notion that white male fraternity brothers are conspiring to abuse, humiliate and rape college women does not hold up to scrutiny. Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s story of a gang rape at a fraternity at the University of Virginia was a lie.
And yet, those who want believe that privileged white males are a crime wave embraced the story uncritically.
Even though the statistics have been distorted and the evidence for “rape culture” is questionable, this does not mean that American college campuses do not have a sex problem. In fact, they have a very serious sex problem. It might not be the one that the rape culture activists see, but it is there.
University of Virginia professors Vigen Guroian and WilliamWilson begin an in-depth analysis of the problem by pointing out the “sexual chaos in student life.”
But it is not credible that before the piece, the administration was unaware of the sexual chaos in student life. For nearly a decade, Bill Wilson was dean of the Echols Scholars Program at the university. He and others in similar positions reported to the administration what they had heard. Dozens of bright young college women told Wilson that they had been sexually humiliated, assaulted, or raped.
They offer further evidence:
A recent female graduate of the University of Virginia wrote the following for a class assignment:
Sex pervades almost every aspect of dorm life that I have experienced. I have seen “dorm incest” (the entire floor hooks up with everyone else on the floor), [been] “sexiled,” by my roommate having sex on my dorm bed, and witnessed date rape . . .
They quote another woman’s description of life in a coed dorm:
Most of the people in your dorm were in the “friend zone.” Everyone was a “guy.” But even with sweatpants on we recognized we had different body parts and late at night with a couple of beers things got more intimate. We were not so much male and female as we were xx who logically should give xy what they want and what we have. We were all one mutually using and abusing non-family.
Sexual license was actively encouraged and funded by the university. From “Spring-break fun packs” full of condoms and forms of contraception handed out at the student center with a cute note from a pudgy sunshine face wearing shades saying “Have a Fun Spring Break!” to “Sexual Arts and Crafts” flyers plastered on the dorm halls—the message is clear: college is a parent-funded motel party of casual and impersonal, but, yes, “safe sex.”
The problem did not begin yesterday. It began with the sexual revolution of the Vietnam Era and the advent of second-wave feminism.
The professors explain:
Fifty years ago, when the great campaign against single-sex education commenced under the banner of the sexual revolution, it was promised that by bringing the sexes into closer proximity, a healthier environment for relations between young men and women would form. It is possible that this might have happened had our schools not taken down the conventions and institutional arrangements that for generations had brought the sexes together in a more or less orderly and purposeful way.
Back then, we were told that the old order must be abolished because the standards and conventions it embodied favored men. Young women would be sexually liberated and the “playing field” leveled. Therefore, parietal hours were eliminated and mixed-sex dorms, once inconceivable, became the norm. In the process, the new unisex coeducational colleges and universities that are so familiar to us today came into existence. These institutions committed themselves to dismantling the culture of courtship that until then colleges had accepted and in a variety of ways fostered within an educational environment.
The idea was even bandied about that in a coeducational setting, women would be better able to “domesticate” the men. That goal was soon forgotten, once marriage no longer figured as a social value and was replaced by the monolithic aim of success in a career.
Think about it for a moment. Do women living in coed dorms feel that their space is being violated? Do they feel that they feel that their modesty and intimacy are being invaded?
Apparently, the new arrangement allows young men to believe that they can take advantage of young women. When colleges do not put any real barriers between men and women they encourage this misapprehension. When they do not provide institutional protections for women they are suggesting that women do not need protection, or even that those who abuse women will not suffer any consequences.
And yet, if a woman feels violated and invaded by the presence of males in her dorm, it would not count as rape within the criminal justice system. Surely, it is a problem, but it is not going to be solved by guilt-tripping young men and policing their behavior more vigorously.
Guroian and Wilson explain that the new living arrangements militate against the old customs of dating and courtship:
Our unisex colleges and universities have abolished those spaces. What remains, what they have gone about creating, are spaces that invite and accommodate hook-ups and casual cohabitation—and open opportunities for forms of sexual violence that were not likely to happen on campus grounds in the past.
The sexual revolution and feminism conspired to kill off courtship and dating. If women were going to put career ahead of marriage, they would be liberated to seek out sexual pleasure for the sake of sexual pleasure. That is, they would have sex like men. They would do their best not to get involved in the kinds of relationships with men that would draw them away from the career track.
Many young women have chosen to act accordingly. Thus they actively created the hookup culture.
How many women are really hooking up? Surely, fewer than the mania about it would suggest.
And yet, the question is not so much statistics as reputation. Once a significant number of young women choose voluntarily to engage in sexual acts with men they do not know and do not even care to know—the better to have sex like a man—word gets around.
If it were just an occasional woman here and there, it would be one thing. But when a significant number of women hook up, anyone who belongs to the group gains a certain reputation.
It may feel perfectly old-fashioned, like something a mother would say, but reputation does matter. Once a woman or a group of women gain a reputation for giving away their sexual favors promiscuously, men begin to treat them accordingly.
Worse yet, many women who engaged in hookups did not really want to do so. They had to get themselves severely drunk or stoned in order to do it.
Did they feel that they were then really consenting? Did they then feel that boys should have known that, in their inebriated state, their word should not be respected?
In some ways, as I have long suggested, the rape culture is an effort to put an end to the hookup culture and to restore some sense of honor to young women who abandoned theirs too quickly and now regret it.
You may think that the now well-known walk of shame was a sign of a failure to accept women’s new liberated sexuality, but, in truth, young women who had hooked up or who had too much sexual experience too soon must have discovered that it did not make them feel very good about themselves.
Some of them required medication. Few of them got to the point where they admitted that they had been duped by the sexual revolutionaries and used by the second generation feminists.
Following the prescribed narrative, they blamed it on white male fraternity brothers.
Women might imagine that they are now free to write their own narratives, but they have been captured by the feminist narrative. In it men are to blame and women (to say nothing of feminists) are blameless.
Telling themselves on the one hand that no one has a right to judge them and seeing on the other that many men are treating them in a certain way... they are at a loss.
The moral code of courtship behavior had evolved over centuries. Feminists decided that it demeaned and diminished women. Some even thought that it was a conspiracy designed to keep women out of the workplace.
Were you to suggest that the code of gentlemanly and ladylike behavior was designed to protect and safeguard feminine modesty and intimacy you would have been dismissed as patriarchal swine. Feminists insisted that these codes, coupled with parietal restrictions, assumed that women were weak and needing protection. The only protection a woman really needed was a condom, don’t you understand?
The authors explain:
… before the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies, the “yes” and “no,” nowadays promoted as the be-all and end-all of sexual etiquette, were given moral force by a restraining and clarifying ensemble of conventions and threshold spaces that the colleges and universities saw fit to sweep away virtually overnight.
Having attended the university at a time before courtship and dating were undermined, Guroian and Wilson recall the reality of the ancient regime:
The truth is that never did we feel the ideal of being a Virginia gentleman licensed us to treat young women as inferiors with whom we could do whatever we pleased. Just the opposite. The ideal of a gentleman had the moral power to put the brakes on our most tawdry and aggressive male proclivities and to make us take pride in our manhood. Some of us took seriously one line of a poem titled “The Honor Men,” which we hung in our rooms. It said “pursue no woman to her tears.”
They continue to point out that these codes of behavior were designed to protect women from sexual violence:
Back then, everything possible was in place to prevent a rape or any other form of sexual violence from being committed in a fraternity house or university housing. Women were not permitted in dormitory rooms or fraternity bedrooms. Those notorious University of Virginia gentlemen at the “Playboy School of the South” enforced their own parietal rules, and housemothers could be found at fraternity parties until 1968. Young women who visited for an overnight stay were assigned to “approved housing” that their institutions selected, rooms more often than not in the homes of widows who had space to let. If a young woman was uncomfortable with her date, a refuge was available, and there was a curfew. “No” had the force of strong conventions and in loco parentis. There wasn’t the need for draconian rules and punishments, because the university and women’s colleges represented real standards that were reflected in the arrangements they had put in place to bring the sexes together in an orderly fashion.
Unfortunately, universities are incapable of accepting that their grand social experiment did not work out as expected:
Our colleges and universities have not fessed up to the sexual anarchy and formless sex that they helped bring into existence when they sponsored and institutionalized the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies. Even as the evidence has mounted to undeniable proportions that something has gone horribly wrong with relations between the sexes on our campuses, colleges will not admit culpability for the ugly scene. Most important, they will not admit that the great experiment of institutionalizing the sexual revolution has failed at the cost of many, many ruined lives.
Finally, in the anarchy created by the absence of customs that determine courtship, schools have imposed their own guilt narrative. They have replaced a shame culture with a guilt culture… not knowing that the latter is far less efficient and effective at regulating human behavior.
The authors write:
Consequently, when an act of sexual misconduct, violent or otherwise, is alleged, an avoidance of moral standards under the pretense of extending freedom to young adults quickly and perversely turns to finding guilt in any party conveniently at hand….
The same persons who in their youth supported the liberation of the sexes from so-called Victorian inhibitions and morals are now rushing to impose at colleges complex codes of sexual conduct that would have been unimaginable a generation ago. These codes reveal well the dilemma they face. When equality of the sexes became the epicenter of the sexual revolution, activists removed all of the conventions and arrangements that shielded females from aggressive male behavior. They had to do so, or else they would have appeared still to respect differences between men and women. But now, faced with rising numbers of damaged students, they must produce rules of sexual engagement that will stop the abuses and traumas. The dilemma is this: How do you acknowledge the special vulnerability of women to men while disallowing distinct codes of conduct for men and women? The current solution is to adopt a formal and abstract language that maintains the unisex ideal and keeps silent about male–female differences.
On the one hand women insist that they are in every way equal to men. On the other hand women insist that they are especially vulnerable to men and in need of the kind of special protection that only the state can provide:
In January of this year, the National Panhellenic Conference, an association of national sororities, instructed sorority women at the University of Virginia for their own safety not to attend the annual Boys Bid Night fraternity parties. This prompted an immediate counterreaction that has not yet played out entirely. Female students protested that this directive contradicted the gains women have made to stand on equal ground with men in social and sexual matters.