Our carefree college days were long ago, back in the era of raccoon coats and ukeleles and goldfish-swallowing, but we try to keep abreast of what’s current in higher education. Imagine our horror, then, to discover that the once-idyllic campus life has degenerated into a culture of rape.
This isn’t our usual grumpy old man’s anti-intellectual assessment of those pointy-headed academics, but rather the conclusion of academia itself. The more-or-less official feminist line is that one in five currently enrolled co-eds will be sexually assaulted while in college, an alarming statistic that has been repeated by the President of the United States, and the term “culture of rape” is frequently invoked to explain the epidemic. Many colleges have responded by adopting a “preponderance of evidence” standard when considering allegations of sexual assault, and now that the Department of Education has made federal funding contingent on such measures the rest will eventually do so, while there seems to be a serious movement afoot to eradicate whatever culture is causing all this rape.
Let us make clear at this point that we do not wish to make light of rape, which is as heinous a crime as man can commit and should always be punished with the utmost severity whenever guilt of it has been proved, but only a heart of stone can’t find some bemusement in academia’s clumsy response to this eternal problem. That one-in-five number is laughable at first glance, and would be the most damning indictment of higher education yet if it were true. One would almost certainly reach something approaching that ratio if the definition of “sexual assault” were expanded to include any regrettable experience a young woman might have in today’s hyper-sexualized society, and we have great sympathy for all of them insufficiently wary young women who have fallen victim to our cultural depredations, but it’s disquieting to see colleges denying due process to young men accused of violating the cultural norms that academia has long sought to abolish.
Back in the bad old days of sexual repression a patriarchy imposed virginity on the yearning-to-be-unleashed libidos of young women, especially those bold and brilliant enough to a pursue a college education, but academic feminism was at the forefront of liberating society from such archaic restrictions. Colleges used to promise the tuition-paying parents that they would act in loco parentis, meaning they would assume the role of nosy and puritanical parents, but by now they are acting those loco sorts of parents who provide condoms and encouragement for a nice robust romp in the dorm. There’s an inadvertently hilarious Hollywood movie set in the ’50s called “Mona Lisa Smile” that features the comely Julia Roberts as a heroic professor in the “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” mode who encourages her female charges to pursue promiscuity as self-expression, another called “Kinsey” that features the handsome Liam Neeson portraying the titular perverted Indiana University sexologist as a hero of the sexual revolution, and they accurately reflect the role colleges played in eradicating the old sexual etiquette. We suspect the sexual pioneers intended that their distaff charges would all have enlightening affairs with sensitive poetry majors, which would somehow enhance their procreative marriages to more boring but lucrative business majors, but it turned out that the main beneficiaries of the new rules were the buff frat boys and their infuriatingly anti-feminist “bro culture.”
(We’ll note in passing that a Democratic Senatorial candidate in Kentucky is running on her party’s familiar claim that the Republicans are engaged in a “war on women,” but is the heiress to a “breastaurant” called “Hugh Jass” that caters to the local fraternity clientele with a double-entendre-laden menu and scantily-clad waitresses.)
This is probably the real reason for feminism’s sudden concern with the “culture of rape,” and we have some sympathy. Our disdain for the womanizing frat boy culture is not based on feminist principles, but rather the old-fashioned respect for womanhood that our Christian mother inculcated in us at an early age, but we hope that one way or another it will soon wither from public scorn. The irrecoverable end of the old rules of courtship is not at all limited to that sub-culture, however, and until academia is willing to embrace more old-fashioned notions of sexual propriety it is unlikely to correct what truly is, in some unsettling if not strictly legal sense, a culture of rape.
— Bud Norman