Kathleen Parker

Questions about Duke's stripper crisis have been instructive in unintended ways, and may have provided the tipping point for re-evaluating laws protecting rape victims.

Among the more compelling questions: What was the lacrosse team doing hiring a stripper in the first place? The typical answer goes something like this:

"Oh, it's perfectly natural for guys to get together and ogle a half-naked woman. What's a little flesh as long as everybody's happy?"

Moreover, stripping has become mainstream, so much so that women have begun taking pole-dancing lessons so they can amuse their husbands and/or significant others.

At the same time, we've managed to romanticize the stripper as something close to a heroine - a woman who works hard for her money to put herself through college (as in the Duke case), or who is just trying to put food on the table for the little munchkins.

That gust of wind you feel is 10,000 feminists hyperventilating at the inference that I'm about to blame the alleged victim. I'm not finished yet, so grab a paper bag and breathe deeply.

I admit that I'm not a fan of strippers - or the men who hire them. I don't admire the sexual objectification of women - which is an old-fashioned feminist position, by the way, as opposed to the absurd notion that women sexualizing themselves is a form of advanced feminist expression.

If women enjoy selling their bodies, have at it, but don't call it liberation and don't demand respect for it. Why? Because men will never respect women who doff it or sell it for a buck.

At the risk of offending the International Union of Pimps and Ho's, here's one of the jungle's unpleasant truths: No decent man wants his wife, mother, sister or daughter to be a stripper - even if he'll pay to watch someone else's. And therein lies one of this episode's lessons.

A disturbing portion of the American public - at least judging from my mail and some commentators - doesn't believe the Duke stripper deserves our sympathy or even our suspension of judgment. She's a stripper after all. A radio interviewer put it to me just that way.

I'm sorry, but I can't go there. A woman raped is a woman raped, no matter what her ill-chosen profession. Furthermore, the fact of this woman's being a stripper doesn't sway me to eliminate laws that protect an alleged rape victim's identity, as some have suggested.

Arguments that such laws are unfair to the accused are rock solid. They are unfair, and as a mother of sons, I find the double standard objectionable. Thus, this tipping point may require some adjustment to our rape laws, perhaps toward keeping all identities under wraps until post-verdict.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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