Six Vanderbilt students have filed a suit claiming that their allegations of sexual assault were not taken seriously. Students at Amherst, Dartmouth, Swarthmore, Yale and dozens of other colleges have filed similar complaints.
Some of the statistics circulating about campus sexual assaults -- such as the much-touted 20 percent figure -- are clearly exaggerated and are based on an overly broad interpretation of the word rape. As Cathy Young of Minding the Campus explained, "Three quarters of the female students who were classified as victims of sexual assault by incapacitation did not believe they had been raped."
It's always wise to take statistics, particularly those offered by advocacy groups, with a large grain of salt, but that doesn't mean the problem is illusory.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, has just released the results of a study she commissioned about how universities are handling sexual assault allegations. Among her more headline-grabbing findings was that 22 percent of a national sample of universities permit their athletic departments to oversee cases involving alleged misconduct by athletes. One in five provide no sexual assault response training to faculty and staff.
The feminist interpretation of these facts is well-known: This is part of the "rape culture" that devalues women. The American Association of University Women seems to endorse this interpretation and offers "10 Ways to Fight Against Sexual Assault on Campus." It begins by suggesting contacting "campus resources like counseling centers, advocacy offices, or the police," but among the other suggestions are "Write an op-ed"; "Use social media ... to spread awareness"; "Start a conversation on victim blaming"; and "Get involved in national campaigns ... like the Clothesline Project."
I'm all for writing op-eds, but not as a response to a violent crime. Doubtless I will be accused of "victim blaming," but it must be said that the reason the AAUW, university administrators, the Department of Education and most importantly, young men and women themselves are so confused about how to handle the wave of campus rape (and unwanted sex) is that they've created a social environment -- the boozing hookup culture -- that invites bad behavior. Women are right the culture is harder on them than it is on men. They're wrong if they blame the "patriarchy." This is the spawn of the sexual revolution, not traditional morality.
Rape is rape, the advocates chant. Well, not quite.
If a man sneaked into a college woman's dorm room and raped her, she would have no hesitation in calling the police, right? But if she and a guy she had a crush on stumble drunkenly into her dorm room, and she decides following their first act of sexual intercourse that she doesn't want to have sex again, and he presses himself upon her, she may be angry and feel violated, but she doesn't want him to spend 20 years in jail, either. He did commit a crime, and yet, her hesitation in reporting him would be perfectly understandable.
The sexual free-for-all culture denies that women are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation than men. Both sexes are presumed to want "safe," relatively anonymous sex on a moment's notice with no strings attached. Yet the overwhelming majority of those who lodge sexual assault complaints are women. Most men are not sexual predators, cads or rapists, but there's little doubt that the binge drinking, casual sex climate is tailor-made for those who are.
Women's' alcohol consumption has dramatically increased in recent years. "Between 1999 and 2008," reports The Wall Street Journal, "the number of young women who showed up in emergency rooms for being dangerously intoxicated rose by 52 percent. The rate for young men, though higher, rose just 9 percent." More women are arrested for drunk driving, and more report that they binge drink than in the past. Again, irresponsible men couldn't be happier with this turn of events.
Women are being victimized on campuses and off. But writing op-eds is not where their power lies. They can protect themselves better by staying sober and out of the hookup world. Women are more delicate and vulnerable than men. Smart women don't attempt to live this down; they oblige men to respect it.