Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Until college men and women of good will inject themselves into the public discourse on rape, extremists will steer the policy

When colleges go looking for students to serve on committees to discuss changing sexual assault policies, who do you think volunteers?

Here's a hint: it ain't a starting running back on the football team. In fact, it's rarely anyone who wears a jockstrap out of necessity on a regular basis.

It's generally a true believer feminist who thinks that there is an overarching "rape culture" on campus. She believes that school needs to be made safer for women. And she sees no need to balance policies designed to nab rapists with policies to protect innocent men from being punished with the guilty--"rape culture" already provides too many protections for both the innocent and the guilty, she believes.

Harvard is looking to revise its sexual assault policies, and has appointed student representatives to a special committee charged with reviewing current policies. Samantha A. Meier ’12, was one of the appointees to the review committee.

Is Samantha Meier representative of the student body?

Meier believes this is an “opportune time” for Harvard to take a look at its own sexual assault policies.  She hopes to discuss changing the definition of consent used by the school. "Under most legal definitions, forced sexual intercourse can be considered rape or sexual assault only when the victim said 'no' or was incapable of doing so due to the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to Meier.  Meier said that she and other students on the committee hoped to push the University instead toward an 'enthusiastic consent' model, in which an incident can be called rape in the absence of affirmative agreement."

“The only people who lose out in this model are the rapists,” said another student, who also was selected to serve on the committee.

“We all care a lot about these issues,” Meier said, “and we want Harvard to care about these issues and take them seriously.”

Who is Samantha Meier? She's a sociology "concentrator" who has taken a number of Women, Gender, and Sexuality  classes. She's even organized and moderated a feminist blogger gathering at Harvard.  (At that gathering, Sady Doyle from Tiger Beatdown discussed her Twitter campaign to respond to the “victim-blaming” and “rape apologism” that she said has characterized Michael Moore’s dismissal of Julian Assange’s sexual assault allegations.)

Are Samantha Meier's views typical of Harvard students'? I sincerely doubt it.

"Enthusiastic consent" is unworkable as either a legal standard or an official university policy. It would punish men with expulsion, in all likelihood, even if actual consent -- agreement to proceed with a sex act -- were present so long as such consent wasn't sufficiently "enthusiastic." 

Men and women, of course, do not carry "enthusiasm meters" into the bedroom, and to punish young men (and, yes, young men are the prime target) for not conforming to an artificial and politicized construct that would be fairly impossible to gauge borders on the barbaric.

It is clear beyond even a cavil that some people are incapable of showing enthusiasm even when they are enthusiastic -- about anything, sex included. Rape?

And who, on earth, would decide if the consent was "enthusiastic" anyway? 

The reality is that men and women in a committed relationship do things for each other with regularity out of love and sometimes -- perhaps often -- without all that much enthusiasm.  When my wife was trying to get pregnant, I was sometimes called to perform when it wasn't especially convenient. I suppose the erection masked the fact that my mind was worrying about a deadline for filing a brief. Was I "raped"?  Would any sane person even suggest that?

So, does Samantha Meier represent the student body, or just the feminists within the student body?

Until men -- and women -- of good will realize that they have a right, indeed a duty, to participate in the public discourse on these issues even though their views don't fit the preferred narrative, every sexual assault initiative will be steered by persons who want to re-engineer male conduct to fit a feminist ideal.  They will be steered by persons more concerned with engorging the definition of sexual assault by constricting the definition of "consent" than insuring that sexual assault policies don't punish the innocent with the guilty.

It is time for men and women of good will to inject themselves into the public discourse, and push the extremists and ideologues to the side.