Friday, November 11, 2011

Elon University's war on men

Elon University, a private liberal arts university in North Carolina, is out to re-engineer by fiat male sexual conduct by mandating that consent to engage in sexual relations may only be obtained in narrow, carefully proscribed ways. Elon's policy is as extreme, and as anti-male, as any we've seen lately, and young men and parents of young men at Elon should be aware of it.

Verbal Consent: Elon says that effective consent may only be obtained with "a comprehensible, unambiguous, verbal, positive and enthusiastic statement of consent for each sexual act . . . ."  While the definition is ostensibly gender neutral (political correctness mandates nothing less), the unmistakable goal is to deconstruct, and then reconstruct, Elon men to create a female-friendly, sexual utopia on campus.

The problem with Elon's definition, of course, is that it punishes men for engaging in sexual relations even when actual consent is present if consent is not obtained in the "proper" Elon-manner, and that is sick beyond measure.

There is a world of difference between interactions that occur in the bedroom and those that occur in the boardroom. Unlike the latter, the former have never been marked by carefully phrased language crafted from legal formbooks, but rather by looks, nods, gentle caresses, and barely decipherable grunts emanating from sweaty embraces. Often the entire encounter is, to paraphrase the eminent Judge Cardozo, instinct with consent, imperfectly expressed.

But the progressives at Elon who control the public discourse on all things gender have decided they know better than our ancestors, and they have tossed eons of cumulative human experience onto a scrapheap of feminist indifference. Their hubris borders on the pathological.

Enthusiastic Consent: The Elon definition also requires that consent be "enthusiastic," a condition, no doubt, that is gauged by the "enthusiasm meters" Elon surely has installed in young women's bedrooms (because how else would "enthusiasm" be measured to discern if a violation of this policy has occurred?). The fact that some people are incapable of showing much enthusiasm about anything, even when they are much enthused, seems to have escaped the notice of the enlightened feminists at Elon. Sex with such persons would always be rape.

Unimpaired Consent: Elon's Web site doesn't stop there. It also mandates that consent be "unimpaired" from alcohol or drugs. Note that it does not talk of "incapacitation," but of "impairment," and Elon's definition exceeds even the Title IX standard mandated by the über-feminist Department of Education. As explained by Brett Sokolow, founder of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management that advises colleges on sex policies: ". . . being impaired while engaging in sex in no way implicates Title IX. . . .  incapacitated sex will implicate Title IX, but confusing incapacitation with impairment helps no one here, especially the students who are trying to understand their experiences." and

Verbal or Emotional Pressure: Elon's Web site doesn't stop there. It also says that "consent cannot be established if one person is pressuring the other - this can be . . . verbal or emotional pressure." Let us understand what this means: men who do what society has been telling them to do for decades -- ask for sex before proceeding -- are punished for asking in a boorish, immature, or annoying manner, even when the woman agrees to proceed.

Consent has its roots in contract law, and the closest concept in the common law to sexual coercion is duress, a concept employed to invalidate contracts. A contract is voidable for duress if a victim's manifestation of assent has been induced by an improper threat, and if the victim has no reasonable alternative but to agree. Nagging for sex does not involve an improper threat, and a woman has a reasonable alternative to proceeding in the face of nagging: she can say no, and she can walk away.  Aside from trivializing the experience of actual rape victims, this standard is insulting to women since it assumes they are more akin to infants than free moral agents capable of saying "yes" when they want sex, and "no" when they don't.

Moreover, fundamental notions of fairness dictate that college rules of conduct also be sufficiently definite to warn the accused when he's in violation of them. College sex policies should not be free-floating standards of purported misconduct -- rape in the air -- that mean whatever some arbitrary disciplinary hearing panel say they mean. The Elon definition would not pass Constitutional muster. A man can, presumably, ask for sex, but he can't ask too much -- but how much is too much? When does asking become nagging? When does "seduction" turn into "coercion"? The indistinct line he's told he can't cross is as clear as a dense New England fog. There is no mistaking midnight for noon, but at what point does twilight become night? Here, it's impossible to say.

Conclusion: Sexual assault laws and policies should not be a clearinghouse to redress every less than ideal sexual encounter. The only pertinent inquiry should be whether the woman manifested consent to engage in the sex act when she had a reasonable alternative not to.  Once such consent is found, Big Brother/Sister should stay out of the bedroom.

To her credit, Whitney Gregory, director of Student Conduct at Elon, admits that "students don't always find it practical to pursue a verbal agreement to engage in sexual activity, and so verbal consent is not always the standard by which the outcome of cases is determined."  But Anne Royster, director of Student Development, former coordinator for Elon's personal health programs and community well-being, has heard countless students' accounts of sexual violence and assault and said she believes and practices that effective consent cannot be given in the absence of a verbal "yes," even if body language and lack of a verbal "no" indicate otherwise. She also said she also doesn't think effective consent can be given between two individuals having met each other for the first time at a party — a potential stage-setter for regretted sex. See here:

That's the same Anne Royster who doesn't think false false rape claims should be highly publicized. See here:

Elon's policy seems premised not on sound principles of public policy, but on gender get-evenism. It is the product of the politics of revenge. Young men thinking of attending Elon need to be aware of it.