The last time this site reported on a Feminist article on AlterNet Education it was by Dr. Nancy Cohen who complained that a school’s “no bellies, buns, or breasts” dress code promotes “rape culture.” Today we have a somewhat higher quality gem from Alternet Ed titled “Feminist Activists Launch A Consent Guide To Help Fight Rape Culture On College Campuses.” From the article:
A sexual assault prevention group is launching a college-themed guide for consensual sexual activity, hoping to inspire students to implement programs on their own campuses that will help encourage “the culture of consent.”
The online magazine includes profiles of college activists who are working to encourage healthy sexual relationships at their schools, quizzes to help readers assess how well their own university is handling these issues, information about federal laws that forbid gender discrimination in academic settings, and suggestions for campus events to spread the word about consent.
When a person’s understanding of the level of required consent is below the legal standard, acting upon it becomes an act of rape. When a person’s understanding of consent is above the legal standard and that person accuses someone of rape under those erroneous standards, it is a false accusation of rape. What this means is that any guide to consent needs to provide clear and consistent standards that are reflected in the law. Unfortunately, that is not what this guide does.
For example, on page 5 it says “Consent is a verbal agreement between two people about how and when they are comfortable having sex.” And on page 12: “Consent needs to be verbal because body language can be misinterpreted.” While body language can indeed be misinterpreted, the idea that consent needs to be verbal for it to be genuine is incorrect. According to this guide, a woman who wants to have sex can nod her head, she can wink, lick her lips, smile, grab a man’s penis and pull him toward her vagina, but if she doesn’t specifically say “yes,” he’s a rapist. This is incorrect.
Page 12: “Consent must be enthusiastic!” Wrong. Enthusiastic consent makes for better sex, but “enthusiasm” does not make or break consent. Remember that consent is an element of everything that we do. If you make a donation to a charity, does it have to be “enthusiastic” for it to be consensual? And when an administrator is hearing a case and determining whether it was rape or sex, how would (s)he really measure “enthusiasm” anyway?
Page 13: “No means no.” Question: if a man says “would you like to have sex” and a woman smiles and in a sarcastic and teasing tone says “no, that would be horrible!” while pulling the man’s penis into her, is it rape? Or think about it this way: if “no always means no” regardless of body language, location, context, tone, and so forth, does yes always mean yes regardless of those factors as well? If a man puts a gun to a woman’s head and says “will you have sex with me” and she says “yes,” is it consensual? Or is it not always that simple?
And let’s remember that while most Feminists agree that “no means no,” not all of them agree that yes means yes. Feminist professor Susan Estrich says in her landmark book Real Rape (page 318), “Many feminists would argue that so long as women are powerless relative to men, viewing ‘yes’ as a sign of true consent is misguided.” Similarly, Feminist professor Carol Pateman of UCLA says in “Women and Consent,” published in Political Theory (vol. 8, p. 149): “Consent as ideology cannot be distinguished from habitual acquiescence, assent, silent dissent, submission, or even enforced submission. Unless refusal or consent or withdrawal of consent are real possibilities, we can no longer speak of ‘consent’ in any genuine sense.”
Coming back to the “consent guide”:
Page 21: “[Being] drunk does not equal consent.” Not necessarily. Being drunk to the point of incapacitation (being wasted) is nonconsent. Numerous colleges make this distinction. For example, Kennesaw State University’s student handbook (page 188) says that nonconsent is present when someone is “incapacitated by drugs, alcohol, or medication.” It does not reference the state of “being drunk,” let alone refer to it as a determinative factor.
The idea that drunk people are responsible for their actions is understood in virtually every act other and situation than women and sex. When people drive while drunk, they are arrested – regardless as to whether they were asked repeatedly (“coerced”) by their friends to drive them from Point A to Point B. When drunk people use drugs, they get busted. When drunk people beat their spouses, their children, or assault others, they are arrested. Being drunk does not mean you are not responsible for what you do. Unless – according to a Feminist – you are a woman in a place where you can substantially deprive a man of his liberty, or destroy his career or reputation by a mere accusation.
This guide also foments rape hysteria by radically overstating the degree of sexual assault on college campuses. For example, page 15 says “nearly 1 out of 4 college-aged women are sexually assaulted or raped.” This isn’t anywhere near the truth. Simply compare the campus crime reports of any university you want and – even if you factor in underreporting – the numbers will be orders of magnitude below the 1 in 4 figure.
At my alma mater A&M-Commerce, a school with ~11,000 students, the crime reports document an average of one sexual assault accusation a year…if you round up. And that’s just an accusation. It’s not saying whether the accusation was true or false. But according to the 1 in 4 figure, there would be around one thousand rapes at A&M-Commerce every year. Yes, other universities have higher figures. But they also have much higher enrollments as well.
What’s the problem with radically overstating the prevalence of rape? It rationalizes indifference toward men and boys who are falsely accused of rape. Indeed, it sometimes rationalizes false rape accusations themselves.
TIME magazine reports of a college senior named Ginny who says “If a woman did falsely accuse a man of rape, she may have had reasons to. Maybe she wasn’t raped, but he clearly violated her in some way.” And in the same article assistant dean of students Catherine Comins says of male students who are falsely accused of rape, “They have a lot of pain, but it is not a pain that I would necessarily have spared them. I think it ideally initiates a process of self-exploration. ‘How do I see women?’ ‘If I didn’t violate her, could I have?’ ‘Do I have the potential to do to her what they say I did?’ Those are good questions.”
Similarly, Sophomore Emily Lloyd at Oberlin College says of male students who are falsely accused of rape “so many women get their lives totally ruined by being assaulted and not saying anything. So if one guy gets his life ruined, maybe it balances out.”
Can you imagine what would happen if students and administrators advocated that women deserve to be raped as some kind of “payback” for false rape accusations, or as a means to “walk a mile in men’s shoes”? It would be unthinkable. But under today’s climate of rape hysteria, these things are rationalized.
The problem with this guide? Any woman who believes it actually tells the truth about consent will be more likely to make a false accusation of rape. This is not a nuanced guide that provides a holistic interpretation of consent, weighed and balanced against a variety of factors. It is a political Feminist document, seeking to do little more than broaden the definition of a crime to snag as many men as possible – both innocent and guilty – in a web of destruction.
As is often the case when it comes to Feminism, those most in need of re-education are the re-educators themselves.