Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Knox Again, Unfortunately


The retrial of Amanda Knox is a judicial catastrophe. She is the American student who was accused, along with two young men, of murdering her roommate in some kind of Halloween sex orgy in Perugia, Italy, in 2009. Her trial was a travesty to begin with, and the guilty verdict was thankfully eventually overturned, although not before she had spent four years in an Italian prison. That should certainly have been an end to it, but the prosecution and the lawyers for the parents of the murdered girl, Meredith Kercher, have succeeded in getting the case reopened.

Because of extreme mishandling of evidence and the hysterical and quasi-religious delusions of the prosecutor, the idea was planted that more had to have happened to Meredith than actually happened, and her parents were baffled when the killing turned out to be more “ordinary” than at first projected. Meredith surprised a local wastrel who had broken into the apartment she shared with three other girls. He expected that no one would be home the night of November 1, the day after Halloween and a holiday in Italy, and that cash would be around due to rents coming due at the first of the month in the student-saturated city. He then attacked, raped, and killed her. Awful, awful enough, but no sex orgy gone awry. The killer fled the city and was captured some days later. He was tried, convicted, and imprisoned; his sentence an unjustly short 16 years. That too should have been an end to it.

Part of the scenario cooked up by the prosecutor depended on the brief foray into free and casual sex that Amanda had undertaken abroad, and had written about in her journal. This somehow fit into the idea that she lured the two boys to force Meredith into sex and they wound up killing her when she wouldn’t comply. There is quite an irony in the idea of free sex being held against an American college girl, when everything in our campus and popular culture practically dictates it. Here, for example, from the preface to What Does Bowdoin Teach: How a Contemporary Liberal Arts College Shapes Students, the extensive report on Bowdoin College from the National Association of Scholars,  is the conclusion of a play presented during an orientation of new students in 2011:

Whatever you decide you want your relationship with sex to be about there are opportunities out there. Whether you want to have sex or you don’t, you’re looking for love or a one-night stand, you’re gay or straight or somewhere in between, it’s all possible. And whatever happens remember to be safe, get consent, and watch out for your friends.

As NAS president Peter Wood observes of this passage:

The crude content leads to an emphatic message that the only requirement for “any healthy sexual encounter” is “consent.” To help things along Bowdoin makes sure that a generous supply of condoms is conspicuously available on every floor of every dorm and in other public places as well. This is not just encouraging safe sex, it is encouraging sex.

Indeed, as Wood adds, it is “market[ing] sexual promiscuity to . . . students.” And yet in a different cultural context, this same kind of behavior takes on an almost gothic coloration, is coupled with murder, and is used to destroy lives. The postmodern and up-to-date meets the pre-modern and primitive. In no way did Amanda deserve what has happened to her, but clearly young people are owed a better “sex education” that is currently on offer.


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