Let’s Get Serious about Sex, cont’d.

by Carol Iannone

The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault claims that one in five women has been sexually assaulted in college. Granted, the one in five figure is the result of surveys that are aimed at constructing a broad conception of what constitutes assault. (The words rape, assault, harassment, misconduct, violence, battery, abuse, victimization, stalking, and coercion tend to elide into each other as you peruse the literature overall). We certainly don’t have to believe that these claims all involve actual rape or even serious violence, and we may suspect that many involve miscalculation, disappointment, and regret on the part of the woman. And we may even surmise that after several decades of the feminist ascendancy, women have been soundly tutored to think any questionable interchange with a male of the species is a form of assault.

Yes, the figure is being challenged as outlandish, and the definitions are slippery, but suppose we accept it as a sign that in the eyes of college women, a lot of discomfiting and unpleasant things are happening between the boys and the girls on campus these days. Isn’t it possible that the proximity of men and women in sleeping and sometimes even in bathroom arrangements in coed dormitories might, might, have something to do with that? Isn’t it worth looking into? To my knowledge, no one has investigated this aspect specifically (I wonder why), but one can glean some hints from other work. According to the Campus Sexual Assault Study, for the period 2005-2007, commissioned by the Department of Justice, assaults usually occur with someone the woman knows, and usually in her freshman and sophomore years; these are the years when students are most likely to live in dorms before many decamp to off-campus apartments. The CSA study also shows some figures that indicate a significant number of assaults occurred in the victim’s own dormitory. We might conjecture also that the familiarity of the coed dorm could lead to blurring of boundaries and unwelcome presumptions of intimacy outside of the dorms as well. In the feminist-sponsored imperative to believe that men and women are the same and so can cohabit easily together, authorities ironically find themselves confronting the fact that men and women are different in sexual attitudes and behavior. The literature mentions the need to be alert to risk factors. Well here is one—an arrangement which only yesterday would have been considered scandalous, irresponsible, dangerous, and a guarantee of trouble.

Another risk factor is drinking. According to the CSA report, “the majority of sexual assaults occur when women are incapacitated due to their use of substances, primarily alcohol.” So wouldn’t it be wise to prohibit alcohol in the dorms and to tell women to watch their drinking overall? The CSA study strongly advises that women be apprised of this risk factor, but it is not stressed in the current White House campaign. Of course, it is still wrong for a man to take advantage of an inebriated woman, and a gentleman would never do so, but to prevent trouble, women should take responsibility for their own behavior.