Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Campus Minefield of Consensual Sex

Thanks to the increasing hysteria about a “rape culture” we don’t have and irrational definitions of what constitutes sexual assault, sex on American campuses is becoming so fraught with bureaucratic oversight and legal landmines that students – especially males – may end up settling for celibacy.

Panicking about how to manage a rumored tsunami of on-campus sexual assault allegations, college administrators are constructing ever more layered legal protections. But cultural critic and intellectual provocateur Camille Paglia recently asserted that the “majority of campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault” these days are not “rape rape,” as Whoopi Goldberg put it, but merely “oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.”

One app developer hopes to make those mixed signals a thing of the past. The New York Post reports that Good2Go, free for both iPhones and Androids, “aims to solve the problem of date rape and sexual assault by making consent as easy as pressing a button.” Well, perhaps not quite that easy. Check out the awkward, sitcom-worthy, passion-killing process a couple using Good2Go must go through to ensure a bout of litigation-free lovemaking:

Picture yourself as a student in an intimate moment with a partner. You both sense that sexual congress, an archaic euphemism that does not refer to political sex scandals, is imminent. But first, you must break the spell to explain to him or her that you have to participate in a phone approval process to protect you both legally. Hand them your phone, on which the Good2Go app poses the question, “Are we Good2Go?” They choose a response and hand the phone back. “No thanks” is the answer you likely will get once your partner realizes you actually have an app on your phone to clear the way for sex.

The response “I’m Good2Go” is the green light – but only after your partner inputs a self-assessment of how drunk he or she is. If “Pretty wasted” is selected (although it’s not clear how a pretty wasted person can even find that button), the answer automatically switches to “No thanks,” and again, you’re out of luck. However, if “Sober,” “Mildly intoxicated” or “Intoxicated but Good2Go” are entered, then the app will ask for a phone number to confirm their identity. Then and only then can you both rest easy and get busy.

Unless you live in California, that is, where a new law, the first in the nation, states that “affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.” So the green light to get started is only the beginning. The law will lay down stiff penalties for colleges that don’t deal swiftly and seriously with accusations of sexual assault, so any misinterpretation during your frisky business could suddenly become very risky business.

Rape culture anxiety on campus doesn’t end there. The University of Michigan has expanded its definition of “sexual violence” to include such non-violence as “withholding sex and affection” and “discounting the partner’s feelings regarding sex.” Expect other overreacting colleges to follow suit.

But there is something more than just the fear of legal action going on here. Robert Stacy McCain believes that feminist academics are behind what he calls an “Orwellian project” of not only modifying student sexual behavior, but controlling the way students talk and even think about sex. Janet Bloomfield of A Voice For Men claims that men are the real targets of this misandrist agenda, as “normal relationship behaviors are pathologized and framed as abuse when MEN do them.” Meanwhile, women are trained “to interpret normal sexual and relationship behaviors as abuse and encouraged to have the young men they are partnering with sanctioned by the college.”

Whatever is fueling the rape culture mania, I agree with Camille Paglia that “colleges should stick to academics” and “real crimes should be reported to the police, not to haphazard and ill-trained campus grievance committees.” A more serious campus problem, Paglia warns, is that naïve young women no longer “understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage natures,” and thus are easier targets for seriously violent predators. Her solution? “The price of women’s modern freedoms is personal responsibility for vigilance and self-defense.”

Unfortunately, any call for personal responsibility these days is usually met with charges of “rape apologist” and “blaming the victim,” which solve nothing and perpetuate the victimization of women. Nevertheless – and this is not to absolve men of their responsibility – both “oafish hookup melodramas” and actual sex crimes could be more effectively reduced if female students avoid behaviors that put them at risk for sexual assault. That includes: not letting alcohol make you vulnerable; maintaining clear, open dialogue with their male sex partner from beginning to end; and being mentally and physically prepared to confront the “savage nature” of predators. To echo Paglia, that is the price for women’s sexual freedom in today’s hookup culture.

(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 10/7/14)