Drunken Hook-Ups a Thing of the Past?

It happens often: People get drunk and hook-up.  If this is a shock to you, then I doubt you’ve been to college.  However, the days of “getting lucky” are over.  Instead of luck, it is considered rape.

Wait.  What?

Just recently, after complaints about sexually hostile environments on campuses, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Russlynn Ali sent a nineteen page letter to all schools that receive federal aid outlining how they are supposed to combat the trend of increasing sexual violence at college — but the data on this “trend” are murky, at best.

Before knowing how to curb the problem, sexual violence needs to be defined.  According to Title IX and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), “any intentional sexual touching, however slight, with any object, by a man or a woman upon a man or a woman, without consent” is considered rape.  That sounds fair after reading it only once.  But then consider that consent is defined as active and not passive.  Although I understand rape can occur even when a woman/man does not stop a man/woman from progressing sexually, that does not excuse Title IX’s overtly vague definition of sexual assault, which — though it may be meant well — I’d argue is more about controlling students (the great majority of whom are adults) than protecting women.  Consider this explanation of appropriate sexual conduct by one university’s women’s center from a few years ago:

If you want to take her blouse off, you have to ask. If you want to touch her breast, you have to ask. If you want to move your hand down to her genitals, you have to ask. If you want to put your finger inside her, you have to ask.

First, that seems unessecarily graphic.  Second, the language presupposes that in every rape instance the man is the rapist (I will touch on this, only with consent, later).  Third, I’m not here to argue that consent is not necessary; of course, consent is necessary.  But it is not always going to be active and, quite franky, it usually won’t be.  The federal government mandating that you pose a question before every single sexual step is completely ridiculous; it is a definite moment killer to have government regulations in your bedroom.  The last person I want to have a threesome with is a federal employee.  Let’s be honest.

Still, according to Title IX and the federal government, active consent is always needed.  So, back to the first topic of drunken hook-ups: What happens when a guy and a girl are intoxicated?  As is well known, when people are intoxicated they tend to do things they normally would not do.  Things just happen and usually both parties, in the moment at least, are acting in a way that would verify consent.  Brett Sokolow, the founder of the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management, disagrees.  He believes that drunk women never give consent at all, no matter how they act, and it is the man’s “job…to figure that out—and to err on the side of caution.” 

This is dangerous in a multifaceted way.  First, it implies that women are not capable of making rational choices by themselves; it completely infanticizes them.  Women, just like men, can make the decision to get drunk and have sex if they want.  It is a slap in the face to any woman to say that men need to control these types of situations simply because the woman is not capable.  Second, as I promised to return to, it implies that the man is inherently always the rapist.  This definitely is not true.  And if the woman cannot give consent when she is drunk, why is the man expected to be able to?  If they both don’t give consent, isn’t it a double-negative?

In addition to this, the way that colleges are expected to carry out the investigations are completely ludicrous.  Now, according to OCR’s rules, there no longer needs to be “clear and convincing evidence” and the incident does not need to be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt”.  Instead, there simply needs to be a “preponderance of…evidence”.  This basically means 50.1% is good enough.  This absolutely stampedes over college students’ individual rights.

As Peter F. Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University, points out, this isn’t even feasible.  He argues that colleges have been “lured into doing something in a criminal justice model that the criminal justice system itself hasn’t been able to deal with.”  In essence: Colleges are not courts and administrators are not judges.

Sexual assault certainly is not a light manner; although I did manage to include humor in this post, it was about the policies and not the actual problem of rape, which I am not minimizing.  The point I’m really trying to make is that the over-bureaucratization of government has a huge effect on our lives as young people.  Undoubtedly, the nanny-state is infecting our colleges and this is just another example.  Big Brother is indeed watching…you in bed.

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