Drunkenness and Double Standards
A balanced look at college sex offenses.
By JAMES TARANTO
February 10, 2014
The headline in the New York Times's Education Life section reads "Stepping Up to Stop Sexual Assault." The story, by reporter Michael Winerip, is more balanced than that.
Unlike many journalists writing about this subject, Winerip acknowledges the problem of wrongful accusation. He recounts the story of Dez Wells, who was a star basketball player at Ohio's Xavier University. A female student went to the campus police claiming Wells had raped her. He denied the charge, saying that the pair had consensual sex after a game of truth or dare. Investigators concluded no rape had occurred. "It wasn't close," prosecutor Joseph Deters tells Winerip. A grand jury declined to hand up an indictment.
Deters "repeatedly tried speaking with Xavier officials, but they did not respond." Instead, they hauled Wells before a campus tribunal, which expelled him: "When Mr. Deters read the transcript of that hearing, he says: 'It shocked me. There were students on that conduct board, looking at rape kits; they'd say, "I don't know what I'm looking at." ' "
The story has about as happy an ending as such a case can have. On the strength of a character reference from the prosecutor--"I told them he was a really good kid, he'd never been in trouble with the law and I didn't believe he'd done anything wrong"--the National Collegiate Athletic Association allowed him to transfer to the University of Maryland, waiving its usual one-year delay for such actions. "Several times last season at away games, including one at Duke when he scored 30 points, fans taunted [Wells] about being a rapist, shouting, 'No means no.' " (Mike Nifong, is that you?)
Wells is suing Xavier--which, for its part, seems to have learned a lesson from the incident: "Xavier now refers all assault cases to [Deters's] office."
At the other end of the spectrum is an incident last Labor Day at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. A young man allegedly "stopped a young woman heading home alone from a party," then "pinned her against a tree and began kissing and biting her neck." She told police that he throttled her so that she couldn't yell, and that "after 10 minutes, she was thrown to the ground . . . and raped." Passersby then broke up the alleged attack, took pictures, and contacted police. The defendant, Patrick Durocher, has been charged with aggravated rape; last month he pleaded not guilty.
Winerip makes clear that the unambiguous brutality of the alleged Amherst attack is atypical. "These aren't people jumping out of the bushes," Sgt. Richard Cournoyer, a Connecticut state trooper who's investigated a dozen assault allegations against University of Connecticut students, tells the reporter. "For the most part, they're boys who had too much to drink and have done something stupid. When we show up to question them, you can see the terror in their eyes."
The main topic of Winerip's piece is a preventive program called "bystander intervention": "Mostly it is common sense," he writes: "If a drunk young man at a party is pawing a drunk young woman, then someone nearby (the bystander) needs to step in (intervene) and get one of them out of there. . . . The goal is to stop bad behavior before it crosses the line from drunken partying to sexual assault. . . . The hope is that bystander programs will have the same impact on campus culture that the designated driver campaign has had in reducing drunken driving deaths."
It sounds quite sensible, not to mention shrewd. Bystanders are encouraged to favor subtlety over confrontation, to employ "diversions" such as "suddenly turning on the lights at a party or turning off the music; accidentally spilling a drink on the guy; forming a conga line and pulling him away from the woman he's bothering and onto the dance floor. . . . In the best of circumstances, a drunken aggressor won't realize he's been had."
Winerip recounts one successful intervention that was more forthright:
Matt Martel [was on] a taxi ride home with a friend and a very drunk woman they'd met at a UMass party. "The two of them were touching, cuddling, it was obvious she was down for whatever," says Mr. Martel, a junior. "She'd lost her inhibitions to the point that it really seemed like a good idea for her to go home with this guy she hardly knew."
Mr. Martel got between them to take her back to her dorm. "I said, 'Dude, come on, she's hammered,' " he recalls. His friend was angry. "It was outright awkward," Mr. Martel says. The next day the girl thanked him, but Mr. Martel didn't take a lot of pleasure from it. "I could tell she didn't remember what she was thanking me for," he says, "but someone told her she should, so she did."
The question arises here: Whom exactly did Martel save from danger? The answer is quite possibly both the young woman and his friend. Had she awakened the next day feeling regretful and violated, she could have brought him up on charges and severely disrupted his life. Both of them were taking foolish risks, and it seems likely that he as well as she had impaired judgment owing to excessive drinking.
Winerip notes that between 2005 and 2010, "more than 60 percent of claims involving sexual violence handled by United Educators"--an insurance company owned by member schools--"involved young women who were so drunk they had no clear memory of the assault." We know from Sgt. Cournoyer that the accused young men typically are drinking to excess, too. What is called the problem of "sexual assault" on campus is in large part a problem of reckless alcohol consumption, by men and women alike. (Based on our reporting, the same is true in the military, at least in the enlisted and company-grade officer ranks.)
Which points to a limitation of the drunk-driving analogy. If two drunk drivers are in a collision, one doesn't determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver's sex. But when two drunken college students "collide," the male one is almost always presumed to be at fault. His diminished capacity owing to alcohol is not a mitigating factor, but her diminished capacity is an aggravating factor for him.
As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes, at some campuses the accuser's having had one drink is sufficient to establish the defendant's guilt:
Stanford's definition of consent to sex imposes a concept that is foreign to most people's idea of adult consent and inconsistent with California state law. Stanford policy states that sexual assault occurs "when a person is incapable of giving consent. A person is legally incapable of giving consent . . . if intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol." In other words, any sexual activity while intoxicated to any degree constitutes sexual assault. This is true even if the activity was explicitly agreed to by a person capable of making rational, reasoned decisions, and even if the partners are in an ongoing relationship or marriage.
In theory that means, as FIRE notes, that "if both parties are intoxicated during sex, they are both technically guilty of sexually assaulting each other." In practice it means that women, but not men, are absolved of responsibility by virtue of having consumed alcohol.
That is self-evidently unjust, yet it turns out to be a matter of high principle for many feminists. Last fall Slate's Emily Yoffe, the mother of a college-age daughter, was the target of a Two Minutes Hate for a post titled "College Women: Stop Getting Drunk," even though she offered the same advice to college men: "If I had a son, I would tell him that it's in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate."
One might argue, as City Journal's Heather Mac Donald does, that there are reasons to hold men in particular to high standards of behavior:
A return to an ethic where manhood consisted of treating women with special courtesy would be a victory for civilization, not just for college co-eds. The chivalric ideal recognizes two ineluctable truths: men and women are different, and the sexual battlefield is tilted in favor of males. On average, males are less emotionally affected by casual sex; if given the opportunity for a series of one-off sexual encounters with no further consequences, they will tend to seize it and never look back. . . . The less that a culture signals that men have a special duty toward the fairer sex, the more likely it is that the allegedly no-strings-attached couplings that have replaced courtship will produce doubts, anguish, and recriminations on the part of the female partner and unrestrained boorishness on the part of the male.
But as Mac Donald notes, contemporary feminists "embrace the Victorian conceit of delicate female vulnerability while leaving out the sexual modesty that once accompanied it." That they do all this in the name of equality is downright Orwellian.
MacDonald is full of sexist shit. If any man demanded that women not act like bitches and to exhibit old fashion behavior MacDonald and her ilk would seek to ruin him but it's apparently okay when women do it. Like Taranto said,it is Orwellian.