Category Archives: sexuality

The date-rape debate redux

Yes, I know that this blog has been gathering dust for a while, and I’ve kept meaning to come back to it.  I don’t know if I’m back on a regular basis (too much else on my plate right now), but I will try to blog at least part-time.

And I’ll start off with a follow-up to my recent Boston Globe column (April 14) on the new sexual misconduct policy at Duke University.  An excerpt:

The policy, introduced last fall but recently challenged by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, co-founded by Boston attorney Harvey Silverglate, targets “sexual misconduct’’ — everything from improper touching to forced sex. Some of the examples given in the text of the policy, such as groping an unwilling woman’s breasts, are clearly sexual offenses not just under university regulations but under the law.

But the policy’s far-reaching definition of sex without “affirmative consent’’ covers much more. Unlike the notorious Antioch College rules of the 1990s that required verbal consent to every new level of intimacy, Duke’s policy recognizes non-verbal expressions of consent. However, it stresses that “consent may not be inferred from silence [or] passivity’’ — even in an ongoing sexual relationship.

What’s more, consent can be invalidated by various circumstances — not just obvious ones such as being threatened or unconscious, but also being intoxicated to any degree, or “psychologically pressured,’’ or “coerced.’’ The latter is an extremely broad term, particularly since the policy warns that “real or perceived power differentials . . . may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion.’’ As FIRE has noted, a popular varsity athlete may face a presumption of coercion in any relationship with a fellow student.

Meanwhile, women, the default victims in the Duke policy, are presumed passive and weak-minded: Goddess forbid they should take more than minimal responsibility for refusing unwanted sex. In one of the policy’s hypothetical scenarios, a woman tells her long-term boyfriend she’s not in the mood, but then “is silent’’ in response to his continued non-forcible advances; if he takes this as consent and they have sex, that is “sexual misconduct.’’ Why she doesn’t tell him to stop remains a mystery.

The man’s behavior may be inconsiderate. However, adult college students have no more of a right to be protected from such ordinary pressures in relationships than, say, from being cajoled into buying expensive gifts for their significant other.

On April 20, I received an email from my occasional sparring partner Barry, a.k.a. Ampersand, of Alas, a Blog.  Sayeth Barry (posted here with his kind permission): Continue reading

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Filed under academia, feminism, rape, sexuality, women

With intellectuals like these, there’s something to be said for anti-intellectualism

The annual meeting of the Modern Language Association dedicates a panel to conference sex.

Alas, with no public demonstrations of the subject at hand. Though one speaker, New York University professor Ann Pellegrini, did conduct her presentation clad in a bathrobe. (Okay, over her clothes.)

Speaker Jennifer Drouin, assistant professor of English and women’s studies at Allegheny College, discussed the fascinating subject of the varieties of conference sex, from cruising by gay male scholars at local gay bars to “‘bi-curious’ experimentation by ‘nerdy academics trying to be more hip’” to “the ‘conference sex get out of jail free’ card that attendees (figuratively) trade with academic partners, permitting each to be free at their respective meetings” to monogamous sex between long-distance spouses or partners who are separated by their careers and reunite at conferences. (In the comments on the Inside Higher Ed report, a couple of people lamented the stereotyping implicit in the suggestion that only gay men pursue casual sex; Drouin helpfully explained that in her presentation, she “lamented the lack of designated cruising spaces, such as bars, bathhouses, and parks, for people other than gay men, especially the lack of cruising spaces for lesbians.”)

More gems:

Milton Wendland of the University of Kansas linked the jargon and exchanges of academic papers to academic conference sex. The best papers, he said, “shock us, piss us off, connect two things” that haven’t previously been connected. “We mess around with ideas. We present work that is still germinating,” he said. So too, he said, a conference is “a place to fuck around physically,” and “not as a side activity, but as a form of work making within the space of the conference.”
At a conference, he said, “a collegial discussion of methodology becomes foreplay,” and the finger that may be moved in the air to illuminate a point during a panel presentation (he demonstrated while talking) can later become the finger touching another’s skin for the first time in the hotel room, “where we lose our cap and gown.”
For gay men like himself, Wendland said, conference sex is particularly important as an affirmation of elements of gay sexuality that some seem to want to disappear. As many gay leaders embrace gay marriage and “heteronormative values,” he said, it is important to preserve other options and other values.
Conference sex encounters become more than mere dalliance and physical release,” he said. It is a stand against the “divorcing physicality from being human, much less queer,” he said.

Meanwhile, in her speech, the bathrobe-clad Ann Pellegrini made a poignant complaint:

Academics are regularly “accused of speaking only about ourselves,” she said. “But when we venture out into public square,” and try to share both their knowledge and beliefs, “we are accused of being narcissistic” and of speaking only in “impenetrable jargon.”

Gee, I wonder why.

Another speaker, Daniel Contreras of Fordham University, wondered: “Did eight years of Bush drain away any energy we might have had for intellectual exploration?”

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. Who needs parody?

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Filed under academia, feminism, sexuality