How Our "Rape Culture" Came About

A lesson in unintended consequences.

As my granddaughter got serious about saving for college, I read about "rape culture" with more interest.  The Rolling Stone story of rape at UVA was untrue, but the police officer who reported that the rape hadn't occurred said it was obvious that the alleged victim had suffered "severe trauma."  If my granddaughter suffers severe trauma, it won't matter to me whether it's illegal, immoral, or what, I'd rather it didn't happen.

Non-Consensual Severe Trauma

It's hard to see clearly through all the ideological smoke, but it seems that young ladies' well-being is more at risk than when I entered MIT in 1963.  It's clear, however, that many incidents of "severe trauma" are alcohol related.

Collegians' instincts haven't changed, any more than human nature has.  If you put college-age kids in a bag and shake it, you get couples just as in ancient times.

Alcohol hasn't changed either.  As always, "Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker."  Take couples and add alcohol, you get coupling, even if the outcome might be traumatic for some.

If neither booze, boys, nor girls have changed, what has?  Our drinking laws.

My freshman year, the drinking age was 18 which let just about all students drink legally.  The administration always had at least one faculty couple at dorm or frat parties.  One professor and his wife couldn't proctor hundreds of kids, so MIT also had a Judicial Committee of elected seniors and grad students who took turns being non-drinking "designated adults."  The DAs intervened before trauma could occur.

Was this a perfect system?  No, not any more than chaperons had been perfect when I was in high school.  Was there sex?  Of course.  Was some of it less consensual than would be ideal?  Yep.  Were there incidents of "severe trauma?"  Sure, but not nearly as many as we have now.

What changed?  The drinking age was boosted to 21.  Faculty and judcomm members faced severe legal liability for letting under-age students drink, so they stopped having official parties.

Students away from home for the first time were just as interested in booze as before; the law didn't stop kids drinking any more than prohibition stopped Al Capone from brewing.  The law forced drinking underground where the administration couldn't influence outcomes.  There wasn't any less "underage" drinking than before.  In fact, it seems like there's more drinking because there's nobody around to inject a voice of sanity and good sense into an alcohol-sozzled young mind.

Set free of adult restraint, sophomoric libidos rage and the end result is "severe trauma."  Kids haven't changed at all - the same thing would have happened in my day without adult supervision.

I remember reading that the Mothers Against Drunk Driving felt filled with satisfied virtue when they finally got the drinking age raised all across America.  My European friends were aghast - how could it be illegal for parents and teachers to instruct youngsters how to handle alcohol and watch out for them as they learned what it did to their minds and bodies?

With the very best of intentions, I doubt that the Mothers realized that outlawing adult supervision of college drinking parties could lead to our current "rape culture."  "Severe trauma" of a sexual nature is probably better than being killed in an auto accident, but the goal wasn't to keep college kids from drinking all, per se; the goal was to keep them from killing themselves through drunken driving.  The blunt instrument of outlawing all youthful drinking regardless of circumstances or chaperonage has had unintended consequences.

Consensual Severe Trauma

Lack of consent isn't required for "severe trauma" to result from inter-gender interaction.  Miriam Grossman's book "Unprotected" discusses her experiences as a mental-health counselor at a girls' college.  In spite of all the feminist rhetoric about "the pill" making it possible for women to have recreational sex as men do, it seems that sexual interaction leads an appreciable fraction of college girls get emotionally involved with their boyfriends to the point of being badly hurt when the relationship falls apart.  It wasn't politically correct for Ms. Grossman to say so, but adding sex, even desired consensual sex, to the mix often makes the breakup harder for the girls.

This isn't news.  Centuries ago, King Solomon wrote, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." If a girl gives her heart to a boy before he's committed to taking care of her, she's in for a world of hurt.

I can tell my granddaughter to stay away from parties where alcohol is served, but there are non-alcoholic ingredients that will cloud her judgment and make her vulnerable.  She should avoid gatherings which lack adult chaperons.  If that means staying away from most parties, so be it.

I wish our colleges hadn't abandoned their longstanding role of protecting students from immature instincts.  The results we see today are in no way an improvement.  If my granddaughter's careful where she goes, she can probably avoid non-consensual trauma, but she'll also have to guard her heart.

This article was reprinted from a different site. Commentary may be added.  Read other articles by Guest Editorial or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

Parents can still alcohol-train their children at home, regardless of the 21 age rule.

Most states allow exceptions if it's private property, not a place where alcohol is sold and there's parental consent:

April 14, 2015 11:26 AM

Please don't forget the drug and marijuana culture that turns our kids into dullards. Nothing matters when you fare baked.

We are turning into a county of youthful zombies.

April 14, 2015 1:56 PM

"Were there incidents of "severe trauma?" Sure, but not nearly as many as we have now."

This is the lynchpin of this article, but you provide no evidence for it at all. How do you know that there are many more incidents now?

April 14, 2015 2:08 PM

Seems to me like it's simple common sense: back in the day, there were a) proportionately fewer women who b) lived in separate dorms watched over by c) older ladies rather than their peers. Obviously in those circumstances there would be fewer opportunities for unpleasant events - certainly not **no** chance, but a lot less.

April 14, 2015 2:11 PM

Patience, on the other hand, it has been said that, back in the day, there was a lot more fear of ridicule and scorn when it came to reporting men for sexual inappropriateness. If reported at all, the administration would white-wash over it, often pushing the female out, to save face and reputation. Universities had a much higher male to female ratio. Females stood up for themselves much less than now. At least that is the narrative.

April 14, 2015 2:21 PM

lfon, that is true. I think by definition it would be impossible to prove statistically, but I suspect that the underlying truth is:

a) In past times, women were far less likely to be abused
b) BUT for those unfortunate women who DID get abused, they were far less likely to have any kind of justice done on their behalf.

So that leads to a moral question. Is it better to have (say) 1 victim for whom nothing is done, or 10 victims, 7 of which get appropriate redress?

April 14, 2015 2:33 PM

I just don’t know how anyone can chuck the rape culture up to just alcohol. Those of us who are mature enough to have been paying attention, also see the moral decay that underpins all of society now.
You take young people below the age of 45,which includes a very large number having been reared in single parent households where absolutely no responsibility was demanded, and you can see what the end results might look like.Add to that the fact that the country is saturated with illegal drugs that are popularized, glorified, used like candy, and kids are bullied and ostracized if they don’t use them.
Also, we can’t ignore an entire school system that spans 16 plus years and produces young people that are barely literate.
The dangerous truths that everyone should find disturbing is the realization that todays young people have no sense of right and wrong and no sense of respect for the sanctity of human life.
Just remember, a decreasing number of these people will also procreate.

April 14, 2015 4:17 PM

There's another factor different from "back in the day:" more -- many, many more -- too many, in fact -- women in college.

The chief result of this is that each woman's individual value decreases with so many more all around; in other words, if this one won't give Joe College what he wants, there will be another one along in a minute. Combine this with the idiocy, selfishness, and short-sightedness of feminist culture, and you have a real mess on your hands.

April 15, 2015 7:25 AM

Another change - the definitions of rape and the now encompassing sexual assault, with the larger umbrella of misogyny.

The last on the list, misogyny, has become the linchpin of rape culture. Every joke, drunken hook-up, look, comment, book, movie, sports team, fraternity, video game etc. become evidence of rape culture. That has fueled the expansion and blurring of the sexual assault definition.

We have a misogynist culture of rapists in training lying in wait to rape pretty young coeds (don't mention those non-college women - who cares if they are more likely to be raped). To prove our point, we simply redefine sexual assault to include pretty common behavior, including kissing, touching, revoking consent after the fact when the person is drunk, etc.

When we look at rape rates, as defined by the criminal definition, they are down nearly 80% since the early 1990s. But we don't want that to get out.

April 18, 2015 4:57 PM

Yes, today's alcohol-lubricated casual hookup culture on campus has contributed to many so-called "sexual assault" claims, typically precipitated by next-day (or next month) regret.

But "rape culture" did not begin with the raising of the drinking age, because it's a myth created by a radical feminist movement more interested in securing additional privileges for women by denying fundamental rights to men and by demonizing men as walking libidos in need of restraint.

The most recent and most exhaustive DOJ study found that campus rape is quite rare (0.2% per year), that the campus is a far safer place for young women than the rest of America and that campus sexual assault has declined in frequency by 50% since the late 1990s.

For the backstory on the way the meme of "rape culture" was created from misandric feminist dogma and eventually insinuated itself into almost every facet of US society, including nearly every media story on the "epidemic" of campus sexual assault, Google: All Sex is Rape – All Men are Rapists

For an in-depth expose of the evolution of universities from institutions of higher learning into witch-hunt tribunals for the “rape culture” advocates, Google: New Puritanism – New Paternalism: The “Rape Culture” Narrative Demeans Women, Demonizes Men, and Turns Universities into Witch Hunt Tribunals

April 18, 2015 6:00 PM

Of course it's a lie - how else ca liberals get power? They don't offer anything constructive.

April 20, 2015 7:53 PM
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...