Letter to the Editor: Prevent sexual assualt; practice restraint

March 4, 2015

In her hit song “Timber,” music artist Kesha suggests to her male counterpart that they “make a night you won’t remember,” since she will be “the one you won’t forget.” For his part, he speculates that “she say [sic] she won’t, but I bet she will.” That lyrical gem belongs to the rapper Pitbull, not the Bill Cosby chronicles. Still, it behooves us to take seriously this comparison. I don’t make it lightly.

These lyrics came to mind both as I heard President Obama invoke the oft-repeated, if slightly suspect, statistic that 1 in 5 women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted, and when I read the Royal Purple’s account of the recently closed sexual assault case on our campus.

It would seem that a culture which glorifies sexual liberation and sex itself as the ultimate in self-actualization worries very little about the details or their outcomes. Liberation as we have defined it means that indulging every whimsical desire is not only acceptable but also pleasingly subversive. Yet the intent of that message seems to have been lost on predatory males, who enthusiastically view the current landscape as one of opportunity. Memory lapses caused by inebriety are all the rage, and yet, as the statistics would indicate, they are not without consequence.

As we usher in an era of federal intervention into campus sexual assault cases, some alternative and more organic recommendations for sex assault prevention might be in order. It also might be appropriate, if impolitic, to ask how, decades after shedding antiquated patriarchal norms regarding sexuality, we have descended into this countercultural morass. After all, as is now the socio-legalistic norm, ferreting out the root cause of a crime is as important as punishing it.

We live in an age when holding the door open for a female classmate might constitute a microaggression, and so we are perhaps less courteous to one another. Our culture denigrates as artificial constructs such virtues as temperance, constancy and sobriety. And so we have a “rape culture,” where old-fashioned preliminaries to sex – such as dating – are seen as quaint historical relics. We have subverted any claims to natural modesty, for men or women, and equated it pejoratively with inhibition and oppression. So copious amounts of alcohol are needed to facilitate “liberation.”

It is my contention, then, albeit a provocative one, that both men and women are better protected when observing even a modicum of restraint, something that had been culturally inscribed during those heady days of patriarchy. My advice to students would be to, yes, resist rape culture and take responsibility for your actions while looking out for the safety of others. But perhaps ever more importantly, act with dignity and respect that of others. Honor yourselves, your peers and the true purpose of academic life. And, minimally, hold the door open for one another. The risk of being called sexist might be worth the chance of meeting someone who appreciates the gesture. That person might even be worth dating.

Dr. Mark Zunac
Assistant Professor of English

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