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A few years ago, one of my male co-workers was telling a story about his first semester at college. Let’s call him Ted. Ted had just gotten back from a party, and walked into his dorm room to find his roommates having rough sex with a drunk girl. From the way he told the story, she was too drunk to really know what was going on. The roommates asked if he wanted to join them, and he said no. Mind you, this wasn’t because he had a problem with what was going on—he just thought it would be awkward.
This was a new job, and I barely knew Ted, so of course I drew a whole bunch of conclusions about him. He was telling a group of us this story about interrupting what was most likely rape, and laughing about it. For him, it was just one of the many raunchy, drunken moments of freshman year. For the girl, it might have caused irreparable damage.
The thing is, I ended up liking Ted a lot more than I thought I would. He wasn’t a monster, or a misogynist, at least not by my standards. He was easy to talk to, friendly, and seemed to treat his girlfriend well. His cavalier attitude about what he saw that night wasn’t so much a reflection of his character, but of the world we live in. Rape culture is real, and there probably aren’t many places where it thrives more than a college campus. Does that excuse rapists? Absolutely not, but it might excuse the naivety of a guy like Ted. Ted never took a women’s studies course, and he probably never spent time browsing Jezebel. In Ted’s eyes, things are more black and white. Rape takes place in a dark alley at 4 in the morning, not a frat house.
But in this Bloomberg News article, Harvard psychologist William Pollack says that the tables are starting to turn. Society has started to become more aware of what goes on behind closed doors. Survivors and activists are speaking up to let the rest of the world know that no matter how drunk she is, or how short her skirt was, no still means no.
Good, right? Not for hook-up culture, according to Pollack. He told Bloomberg News that this increased awareness of sexual assault–especially on college campuses–is scaring the wrong guys. According to Pollack, it’s creating a “witch hunt” environment. Meaning, college men are being overcautious, and missing out on hookups that are consensual.
In my opinion, this is a small price to pay in exchange for a world where men think it’s acceptable to have sex with women who are too drunk to speak. In other words, rape culture.
Are rape culture and hook-up culture so closely related that one cannot exist without the other? Does a Harvard professor really think that college boys—excuse me, adult men—can’t discern between a girl who’s tipsy and a girl who is unconscious?
Well, I don’t think that’s the case. The alleged decline in hook-up culture is, according to the Bloomberg article, a reaction to the highly publicized cases of falsely accused rape. But although these cases receive tons of media attention—and subsequently, widespread paranoia—they are extremely rare. To put it in perspective, an average straight male has a better chance of getting killed by a comet or an asteroid than getting falsely accused of rape. Even so, men are not taking any chances.
As one of Pollack’s patients told him, “A vision of his school’s disciplinary board flew into his head,” right as he started to make out with a girl.
“’I want to go to law school or medical school after this,’” Pollack said, recounting the student’s comments. “‘I said to her, it’s been nice seeing you.’”
Because, obviously, no one has ever gotten into law school if they’ve made it to first base.
For the record, I give this person credit for trying to do the right thing, however misguided his judgment. But that doesn’t mean I sympathize with his plight. There are worse things than not getting laid your freshman year. Like, for example, getting raped.
I might be way off base here, but if men are collectively being more cautious when it comes to hookups as a result of an increased awareness of sexual assault, isn’t that … a good thing?
And let’s be honest—it’s not a collective movement. The Bloomberg article didn’t link to a single study about the effects of sexual-assault-paranoia and dwindling college hookups, because there are none. Instead, the bulk of the argument was based on anecdotes from several students and a psychologist. Which is, as anyone who’s taken a college statistics class will know, simply not enough proof.
So, no, guys, unless your sex life relies on Rohypnol, that pesky movement to end sexual assault is not going to ruin it.