aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Sadder, but maybe not wiser

This is my two cents' worth on the subject of sexual assault on campus.

I've seen it among my own peers, back in the day, at least in terms of coerced sex. Seduction. "Oh, Baby, you can't quit on me now." And I've seen the aftermath. The tears, the anger, the humiliation when things didn't proceed according to the script you thought they would follow. This problem is as old as mankind, I suppose. Certainly, behind the flowery images in Goethe's poem Heidenröslein lies not only regret, but menace.
Sah ein Knab' ein Röslein stehn,
Röslein auf der Heiden,
War so jung und morgenschön,
Lief er schnell es nah zu sehn,
Sah's mit vielen Freuden.
Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,
Röslein auf der Heiden.

Knabe sprach: "Ich breche dich,
Röslein auf der Heiden."
Röslein sprach: "Ich steche dich,
Dass du ewig denkst an mich,
Und ich will's nicht leiden."
Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,
Röslein auf der Heiden.

Und der wilde Knabe brach
's Röslein auf der Heiden;
Röslein wehrte sich und stach,
Half ihr* doch kein Weh und Ach,
Musste* es eben leiden.
Röslein, Röslein, Röslein rot,
Röslein auf der Heiden.
In this poem, the little red hedge-rose is in fact a young girl, and the boy's desire to "pluck" her a metaphor for his transient sexual desire. She warns him that he'd better not, because this means something and it'll hurt him as much as her if they just snatch and grab at precious things. But after the deed is done, the heedless boy doesn't value what he has taken from her, and she is the one left with regrets.

This regrettable circumstance used to be controlled somewhat by a culture that valued commitment over immediate satisfaction. Universities used to attempt to restrain it, too, by instituting freshmen curfews and mono-gender dormitories. But no more. People going off to college today look forward to it as a free hook-up zone (to which they feel entitled), and colleges act as panderers in their arrangements and rules. So the heartache and misunderstanding multiplies by at least as much as the free experience of life that young people go hoping for.

All this is intensified by copious quantities of alcohol and drugs. Student drinking is an old tradition, too, going back to the Middle Ages, but there it was mostly a bunch of guys out on the town (and on foot), not co-ed partying on campus. And besides, there is so much available -- and consumed. Staggering amounts. I went off to college in the fall of 1971, and I've seen my share of doping and drinking, but what is being consumed today makes us Baby Boomers look like pikers.

Colleges used to have rules on this, too. I suppose they still do, but then, the students (or their parents) are paying customers, and they come expecting the right to blow their minds, so colleges learn not to be too effective in their enforcement of rules against substance abuse. They may have an Alcohol Awareness Week when somebody dies from binge-drinking, but that's not fooling anybody. It's all wink, nudge, Bob's your uncle, now totter off to class.

And here's what's really old news. Colleges really, really hate to have police (the real police) investigate crimes on campus. Part of this, you might think, is old town vs. gown stuff, but I remember some long talks with a fellow Scouter on the ISU campus police, as well as other talks with insiders back in the day. The deal is, no college wants to admit that sexual assault might be a problem on their campus; it makes parents (the writers of checks and cosigners of loans) reluctant to send their kids there. So, even though the campus may smile on "Take Back the Night" patrols by volunteers, they make sure that all incidents and accusations are swept into their private "police" force, for which they are very reluctant to publish hard numbers on incidents and results of investigations.

They don't mind ruining the lives and reputations of a few beta males. But their observation of the feminist pieties about "rape culture" isn't based upon real sympathy with female victims. "It's just business," as the mobster said. They know that sorting out the truth between the passionate but fuddled stories of two people who wound up in bed because they thought they both wanted it, or said they did, who therefore came together in a haze of personal and social misunderstanding and a headful of intoxicants, and who later thought otherwise about it, is all but impossible. But heaven knows, they don't want the police involved. That's bad publicity! And so we have show trials, complete with spectral evidence: conviction as soon as somebody "cries out" upon you.

Then enter a real predator or two. They may be horrified, but they still don't want the real police to investigate. So they go from a pretense of justice where no justice can be established, as in the case of all the misguided or on-the-make adolescents whose stories can never be unwound, to actively conspiring to cover up provable crimes for which some people ought to be serving hard time.

Which leads us to the current controversy over Rolling Stone's story on an alleged gang rape on the University of Virginia campus. We're all arguing over ideology and demanding people be thrown off various cliffs, but there's a way to establish the truth of the matter. Let the real police investigate. The reporter says a horrible crime has been committed. Let the accuser be contacted. Let actual interrogations and reconstructions proceed. And if the university administrators balk, charge them with covering up a crime, and we'll see how fast we get to the bottom of the whole story. My guess is, they'll be dumped by their Trustees, and we'll have the truth of the matter, be it whatever it is, in short order.

And if, at the bottom, it's just another tangled mess that nobody can prove conclusively one way or another in a court of law, well that's instructive to find out. Also instructive would be a thorough investigation -- with real statistics -- of all the forms of crime (not just sexual misconduct) on the UVA campus. At least then the people who pay for everything can decide if they want their little darlings attending that college.

Meanwhile, it's important that we work to reconstruct a proper understanding of sex and relationships and to spread a general reformation of manners throughout our society. I suspect the American college campus will resist that, even be the last redoubt of this ideology of compulsory and joyless hedonism. But even those walls may be breached some day. We may never see a return to colleges acting in loco parentis, but maybe we can see the end of their acting in loco Pandaro and then blaming others for it.

Perhaps a quote from Shakespeare would be appropriate to end this rant.
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

*In Schubert's composition, these are ihm and musst.

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