It would likely be considered unseemly for a newspaper, say one as well-regarded as the Gray Lady herself, to put out a notice that it would like to publish a story about a particular identity group being victimized, so if you’re a member of that group and want to see your name in print, manufacture a claim of victimization and become famous! After all, newspapers report news, not create the news they want to report.
At least, that was the idea way back when. Today, there is a more social media perspective, where one sniffs the air for the stench of outrage and then solicits the stories that emit the desired odor.
It’s not so flagrant as to say outright that yesterday’s consensual sex should be today’s rape, but clearly suggests that women revisit their dalliances for the purpose of expressing why, in retrospect, their good times are now their worst nightmare. And create a story where none exists that just so happens to reinforce the narrative they’re trying to feed their hungry readers.
On the one hand, there’s the incentive of getting your name in the funny pages. On the other, there’s the ability to create the most adored status of the day, victim, out of nothing. But more dastardly is the promotion of the narrative that something proper can be converted into impropriety after the fact by post-hoc feelings coupled with some facile rationalizations. You did it, but in some secret recess of your mind felt doubts? Tell the New York Times all about it and be a rape heroine!
This has become a staple of campus Title IX accusations of sexual misconduct, that it is entirely legitimate for a woman to reconsider consensual conduct at the time such that it morphs into misconduct in retrospect. Often this comes when a friend, or gender studies prof, explains why their consent wasn’t really consent, or why they weren’t capable of consent. In some cases, even “enthusiastic consent” in the heat of the moment becomes an enthusiastic accusation of rape a few days or months later.
Does the New York Times encourage this “rethinking” of sex as a legitimate option? What’s wrong with that?
Writing for the Harvard Crimson, Bartholet says that due to the current social climate, “men and women are put at risk for personal conduct that may be essential if they are to have the chance to develop future relationships.”
“In the recent rush to judgment, principles of basic fairness, differences between proven and merely alleged instances of misconduct, and important distinctions between different kinds of sexually charged conduct have too often been ignored,” Bartholet says, as first reported by Campus Reform.
“Some argue that women who speak out should simply always be believed,” says the professor. “Others argue that if some innocent men must be sacrificed to the cause of larger justice, so be it. I find this deeply troubling.”
Bartholet says that “efforts must be made to investigate what actually happened and how the different parties understood the events.”
Bartholet’s issues should be abundantly obvious to anyone paying even moderate attention to what’s happening. But the push reflected by the Aziz Ansari kerfuffle, while commonplace on campus in Title IX proceedings, is finding its way into the hive mind of female victimhood in general.
Recently, male feminist actor Aziz Ansari was accused of sexual assault. However, the salacious allegation prompted a swift backlash across the political spectrum because of the arguably over-expansive definition used by his accuser. HLN’s Ashleigh Banfield called it a “bad date” — an opinion echoed across both independent and mainstream publications by women who say that calling it an assault diminished actual instances of rape.
But how does one “not rape” when the sex was expressly consensual at the time, and consent was “withdrawn” only afterward, whether days, years or when the New York Times asks you to reconsider and get your name in the paper?
The well-intended, if childish, notion that if one says the words, “yes, oh yes, OH YES,” they mean what they say and another person is entitled to rely on them without fear that tomorrow, that “oh yes” meant “please don’t rape me.”
As Bartholet notes, it’s unfair and untenable. But further, it makes normal relations impossible when one’s totally gentlemanly behavior is twisted into a misunderstanding upon being revisited at the behest of the Times.
I am also deeply troubled by over-expansive definitions of wrongful conduct. In the current climate, men are called out for actions ranging from requests for dates and hugs on the one hand to rape and other forced sexual contact on the other, as if all are the same and all warrant termination.
When everything is, or can be upon subsequent deliberation, sexual impropriety, then nothing is. And this is terribly wrong, as there most assuredly is such a thing as rape and sexual assault, even if it bear little resemblance to the facile definition of any conduct that causes a feeling of unpleasantness now or at any time in the future.
Ask a young lady out on a date?* Ask her to dance? Ask her if she would like a drink? The risk of such benign conduct is no longer worth it. After all, who needs to be the man named in the post-hoc review of potential rapists solicited for the pages of the New York Times?
*Note that this includes both the guy in whom she has no interest as well as the guy she finds alluring and wishes would approach her. The guy doesn’t know which one he is until after he asks.