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April 10, 2012

A Question of Balance

In the Boston Globe, Cathy Young addresses the gender wars:

Democrats are accusing Republicans of waging a “war against women’’ by attacking abortion rights and access to birth control. Republicans have tried to turn the tables, claiming that the real woman-haters are the Democrats and citing such things as hateful language by some liberals toward right-wing women. Meanwhile, a massive gender gap has opened up, suggesting that women may reelect President Obama in November. And some Internet polemicists are claiming that the real war is against men.

Is this just election-year noise - or is there really a gender war, and by whom against whom?

At the risk of resurrecting a tired metaphor, this latest skirmish in the battle of the sexes looks an awful lot like the final stages of a particularly nasty divorce. Women have some cause for conern:

The push against government-mandated insurance coverage of contraception, even by faith-based employers such as Catholic schools and charities, would not have been so problematic by itself: There is a legitimate issue of religious freedom at stake, and while most Americans support birth control coverage there is also broad sympathy for religious exemptions.

But when you couple that with aggressive efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and create new obstacles to abortion, it does start to look like a concerted assault on women’s ability to prevent unwanted childbearing - which multitudes of female voters across political lines see as essential personal freedom. And when influential conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh suggests that women who want insurance coverage for birth control are sluts, it starts to look like a misogynist backlash.

In response, conservative pundits and activists have pointed to misogyny on the left, such as political comedian Bill Maher’s use of obscene sexual epithets to attack former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Some left-wing commentators have indeed employed disturbingly sexualized language when lampooning right-wing women. But Republican talk jocks have hardly been more restrained in their sexist gibes at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Democratic congressional leader Nancy Pelosi. When it comes to misogynist slurs against female political opponents, both sides bear plenty of blame.

Most of the "war on women" rhetoric strikes me as overwrought and overheated, but that's not the same as saying women (or men, for that matter) have no legitimate interests worth defending. As Young observes, if anything that imperils womens' interests is described as a war on women, men can make the same claim with respect to their own interests:

In response to such Republican measures, some Democratic lawmakers have proposed parody bills targeting men - criminalizing non-procreative male sexual activity, or requiring the father of an unborn child to cover all pregnancy and childbirth expenses. Does that mean that legalized bias against men is a joke?

Not quite. Some argue that current reproductive rights policies unfairly disadvantage males. A woman facing an unwanted pregnancy can terminate it; a man can be stuck with years of payments. If he complains, the typical response - “you play, you pay’’ - is uncannily reminiscent of pro-lifers’ attitude toward women. This dilemma has no easy answer; but there is a striking blindness toward ways in which men’s individual freedoms are often abridged in the perceived interests of children. Even men tricked into fatherhood, or forced to support children proven by DNA tests not to be theirs, have found no legal relief.

Are such policies anti-male? Is the Obama administration targeting men when it pushes colleges to lower the burden of proof for charges of sexual assault or harassment, making it much easier to expel (mostly male) students on a woman’s word? Apart from a handful of men’s rights activists, don’t expect controversy about a “war against men.’’ Gender injustice is generally equated with injustice against women - which, in 21st-century America, is not always true.

There is little doubt in my mind that the rights pendulum has swung heavily in favor of women - often to the detriment of men's interests. But then it started off heavily in favor of men. Neither position is optimal for society at large.

The whole "war on..." meme illustrates the fundamental problem with defining so-called men's or women's rights issues solely in terms of fairness to men or fairness to women. To do so obscures the fact that individual men and women don't act in isolation. Our choices affect others - often in dramatic ways. The remedy for a pendulum that has swung too far in one direction is not to jerk it too far in the other direction. What is needed is a better balance... along with some recognition that imperfect laws that work well in the majority of cases can't deliver perfectly fair results for every individual, every time. Primary responsibility for staying out of trouble has to rest upon the person who has the most control over his or her own life: the person in the mirror.

Civilizations attempt to balance individual liberties with the interests and rights of other citizens. But when a social system transfers the cost of individual choices from individual actors to society at large, consequences are severed from actions and freedom is divorced from accountability. Individual males, females, and no doubt transgendered Artic wolves have considerably less incentive to respect the rights of others or to act responsibly.

That's not a good outcome for anyone.

Imagine a world where complex issues weren't obscured by misguided identity politics. In such a world, birth control would not be just a women's issue. Men are affected by the availability and legality of birth control and abortion as are married couples, employers, children, and the unborn. Families have a legitimate interest in controlling the number of children they will raise. Men and women have a very real responsibility not to delegate responsibility for preventing children they don't want to care for or support. The wisdom of policies that prioritize women's rights while de-emphasizing their responsibilities and minimizing or ignoring the interests of men and children should be fair game for public debate.

Sexual assault/harassment policies at public and private universities wouldn't be framed as affecting "just men" or "just women". Viewed from a larger perspective, the notion that civil institutions must adopt the strict evidentiary standards designed to protect defendants against criminal convictions and jail time is questionable at best. Being expelled or suspended from school is a lesser harm than being sent to jail. Civil institutions have a right to establish standards of behavior and enforce them, and those standards won't always neatly mirror the criminal code because they don't serve the same purpose. Schools arguably have a right to expel students who - in their judgment - violate those standards (and expelled students, if they can show they were expelled unfairly, should be able to seek redress).

The rights of other students to go about their business without harassment or abuse would be balanced with the freedom of individual students to act in offensive, obnoxious, or disruptive ways. And the rights of accused students - who may well be innocent of the charges levied against them - would be protected too. Most importantly, none of these protections would be absolute or guaranteed, because any system of laws designed by imperfect human beings to govern equally flawed - and unpredictable - human beings will be vulnerable to the same human frailties that caused the problems they seek to address. Somewhere in our relentless drive for individual fairness, we need to address that fundamental truth.

When the federal government tries to mandate or influence the standards of civil institutions, it complicates what is already a difficult balancing process. These institutions are no longer free to decide these matters for themselves, nor can they be held accountable when they make the wrong decisions.

Conservatives often lament the erosion of authority in elementary classrooms. My daughter in law experienced this as a second grade teacher - the "rights" of individual disruptive students were strongly protected (often to the point where it was impossible to protect other students from them). Do we really want to duplicate this mess at the post secondary level?

Likewise, liberals often lament the disproportionate (and "unfair") natural biological penalties for having unprotected sex. But when their proposed remedies penalize innocent men for the acts of others, how are we better off as a society?

Most so-called gender issues are far more complex than they are made out to be by proponents of men's or women's rights. Our grandchildren will likely struggle just as hard to find the right balance as we do today. Obama recently issued a laughable statement that women are not an interest group. There are signs that feminism is about to be challenged by men's rights activists touting the same one sided, zero sum arguments.

What a tragedy. Men and women were meant to be partners, not opponents. Partners often have competing interests, but the defining characteristic of a successful partnership is that both partners recognize the importance of something beyond their individual interests. They are able, when needed, to compromise.

The "war on women/men" meme does nothing to encourage compromise or clear sighted analysis of the problems we face as a nation.

Posted by Cassandra at April 10, 2012 08:27 AM

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Comments

Part of the problem comes from tagging incorrect labels on people who disagree with a position or moral (or political) grounds. I am not a racist, but if I publicly disagree with Mr Obama's policies for whatever reason I risk being labelled as one. Likewise, I'm all for birth control but I oppose government mandated insurance coverage for it because I don't believe I should be responsible for paying for someone elses lifestyle choices. (If an insurance company chooses to cover it, fine - I have the option not to participate if I choose not to.) I thoroughly oppose Planned Parenthood because they are proponents of abortion as birth control. There are medical conditions where killing a fetus may be necessary, but lack of planning on the couples part doesn't strike me as a valid one. I don't consider this a particularly anti woman position, but clearly there are people who disagree.

Posted by: Pogue at April 10, 2012 01:41 PM

What is so problematic about teaching morals? For both? Instead of having a double standard about reproductive rights and so forth, why not just get out of the bidness of funding abortions and contraception altogether?

I can understand certain social needs re: pregnancy such as rape and incest, or drug therapy, but why must the taxpayers pay a third party (government or an NGO like PP) to encourage amorality and commit murder in the name of 'reproductive rights?'

I await your flaming darts and tomatoes with great interest.

Posted by: Carolyn at April 10, 2012 02:04 PM

What is so problematic about teaching morals? For both?

The problem (though I agree with you, Carolyn) is, "Whose morals?" That's far from a settled question these days.

Instead of having a double standard about reproductive rights and so forth, why not just get out of the bidness of funding abortions and contraception altogether?

The short answer is that I'm not sure I think the federal government *should* be funding these things.

But once the federal government decides to fund and/or subsidize medical services (which it apparently has) the question becomes, "On what basis do we selectively decide to fund or not fund certain services or goods, but fund others?"

If the answer to that question is framed around "need" (a dubious framework, but it's the one we're currently using) then I don't think there's a good response to that question.

If the question is framed as one of competing rights (religious liberty vs. some nebulous right to free birth control) it's easier to justify not subsidizing birth control.

If the taxpaying/voting public votes against covering abortion and/or birth control, that presents another argument for not subsidizing these services.

Once government starts to wind its testicles... err... tenticles around our private affairs, once it starts manufacturing 2nd Bill of Rights-style freedoms/rights like "freedom from want", then if you selectively fund some things people want/need and decline to fund others, you run into equal protection of the laws issues.

All of which makes me think it's time to move to a deserted island somewhere with the world's biggest frozen Dacquiri machine.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 10, 2012 02:39 PM

Yikes. I think I misspelled tentacles.

*sigh*

Posted by: Cassandra at April 10, 2012 02:39 PM

I agree with Pogue's general opposition to abortion as birth control. Families have a legitimate interest in keeping their size appropriate to their means. On the other hand, since we're talking about balancing rights and interests, the child once conceived also has interests at least -- and there are many who believe, and some plausible ethical modelts that suggest, that the child ought also to have rights.

One reason we are where we are with the male/female division is that legislators generally have accepted the principle that men who father children should be responsible for them; whereas legislators have pushed for escape hatches for women. This follows the interest of the sexes, though: men generally believe that a good man stands up to his responsibilities, and want the law to force less-good men to do it also. The chief interest of women in this area is to escape from beneath the power that nature gives pregnancy over their lives, and they have also gotten what they wanted.

So yes, it's unfair, but it's unfair because for many years we have asked for it to be unfair. Men don't want other men to skip out on child support, and want to see responsibility enforced. Women don't want to be subject to nature, and want themselves and other women to be able to opt out.

The child, though, has no advocate. They are the ones who haven't gotten what they wanted, or what they deserve. This is not limited to abortion. The children who do manage to be born will enjoy paying off a massive debt built up by the richest generations of the richest nation in history, who still wouldn't live within their means.

Posted by: Grim at April 10, 2012 02:47 PM

A lesser matter:

Viewed from a larger perspective, the notion that civil institutions must adopt the strict evidentiary standards designed to protect defendants against criminal convictions and jail time is questionable at best. Being expelled or suspended from school is a lesser harm than being sent to jail.

It is possibly a lesser harm, depending on the charge forwarded and the length of the sentence. Being expelled from school could result in the loss of tens of thousands of dollars of investment at a young age, when such an investment represents many years of future salary (especially since the loans taken to fund the education hoped for a rate of return based on a college degree -- thus, your now-not-college-educated expelled student will be paying them out of a high-school salary).

While this indenture doesn't compare with ten or twenty years in prison for forcible rape, it probably really is worse than a misdemeanor charge for (say) sexual battery. Those charges also must be proven according to strict standards. Thus, the usual strict standards of evidence may in fact make sense here also.

Posted by: Grim at April 10, 2012 08:15 PM

"What you send around, comes around." -- many

And it's much harder and louder when government is used as a megaphone. -- me

Rights used to be powers that individuals had to oppose government's powers. The whole idea of "right" has been so corrupted that I mostly stop listening when some yammerhead uses the word.


Suspension. Yes, I was suspended from high school for three days. I took several lessons away from that experience. Government was an idiot, had no soul, and no morals. Fairness existed only as a characteristic of things, like boat hulls and aircraft wings. Real friends are important, and you can tell who they are. And aren't. For about the first ten years after high school, I explained that suspension frequently in job interviews (that I had been accompanied my high school transcript; no details did.) I know that several potential (and actual) employers did call the school, and my references, and ask if my tale was correct.

Some of this is a "war on men"; some of it is a "war on women"; most of it is a war on thinking, distracting the public from the shame that should be being thrown at those in office from both sides of the Abusive Parental Party, the Mommycrats and the Daddycans.

We wanted a government that would give us what we wanted, and we're learning the cost of that desire.

Posted by: htom at April 10, 2012 08:35 PM

Being expelled from school could result in the loss of tens of thousands of dollars of investment at a young age, when such an investment represents many years of future salary

Possibly, but credits transfer, Grim. I would not have a degree, otherwise.

I don't think it's valid to equate being expelled or suspended with having one's education prospects terminated. One can always choose to give up, but that doesn't recommend itself to me as a strategy (unless one is determined to be a victim).

The real risk of loss is limited to unfinished classes from one semester and possibly a few extra classes due to requirements mismatch.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 10, 2012 09:29 PM

I don't know, htom.

I tried to teach my sons that the world isn't always fair, but part of being an adult is figuring out where you fit in and what you're willing to do to carve out your place in a world largely created by others.

You can decide to buck the system, but since the world doesn't revolve around you, you should admit that is what you are doing and pay the price.

To me, this is all part of growing up.

I bucked the system plenty, and paid the price gladly. I never resented others when I chose not to toe the line. That was my decision, and the price of acceptance and approval was something I had to evaluate on my own. Other people have no particular duty to compromise their values or standards simply b/c I disagree with them.

This is an antiquated way of viewing the world. I understand that. But it makes far more sense to me than the notion that the world has to accommodate me.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 10, 2012 09:34 PM

Credits transfer under many circumstances, but do they transfer under expulsion? I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you didn't transfer following your expulsion from a previous institution. I'm honestly not sure how this works; being tossed out of a degree program is pretty serious stuff, but maybe you could transfer 'down' to an institution like Lepetomane.

Posted by: Grim at April 10, 2012 09:35 PM

Yes, they do.

Being expelled for disciplinary reasons doesn't wipe out academic credits legitimately earned. It just means that institution isn't going to give you a degree or allow you to continue.

Being expelled (and the reason you were expelled) definitely will affect your chances of being admitted to a comparable school, so it may harm you in that way.

It doesn't wipe out your academic record, so to the degree that your credits are tranferrable, you're good.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 10, 2012 09:41 PM

It was. I had thought the world of adults was primarily a rational place. I wasn't the only one who had that notion, there were a dozen of us; our bad. It's really good that we learned that lesson, it didn't do us any damage that I know of, but it was a rude awakening to some realities that had been hidden from us.

Posted by: htom at April 10, 2012 10:17 PM

I'm sorry, my give a damn is broken, Do people really need instruction in what succeeds? Is it not self-evident? If they don't know by now then nothing can fix that.

My free wheel ran over my karma.

Posted by: Allen at April 10, 2012 11:47 PM

Allen -- they need instruction in learning that the world they've been taught about is a delusion. 'Twould be better if they learned that in the classroom, but better sooner (say as high school students) than later.

Posted by: htom at April 11, 2012 12:51 AM

Meanwhile, a massive gender gap has opened up, suggesting that women may reelect President Obama in November.

(humming) Taaaaakin' care of biz-ness...

(runs away)

Posted by: Joseph W. at April 11, 2012 01:12 AM

I had thought the world of adults was primarily a rational place.

I think most kids believe that. I was disabused of that notion by my first boss :)

Do people really need instruction in what succeeds? Is it not self-evident? If they don't know by now then nothing can fix that.

I listened to Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers for a few weeks on the way to/from work a while back. One of the most interesting parts of the book was the one on parenting.

He cited several studies on parenting styles that found there were two main styles:

1. Parents who actively try to teach their kids how to succeed in life and get along with others.

2. Free range parents, who turn their kids loose in the world and let them figure it out for themselves.

I was absolutely the first kind of parent. I spent a LOT of time teaching my sons about people, how the world works, how to deal with authority figures (especially when they're being difficult), how to handle conflicts with other kids.

How to talk to girls in a way they understand. How girls are different from boys.

Parents teach volumes simply by the examples they set for their children. I have been lucky enough to be able to fall back on the example my parents (and to some extent my in laws) set for me as an adult, and that has made my path in life easier and smoother.

On the other hand, I've watched friends whose parents didn't teach them well or who set an example of what not to do struggle to do things that came easily and naturally for others.

So I do think people need to be taught these things. Some they can figure out for themselves, but I believe that children whose parents are moderately successful in life (and that definition isn't limited to making money - it can be having a happy marriage, being able to get along with other people, etc.) have a significant advantage.

One interesting thing the Marines have seen over the 30 years we were associated with them is that kids are turning up for recruit training and it's as though they were raised by wolves. You have to tell them things that should be obvious.

I think this is a pretty big problem. Not sure what we do about it.

Posted by: Cassandra at April 11, 2012 05:28 AM

Seems many people notice what they think is unfair in their lives. And fail to notice that much of what is unfair is in their favor. Take living in the US, or being healthier than your habits should allow, or not dying when you did something stupid at 12 years old as examples.

As for effects of government in everything, that's what you get when families and religious institutions are no longer the backstop in peoples lives. Its not only take care of me, its take care of everything necessary for my children.

With so many having having abdicated responsibility for themselves, their neighbors and their family, I don't see how complaining that the common power they have abdicated to is not always what an individual thinks is best is reasonable.

Posted by: tomg51 at April 11, 2012 09:10 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCjDLaQxyq8
Moody Blues - Question of Balance - "Question"
I've always loved the center part, starting at 1:40

Posted by: tomg51 at April 11, 2012 09:18 AM

Grim, I am knee-jerking here to part of your post: I agree with it, and am going to ask the question: Do you think that by providing escape hatches for women, there is one for men as well?
Such as abortion centers providing abortions for under age mothers? Kermit Gosnell ran such a charnel house, and did not provide a safe abortion (a contradiction in terms, but you get the idea). Wasn't Roe v. Wade put in place to provide the legal loophole so women could at least have access to a standard of care that did not interfere with their reproductive rights down the road, if not their lives?

While most men would step up to the plate, I think the war between the sexes here is more than just who gets what. It is who will fund what, and who decides how and why. The taxpayers will fund it through an agency, but like Cassie mentioned, the agency or organization will have their rules because THEY have to perpetuate themselves. So, the criteria is going to be strict based the need to provide a service and stay in business. There is no altruism about it.

Private providers like Gosnell slip through the cracks.

As to teaching morals, and appropriate behavior, we are reaping the whirlwind of the 'do what you feel is right' in a vacuum. There is even a double standard in that.

There are just not enough desereted islands.

Posted by: Carolyn at April 11, 2012 03:34 PM

Carolyn:

Grim, I am knee-jerking here to part of your post: I agree with it, and am going to ask the question: Do you think that by providing escape hatches for women, there is one for men as well?

I'm not sure I understand the question you're asking. Do you mean: (a) do you think that providing an escape-hatch for women allows men the same hatch, as for example by pressuring the women to have abortions? I suppose it may, although clearly I am not in favor of that (nor, indeed, of abortion at all except in the case when it is necessary to preserve the life of the mother).

Or are you asking (b) if I think that providing women with an escape hatch means that the law's equal-protection aspect requires a similar escape for men? If so, no, I don't make that argument; but many do, on the grounds that it is only fair. I think that 'only fair' aspect evaporates once we take seriously the child having interests that ought also to be considered.

Or perhaps you meant something else entirely?

Posted by: Grim at April 11, 2012 06:35 PM

"2. Free range parents, who turn their kids loose in the world and let them figure it out for themselves."
"On the other hand, I've watched friends whose parents didn't teach them well or who set an example of what not to do struggle to do things that came easily and naturally for others."
"One interesting thing the Marines have seen over the 30 years we were associated with them is that kids are turning up for recruit training and it's as though they were raised by wolves. You have to tell them things that should be obvious."

Though not a Marine, nor having been to Paris Island, nor being quite a feral wolf you basically described me, Cass. And I've been VERY lucky to have found people---rather a long list, most of you know who you are, but many of the most recent additions(last 10 years or so) have had the greatest effect--- later in life to help me sand down those VERY rough edges, and so of it I've done on my own. But I'm still playing catch-up against peers with a decade or larger head start.

There have been advantages to being free range, but few and of minor value.

It is something I try to point out a lot: those of us without real parenting are playing chess without knowing the rules, how the pieces work, or what shape the board is. We make bad choices at times because of insufficient knowledge, wisdom, or means of interpreting the situation presented us. Makes you wonder about the statistics that report children raised by single parents tend to perform poorly in school, aren't socialized relative to their peers, and struggle later financially/careerlife; though it probably shouldn't. Not everyone can assemble a radio out of purpose built components without instructions. Blatantly obvious? NOt if you don't have a reference frame that makes sense, that adds context, to understand it. Physics was stuck for a long time until someone proposed an 'inertial frame' to explain experienced phenomena that the math otherwise couldn't. Why should the macro be different from the micro, and vice versa?
---
General tone? Strongly agree. You've got a not-quite-feral kid in your corner on this one, Cass. Not that it means much, but, it's there. a dynamic equilibrium that is not overly unfair to either gender should be the goal, imo.

And that you also percieve a skewed pendulum is why I cringe a little at the 'end criminal level protections at universities'. I've seen a guy expelled for walking into the wrong dorm room, though he thought it was his. He was drunker than anything(stupid frats letting underage kids have beer, grrr) and misread a 3 for an 8. He was asleep on the bed when the girl came back. She claimed sexual assault. End of the line. Toxicology didn't matter. That the police report indicated he had to be woken up was irrelevant. No signs of struggle in the room, defensive wounds, or signs of actual assault forensics. Gone. RBBH's favorite neighbor her freshman year. I had a run in with a girl named Autumn who thought I was in love with her because I invited her to sit at my group's table rather than sit alone everyday, and had people harrassing me at it until I graduated. There's something that you can't give back in this scenario: someone's reputation. In my case I'd have been blackballed for a false accusation over a kind but radically misinterpreted gesture.

I may agree that a criminal bar is much to high, but without something more concrete I'm a bit leery of letting go of it. A situation where the standard will be set based on the vagueries of who constitutes the women's studies dept is, well, not appealing to me.
---
"I bucked the system plenty, and paid the price gladly. I never resented others when I chose not to toe the line."
I didn't start here, but I'm starting to get there. THough I struggle at times with the holding myself to the line at times. Frank Sinatra I'm not.

Then Fuzzy writes about Lex's Hobbit, and, well, how can one NOT respond to such courage and fortitude and love as that woman showed by not being true to yourself for a while. Talk about balls? I know too many women and men who'd have sat in self pity when the fighter formation overflew the ceremony. That's what helps me put the boots on and deliver 'the mail' even if my neck's gone goofy.

I have a few others I use, but that's the most recent.

But, yeah, it is hard at times to not go heathen when others are successful by doing so.

Posted by: ry at April 11, 2012 08:41 PM

Ry, I think you'd really enjoy that part of Gladwell's book. It really made me think.

When I was growing up I read a lot of classic literature because that's what my parents had around the house. A persistent theme was the rise or fall of families: their fortunes, the marriages (alliances) they made with other families, how one person's decisions could literally change the fortunes of everyone else in the family.

Of particular concern in most of these novels was the idea of reputation. What a man or woman feared most was being "ruined" (i.e., having made a bad decision or associated with the wrong person and thus brought shame upon self and family). The rules were incredibly strict and unforgiving.

At the time, I thought that was dumb. One little mistake and suddenly a person would be shunned. No one would hire you if you were a man, your acquaintances would cut you dead in the street. They didn't want to be tainted by association with a person of low character or ill repute.

I can tie that into both your points (above) - the one about it being harder to get ahead without a support system in place and the one about the guy who allowed himself (and this is an important point - he made a bad choice) to get so drunk that he wandered into someone else's room and passed out.

We will never really know what happened that night. If he was that drunk, do we know he *didn't* grope that girl (sexual assault isn't rape). If you had a daughter, how would you react to learning a guy who was drunk out of his mind just wandered into her room and passed out?

Girls don't always struggle when they're attacked. I was attacked once in college and - much to my surprise - I was so shocked by the sudden transformation that for a long time I did nothing. I wasn't scared. It was more just inability to believe that a formerly nice boy had suddenly turned into a would be rapist. So I really don't think you can tell much from the 'no signs of struggle' - absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

When a person allows him- or herself to become that drunk, they are not in control anymore and may become a danger to themselves or others. People have been very judgmental of girls who get drunk and get raped (or just can't say no), yet seem to want to give boys a pass for getting so drunk that their higher brain functions and inhibitions cease to function temporarily.

I don't think people have the "right" to voluntarily incapacitate themselves and expect no consequences if they do things that are problematic. I'll grant that there ought to be due process of some sort, but if you're a school I think you should be able to set standards somewhat higher than "no convicted rapists" for the students who attend the school.

In the novels I read, students were kicked out of schools for rowdy behavior and public drunkenness all the time. No one waited for them to be accused of sexual assault - it was understood that one's behavior affected not only the individual but his community, school, family, friends. That sort of social pressure is largely absent today: everything is about individual rights.

We mostly don't recognize guilt by association, but back then who you chose to associate with was considered to be evidence of your own values. The actions of your associates affected your own reputation. Marriages were as much alliances between families as anything else, and thus each family scrutinized the other. No one wanted to ally with a family that might bring disgrace upon them. Everyone wanted to ally with a prosperous family.

I used to think that was snobbery (and to a large extent I still do, having known so many fine people who came from broken and dysfunctional families). But from the vantage of having been married for eons and raised two sons, I now understand some of the thinking there. Families have a culture. There are expectations and norms within a strong family that are passed down from parent to child and reinforced by other family members.

Being part of a strong, functioning family makes life easier for family members - they have a support system and lots of encouragement to behave in ways that will help them prosper and be happy.

I've seen people who don't have that support structure manage to do these things without help, but there's no question in my mind that that road is harder. The thing is, if you think of yourself as a family unit (whether or not you ever have kids), you can build that for future generations. You will have a positive influence on your friends and neighbors.

It is hard to hold to a tougher standard when people around you don't (and it often seems they prosper despite that). The only comfort I can offer is that doing things the right way benefits you in the end. Nothing is cost free, but the reason these standards have been around so long is that more often than not, they work.

So full marks to you for setting your sights high :)

Posted by: Cassandra at April 12, 2012 06:30 AM

@ Grim: You got it at a, and segued into b. My question was more along the lines of 'it will make it easier to have women bear all the responsibility for the actions of two people.'

I am aggrieved at this, because it is a symptom of something that is rotting our culture away; the dying chivalry. Years ago, it was women and children first. The Birkenhead Drill, and Titanic disasters were idicative of how men and boys put women and the succeeding generation ahead of themselves.

Now, we have government involved in taking my money and paying for something that I am morally opposed to doing; the slaughter of innocents for the sake of convenience and population control. The moral deterrent to pre-marital and extra-marital sex was in place 100 years ago, and I think people were happier.

I don't see a lessening of the misery or an increase in happiness over the freedom from moral constraints because contraception is widely available.

Posted by: Carolyn at April 12, 2012 10:39 AM

A thought here: If the guy was so drunk he mistook a 3 for an 8, why was the door open, or how come he came to have a key that would open the lock?

I used to live in a coed dorm my first year in college. I hated it for several reasons. Loud, obnoxious, teen-age hormones and parties.

But, the girls were considered more trustworthy by the university, so we all had master keys to all the halls, and keys to our rooms. I could roam from the girls' floor to the boys' floors, and common areas, but the rooms had an individual key. So....the young lady would seem to have some 'splainin' to do as well.

Posted by: Carolyn at April 12, 2012 10:48 AM

Well, you make a good point. On the other hand, we only locked the door to our dorm when none of us were in.

The rest of the time, it was generally unlocked.

But I agree with this: people need to take primary responsibility for their own safety because they have the best chance to do so. I got pretty hammered a few times my freshman year but I was never so drunk that I had no idea where I was.

I also have to say that it seems odd to me that anyone would claim sexual assault with absolutely no justification. I could see if a date situation were misinterpreted, but a guy who was passed out? This of course is not proof he did anything, but it does make me wonder a bit. I mean, if you're that drunk, you can't honestly be a reliable witness in your own defense. That's a problem, and the real helk of it is that you put yourself in that position.

I was in a coed dorm too, but we acted as though we were perfectly safe. Kids those days!

Posted by: Cassandra at April 12, 2012 11:05 AM

Carolyn,

I think you and I are very much on the same page.

Posted by: Grim at April 12, 2012 11:16 AM

THe dorm hall in question had converted from quad bedroom shared spaces to closet sized singles. There were no roomates. I don't know how the guy got in. I wasn't there. I was out looking for him because RBBH was worried, and even though we weren't dating then(I being 24 and she being 19 I thought it unseemly, craddlerobbery) I was doing the responsible thing by looking for a stupid kid.

At this particular UC the doors autolocked. There was no other setting. All the freshman seemed to walk around with these lanyards around their necks with their reg cards in a plastic holder and their dorm key hang on it. THe reg card had an RFID that opened the door to your building. Hence, I couldn't simply walk into the dorm, I always had to be let in by a friend.

I don't know how the guy did it. I do know that he had trouble getting into another UC though, but he stopped emailing RBBH after a while and we lost track of him.

My point is that there needs to be a bar above 'she/he claims it', and free of political wrangling from interest groups on campus. Fat chance, but that'd be what's correct.

What you say about drinking I back 100% about drinking, but I also say about people who use cell phones and drive as they're making others responsible for the yakkers safety. I despise that type of responsibility dumping.

"I don't think people have the "right" to voluntarily incapacitate themselves and expect no consequences if they do things that are problematic." THis in particular was something I got very mad about in while I lived in CA. There is/was a law that a woman who is drunk cannot give consent, ergo if three days later she decides it wasn't consentual sex it's rape---but not the same for men. I get the intent, to go after the jackalope who'd ply a woman with drink so he could have his way with her later and have the ambiguity of her saying yes and not remembering as a defense, but this is simply badly done and implimented. A drunk male is not considered to be unable to give consent, so someone who gets plastered, hooks up with a girl who is also plaster(not by plan), is now a rapist. I'm all for killing the hook-up culture, but this is not making men be responsible for perfidy. It's saying all men are guilty unless proven innocent. Bass ackwards.

Posted by: ry at April 13, 2012 12:46 AM

"I used to live in a coed dorm my first year in college. I hated it for several reasons. Loud, obnoxious, teen-age hormones and parties."
Carolyn, this is why I was overjoyed that since I didn't take the direct hs to college route I lived in dorms specifically for transfer students. They were more like apts than dorm rooms, and we didn't have to deal with the juvenile behaviour of 17-19 yr olds as much.

Posted by: ry at April 13, 2012 12:53 AM

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