June 23 2014

Harvey Mansfield on the "Rape Culture" at Harvard

Charlotte Hays

Harvey Mansfield, who has written about the decline of masculinity and is a professor of government at Harvard, was prompted to to reflect on the campus “rape culture” by a letter from an unhappy young woman that appeared in the student newspaper.

The young woman described herself as “hopeless, powerless, betrayed and worthless” in the wake of a sexual encounter. She did not appear to have been the victim of a crime but rather appears to have succumbed reluctantly to a young man.

In a must-read piece in the Weekly Standard, Mansfield considers the number of such unhappy young women and finds that the principles of feminism, enshrined on campus, are contributing factors to the young woman’s unhappiness. He writes:

Feminism is in control of America’s colleges and universities, where its principles at least are held as dogmas unquestioned and unopposed. Yet in what should be a paradise with those principles at work, women speak of a “rape culture” that sounds like the patriarchal hell we thought we’d left behind.

According to Mansfield, feminism regards sexual identity as a “social construct” and thus women are expected to be like men. Feminine modesty and wiles have been left behind in the bad old days of patriarchy. And yet…young women seem so unhappy.

I urge you to read the entire article, but here are some snippets:

Without feminine modesty, however, women must imitate men, and in matters of sex, the most predatory men, as we have seen. The consequence is the hook-up culture now prevalent on college campuses, and off-campus too (even more, it is said). The purpose of hooking up is to replace the human complexity of courtship with “good sex,” a kind of animal simplicity, eliminating all the preliminaries to sex as well as the aftermath.

“Good sex,” by the way, is in good part a social construction of the alliance between feminists and male predators that we see today. It narrows and distorts the human potentiality for something nobler and more satisfying than the bare minimum. …

The hook-up culture denounced by conservatives is the very same rape culture denounced by feminists. Who wants it? Most college women do not; they ignore hookups and lament the loss of dating. Many men will not turn down the offer of an available woman, but what they really want is a girlfriend. The predatory males are a small minority among men who are the main beneficiaries of the feminist norm. It’s not the fault of men that women want to join them in excess rather than calm them down, for men too are victims of the rape culture. Nor is it the fault of women. Women are so far from wanting hook-ups that they must drink themselves into drunken consent—in order to overcome their natural modesty, one might suggest. Not having a sociable drink but getting blind drunk is today’s preliminary to sex. Beautifully romantic, isn’t it? The anonymous Harvard woman by getting drunk was unfortunately helping to pressure herself into consenting to a very bad experience. But she is right that the pressure comes with the encouragement of the culture. And the culture comes from the dogmas of feminism that made this mess for women and men too….

One more feature of the mess should not be omitted, the worsening of it by our federal government. Colleges today are under pressure not only from feminist students but also from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education. A recent letter from that office, one of a series, was sent to 55 colleges, addressed to “Dear Colleague” and containing what it called “significant guidance.” Anyone who thinks that the idea of a “nanny state” is an exaggeration should read this letter. The official author, who is the assistant secretary for the OCR, purports to be the colleague of the leaders of America’s universities but treats them as if they were children being instructed with a catechism. The form of the letter is Q-and-A, the questions innocent and submissive, the answers authoritative—usually you “must,” occasionally you “may.”  

We expect that the issues Mansfield has raised will get a full airing Thursday at IWF’s very important panel on the “rape culture” and the Obama administration’s suspect statistics on sexual assault on campus.

 

 

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