Cathy Young writes: The idea that sexual consent requires an explicit “yes”–one step beyond “no means no”–has long been the dogma of feminist anti-rape activists. In the early 1990s, when Ohio-based Antioch College incorporated this principle into its code of student conduct to mandate verbal consent to each new level of intimacy, it was widely ridiculed as political correctness gone mad. Yet policies similar to Antioch’s, though not as detailed, were even then spreading to college campuses across the country. In 1994, a senior at Pomona College in California was nearly prevented from getting his diploma because of a sexual assault complaint brought with a two-and-a-half year delay, in which the alleged victim admitted that she never said no but claimed that she never gave consent, which the college policy defined as “clear, explicit agreement to engage in a specific activity.”
Now, for the first time, this standard may be codified into law–not criminal law (as yet), but law regulating sexual assault investigations on college campuses. SB-967, a bill proposed in the California state legislature in response to the “crisis” of campus rape, would establish “affirmative consent” as the standard for disciplinary proceedings for sexual assault complaints. The bill allows that “willingness to participate” in sexual activity can be conveyed through “clear, unambiguous actions” as well as words, but also cautions that “relying solely on nonverbal communication can lead to misunderstanding.”
For all the brutal revelations, the romanticized view of communism as a failed but noble venture has yet to get a stake through the heart.
My headline would be “The Left Still Has a Boner for Communism“, but the editors at Reason don’t have the benefit of punditfromanotherplant’s talent for hyperbole.
Cathy Young writes: In the mid-1980s, in my student days at New Jersey’s Rutgers University, I once got into an argument at the campus pub with a student activist who thought communism was unfairly maligned. (Back then, I had a reputation as a right-wing extremist because I didn’t think it was crazy to call the USSR—from which my family and I had emigrated a few years earlier—an evil empire.) When I mentioned the tendency of communist regimes to rack up a rather high body count, the young man parried, “Well, what about all the people capitalism kills? Like the people who die from smoking so that tobacco companies can make money?”
[Cathy Young’s book: Growing Up in Moscow: Memories of a Soviet Girlhood at Amazon]
Having recovered from shock at the sheer idiocy of this argument, I ventured to point out that cigarettes weren’t exactly unknown behind the Iron Curtain. I don’t recall where things went from there; but I was reminded of that conversation the other day, after reading an honest-to-goodness apologia for Communism on Salon.com, a once-interesting magazine that’s rapidly becoming too embarrassing to list on my résumé.
The author, Occupy activist and writer Jesse Myerson, already caused some controversy last month with a Rolling Stone article that outlined a five-step plan toward eliminating inequality and collectivizing wealth. But at least in that piece, Myerson limited himself to extolling a visionary American brand of kumbaya communism rather than defend any of its actual, real-world versions. Here, in an article that purports to correct Americans’ “misconceptions” about communism, he takes the further step of arguing that the real thing wasn’t as bad as we think. Read the rest of this entry »
How the government encourages kangaroo courts for sex crimes on campus
Cathy Young writes: One evening in February 2012, Vassar College students Xialou “Peter” Yu and Mary Claire Walker, both members of the school’s rowing team, had a few drinks at a team gathering and left together as the party wound down. After a make-out session at a campus nightspot, they went to Yu’s dorm room, where, by his account, they had sex that was not only consensual but mainly initiated by Walker, who reassured her inexperienced partner that she knew what to do. At some point, Yu’s roommate walked in on them; after he was gone, Yu says, Walker decided she wanted to stop, telling him it was too soon after her breakup with her previous boyfriend. She got dressed and left.
The next day, according to documents in an unusual complaint that Yu filed against Vassar last June, Yu’s resident adviser told him some students had seen him and the young woman on their way to the dorm. They had been so concerned by Walker’s apparently inebriated state that they called campus security. Alarmed, Yu contacted Walker on Facebook to make sure everything was all right. She replied that she had had a “wonderful time” and that he had done “nothing wrong”-indeed, that she was sorry for having “led [him] on” when she wasn’t ready for a relationship. A month later Walker messaged Yu herself, again apologizing for the incident and expressing hope that it would not affect their friendship. There were more exchanges during the next months, with Walker at one point inviting Yu to dinner at her place. (In a response to Yu’s complaint in October, attorneys for Vassar acknowledged most of these facts but asserted that Walker had been too intoxicated to consent to sex and had been “in denial,” scared, and in shock when she wrote the messages.)
Last February, one year after the encounter, the other shoe dropped: Yu was informed that Walker had filed charges of “nonconsensual sexual contact” against him through the college disciplinary system. Two and a half weeks later, a hearing was held before a panel of three faculty members. Yu was not allowed an attorney; his request to call his roommate and Walker’s roommate as witnesses was denied after the campus “gender equity compliance investigator” said that the roommates had emailed him but had “nothing useful” to offer. While the records from the hearing are sealed, Yu claims his attempts to cross-examine his accuser were repeatedly stymied. Many of his questions (including ones about Walker’s friendly messages, which she had earlier told the investigator she sent out of “fear”) were barred as “irrelevant”; he says that when he was allowed to question Walker, she would start crying and give evasive or nonresponsive answers. Yu was found guilty and summarily expelled from Vassar.
As we bid Lessing farewell, the blight she spoke of—“political correctness” and, in particular, its toxic feminist strain—is on the move again
Cathy Young writes: The tributes to Doris Lessing, the novelist and Nobel Prize laureate who died on November 17 at 94, have given scant attention to one aspect of her remarkable career: this daughter of the left, an ex-communist and onetime feminist icon, emerged as a harsh critic of left-wing cultural ideology and of feminism in its current incarnation.
Over 20 years ago, I heard Lessing speak at a conference on intellectuals and social change in Eastern Europe at New Jersey’s Rutgers University. It was 1992, the dust still settling from the collapse of the Soviet empire. Lessing opened her memorable talk with a warning: “While we have seen the apparent death of Communism, ways of thinking that were born under Communism or strengthened by Communism still govern our lives.” She was not talking about the East but the West, where coercive “social justice” had reinvented itself as “antiracism,” feminism, and so forth. “Political correctness” had become, Lessing said, “a kind of mildew blighting the whole world,” particularly academic and intellectual circles—a “self-perpetuating machine for dulling thought.”
Library of CongressReason‘s Cathy Young writes: When Bayard Rustin, the often-unsung hero of the civil rights movement, died in 1987, obituaries either evaded the fact that he was openly gay or danced around it—like the New York Times, which mentioned Rustin’s homosexuality but described longtime partner Walter Naegle as his “administrative assistant and adopted son.” Today, such obfuscation looks both laughable and sad. By contrast, media tributes to Rustin for the recent 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s March on Washington—in which Rustin played a key role—have often focused on his identity as a black civil rights leader who was also a gay man. Yet in an ironic twist, many of these commemorations have been just as evasive, if not outright dishonest, about another key aspect of Rustin’s life: the fact that in his post-1963 career, he held many views that were anathema to the left, then and now.The standard media narrative on Rustin is that he was sidelined in the civil rights movement and nearly erased from its history due to homophobia. But this is not entirely accurate—especially not the second part. Read the rest of this entry »