Will recently defended his controversial column on sexual assault (covered here on the Dish):
Allahpundit has the play-by-play:
When asked to respond to one critic who accused Will of trivializing the crime of sexual assault, the conservative columnist said he takes sexual assault more seriously than his critics do. “When someone’s accused of rape, it should be reported to the criminal justice system that knows how to deal with this, not with jerrybuilt, improvised campus processes,” he asserted. Will went on to dismiss those for whom he said “indignation is default position.” He added that the outrage over his column will, like “summer storms,” dissipate as rapidly as it arose. In conclusion, the columnist said that he would not take one word of his column back if he had the chance.
Ramesh sticks up for Will:
It takes an extreme lack of charity to read Will as saying what the Post-Dispatch claimed. What he was actually saying is that rape is being defined too broadly on college campuses. He wasn’t criticizing “victims of sexual assault” but rather saying (for example) that women who had consensual sexual encounters they later regretted shouldn’t be counted in their number. There’s a legitimate debate about this question. Op-ed pages should air it, not suppress it — and I’d like to think that I would say so even if I didn’t agree with Will.
Friedersdorf is on the same page:
Will is not talking to rape victims and saying, “Boy, are you guys lucky.” Will’s argument is that perceived victimhood of all sorts confers a coveted status on college campuses. In context, it is clear that Will only finds this unseemly in cases where the status afforded to victims winds up generating fake victims.
Meanwhile, on a related note, Cathy Young is critical of California’s college sexual assault bill:
The bill, sponsored by state Senator Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) and developed in collaboration with student activists, does nothing less than attempt to mandate the proper way to engage in sexual intimacy, at least if you’re on a college campus. It requires schools that receive any state funds through student aid to use “affirmative consent” as the standard in evaluating sexual assault complaints in the campus disciplinary system. …
In a Slate.com article defending “affirmative consent,” feminist writer Amanda Hess stipulates that such laws should be “broad enough to include nonverbal cues.” But that would leave fact-finders, in real courts or campus pseudo-courts, to try to decide such questions as: Was a head motion a nod that indicated a “yes”? Does pulling someone closer during an embrace amount to consent to sex? Does a passionate response to a kiss amount to a “nonverbal cue”?
David Bernstein snarks:
Two obvious questions arise: (1) Why just on campus? If this is a good idea, why not make it part the tort system? If that’s too drastic, let’s start, with say, members of the California legislature. For internal disciplinary purposes, their sexual activity should be governed by the same standard they want to impose on students. What plausible grounds could they have for rejecting application of a standard they would impose on students to themselves? (2) If we’re limiting things to campus, why just students? Why should students be judged under this standard, but not faculty and administrators? It’s hardly unheard of for professors, administrators, and even law school deans to engage in sexual relationships of dubious morality.
The answer is that it’s not a good idea, and it’s a product of the current moral panic over the hookup culture.
But Alyssa isn’t having it:
It is one thing to suggest that proponents of a particular social reform have overstepped by seeking out a legislative remedy. It is quite another to suggest, in rather nasty terms, that because the tactics are inappropriate the cause is ridiculous, or to misattribute the push in question to “the current moral panic over the hookup culture.”
Nobody seems particularly happy with the current sexual climate on college campuses, whether their priority is the sexual assault rate or the state of university disciplinary procedures. And it seems to me that people of all political persuasions could see many of their concerns addressed in a discussion about consent that focuses less on law and regulations and more on manners and customs.
If you are worried (statistics to the contrary) that men will be falsely accused of sexual assault, what possible harm can come to them from talking about how to communicate effectively with their partners, both to obtain their consent and to ensure everyone’s pleasure? If you are worried about the decisions that girls make, why not frame the discussion in terms of helping them assess their own comfort levels and asserting them confidently and clearly?
Michelle Dean also shakes her head:
Bernstein isn’t speaking from careful study or thinking. He’s speaking from his “understanding,” as when he offers his own I’m-from-Mars view on how consent in sex really works:
The vast, vast majority of “sexual contact or behavior” is initiated with only *implicit consent.* [UPDATE: There is one type of sexual relationship that, as I understand it, involves primarily explicit consent—the relationship between a prostitute and her (or his) clients, with exact sexual services to be provided determined by explicit agreement in advance.]
Oh dear. It’s hard to pick the most wrong-headed part, though the “UPDATE” might take the prize. I am not sure the “vast majority” of sexual consent is implicit in the way he suggests here at all. I do not think we are looking at any real danger of people being marched off to death camps for kissing each other. I am absolutely certain that sex workers are not the only people who prefer that consent be clear, open and well-stated between the parties.
Bernstein, meanwhile, is partaking in the privilege of victimhood with a post about the “smear machine” that is now targeting him thanks to Dean’s article.