“The system established by the prior administration has failed too many students,” Betsy DeVos told an audience at George Mason University last week. Announcing that she would be reviewing former President Obama’s guidance on Title IX and the protection of students from sexual assault on campus, the Secretary of Education noted: “Survivors, victims of a lack of due process, and campus administrators have all told me that the current approach does a disservice to everyone involved.”
What DeVos was talking about was due process, something that many sexual assault investigations on campuses willfully ignored under Obama’s Department of Education. But not everyone—and especially not self-proclaimed feminists—are on board with this new focus on fairness. Vanessa Grigoriadis doesn’t need to be concerned with silly things like due process. She’s a journalist. Her new book, Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus, purports to deal with legal matters as well as the cultural issues surrounding sexual assault at colleges.
But she seems a bit confused about both. While she claims that there have clearly been some false accusations—the Rolling Stone article about a supposed rape at the University of Virginia, which was later shown to be fabricated, is apparently on that list—she mostly comes down on the side of feminist ideologues who don’t care if a few innocent men get caught in their crusade. The introduction to the book is about poor Emma Sulkowicz (a.k.a. Mattress Girl), a victim of sexual assault in Grigoriadis’s eyes (thought not in the eyes of the police or of Columbia University, which recently settled a lawsuit with her accuser).
In that sense, Griogoriadis’s book offers more of the same nonsense about rape on campus. But there are other parts of her argument that are revealing, if only inadvertently. She told Slate recently:
Oh, yeah. I mean, I’m 100 percent on the side that 1 out of 5 [women on campus are victims of rape] is not a bogus number. Even if you want to go down the road of looking at the surveys and picking out the words that make you think that a girl could say she was raped when she wasn’t, there’s no question that we’re having an upsurge in our culture of women saying, “I feel violated by the way that I had sex in college.”
Wait. We’re having an upsurge in what? I’m glad to see that Grigoriadis doesn’t play any role in determining public policy or bringing such cases into courtrooms, but even she can’t quite bring herself to say that these women were actually assaulted.
Instead, she’s worried that they feel violated. Or that they’re just not really enjoying sex these days. Again, speaking to Slate, she explains:
We’re talking about kids who are 19 or 20 and may have never had sex before, probably have only had sex once or twice, and they’re going into situations where they feel uncomfortable vocalizing what they want, and they’re coming out of it feeling like, “That was not a boost to my self-esteem. That actually made me feel kind of shitty.”
The fact that your sexual experience was not a boost to your self esteem or that it made you feel “shitty,” does not actually make the experience an assault. But Grigoriadis simply digs herself in further:
How can I have friends that are 40-years old that are telling me about things that happened to them in college that they still remember vividly like it happened yesterday? They still feel really shitty about that.
So now it’s that women who were in college twenty years ago didn’t like the sex they were having? Talk about moving the goalpost. If the problem is not, as Grigoriadis all but admits, that women are getting attacked by strangers as they stroll across campus, what is she worried about? To her credit she does acknowledge that much of the problem is fueled by alcohol. But what exactly is the problem? It’s that women don’t seem to like the hookup culture on campus. And Grigoriadis can’t figure out why.
Maybe it’s porn, she says:
Porn has kind of normalized blow jobs and normalized anal sex to a degree, because to be honest, blow jobs and anal sex are not awesome for girls. You’re not going to find 100 percent of girls being like, “Yes. That’s what I want to do.”
So now it seems that there might be differences in the way that men and women experience sex? Grigoriadis might be on to something here. But I would advise her not to say it too loudly. If she strays too far from feminist orthodoxy on this one, she’ll get kicked out of the club.