As one of those “women of a certain age” i.e. those just old enough to remember what it was like before Title IX and the losing, though bravely fought battle for the ERA and the aftermath of both, I find it very disturbing that I see more and more about young women and even girls thinking that their battle against sexual assault and rape is something new. Even worse are the studies finding that women under 35 are, to a point, accepting the “reality of sexual harassment, assault and rape” being a part of the culture and something they have to accept!
Where was the disconnect women? Was the ball dropped somewhere in the 80’s or 90’s? How did these young women grow up thinking that “boys will be boys” is an acceptable “excuse for bad behavior”? The first time my own mother, now 86, uttered that to me after my sons’ birth, my response was a very cold “not in my house they won’t”. Yes, she’s from another time, though she did a lot of things women “weren’t supposed to do” for a woman of her generation, and that was an excuse often used for stereotypical misogynistic behaviors in that era. But, we are talking about Our daughters and Our sons here. The children of the children of the 1960’s and 70’s!
Am I glad that the government has come out with some guidelines for campus’ and universities? Sure, but a lot of those guidelines were in place before, how come they need to be spelled out further? Did someone in administration actually think we were “post feminist” or did they just miss a memo? I shudder to think what they are doing with the current argument over whether we have a “rape culture” or not.
Just to make my own position clear, I have had the privilege and sad duty to teach women’s self defense classes, counsel and advocate for rape victims over the years. If a woman reports it, there is an infinitesimal chance it’s a fake, but it’s minute to the extreme. Most sexual assaults, rapes and harassment are not reported. So the statistic of ” 1 out of 5 women are victims” they keep quoting is not correct and probably badly underestimated. 30 years ago, when I was in college, it was 1 out of 4 and it was much harder to prosecute, though it is still terribly hard. I myself am part of that statistic as are a lot of my friends.
We thought, at the time, that Title IX was great, but we knew it didn’t go far enough, which is why we fought so hard for the Equal Rights Amendment. 40 years ago, they told me I didn’t have to compete with boys in track and I could take auto shop if I wanted. That was great, but it wasn’t enough. It’s still not enough and all the guidelines and celebrity men doing commercials won’t make it enough. We need to try again for real “equal protection under the law” and until then, I’m endorsing the campaign of “Enthusiastic Yes!” which is, if she doesn’t say “yes” enthusiastically and soberly , to a direct question as to consent, then it’s rape, it’s assault and it’s a crime! No excuses, no second guesses, no still means no and not hearing a “yes!” means NO! too.