Progressives coddle rapists, while smearing innocent people as predators

The Talmud says that “he who is kind to the cruel is cruel to the kind.” That aptly describes many “progressives,” who coddle rapists while seeking to brand innocent people as rapists by redefining consensual, wanted sex as rape merely because it occurred without verbal authorization. Fourteen hundred girls were sexually assaulted in Rotherham, England, while the left-wing ideologues in the local Labour Party government looked the other way out of political correctness (because the perpetrators were Pakistanis, while the victims were working-class white girls):

“Children as young as 11 in the Yorkshire town of Rotherham were raped by multiple perpetrators, abducted, trafficked to other cities in England, beaten and intimidated, by groups of mainly Pakistani men from 1997 to 2013, a troubling new report claims.  The inquiry team found examples of “children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone.”  Revealing details of the inquiry’s findings, Professor Alexis Jay, who wrote the latest report, said: “It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered.” The report pinned the blame on the leadership of South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham council. Despite calls for him to quit over the sex abuse scandal, South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Shaun Wright … vowed to stay in his job. Wright was a Labour cabinet member for children and young people’s services at Rotherham Council from 2005 to 2010, when he received three reports about widespread abuse but failed to act.”

Meanwhile, California’s left-wing legislature recently enacted a law, SB 967, that apparently requires colleges to treat some consensual sexual encounters as “sexual assault.”  Progressives have long exhibited this sort of political schizophrenia. Education expert Stuart Buck, an honors graduate of Harvard Law School and Ph.D. in Education Policy, describes “one of the women I knew (and was actually good friends with) at Harvard Law School: She got into a heated argument with me once over her contention that rape was a systematic patriarchal tool that benefited all men, but then she would spend her spare time working for the Prison Legal Assistance Project (known as “PLAP”) where one of her projects — I kid you not — was helping a local rapist to get out on parole.”

As I noted earlier, some supporters of California’s new “affirmative consent” law regulating campus sexual encounters say it requires “state-mandated dirty talk.” Now, they are getting even more explicit about how they want to use “affirmative-consent” rules to force you to discuss explicit sexual details (like  agreeing in advance on each touching of intimate areas) during sexual encounters. They want to require such discussion even when it would serve no useful purpose, such as where the touching is almost certain to be welcome, based on nonverbal cues and the fact that it was also welcomed by the recipient in past sexual encounters (many campus “affirmative consent” rules require “agreement” in advance, even if the sexual contact or activity is welcomed after it is initiated).

For example, the progressive commenter dgm23, a frequent commenter at Mother Jones and the Washington Post’s Volokh Conspiracy blog, endorsed Antioch College’s expulsion of a male student merely for touching his partner while making out without reaching verbal agreement prior to the touching (the student asked “does this feel good” while doing it, to see if she wanted him to stop, rather than saying “may I touch your breast” before doing it). What does this commenter think the student should have done instead, given the reality that most couples don’t want to discuss every touch or escalation of intimacy right before it happens?  After all, there are few women who would want a man to ask  “may I touch your breast” before doing so, and almost none who would want a man to ask “may I massage your clitoris” before doing so.  (Imagine how embarrassing it is for a shy person to ask such a question, or to have to answer it. My wife, who is quite modest, would be extremely embarrassed if I asked her such things. She would much rather have sex than talk about it, which makes sense, because sex is itself a form of communication, not a vacuous activity that needs to be accompanied by endless chatter and discussion).

Dgm23 says that if it’s not feasible for a man to discuss every individual touching of a woman’s intimate areas in advance (as some “affirmative consent” policies literally require for a couple taking things on a step-by-step basis), he should instead seek consent from his date to a wide array of touching and licking in advance, using this disturbingly graphic example:  “Listen, I think you’re hot, I’m really attracted to you. Someday, maybe even tonight, I hope to run my hands, my mouth all over your body, over all your parts. But we might not be there yet, and I need to know that if I start to touch you in a place you’re not comfortable with, you’ll just tell me to stop, and we’ll stop immediately. You’ll feel okay, you won’t feel assaulted.”

How many women would ever want to hear that from their date?  (“I hope to run my hands, my mouth all over your body, over all your parts”). It would freak many women out, and few men could bring themselves to say something so awkward (except maybe an egotistical jerk doing so on a dare).  My wife says that if a man had told her something like that on a date, she would have gotten out of the room as fast as possible.

The impracticality of “affirmative consent” rules, and the unwelcomeness of the questions men end up asking women under them, it’s not surprising that men who have tried to incorporate “affirmative consent” into their own personal life have generally found that it doesn’t work: It winds up offending women by leading to men making all sorts of awkward requests for consent.

At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf quotes from the misadventures of a man raised by feminist parents who tried to follow “affirmative consent” in his dating relationships with women, only to discover that it annoyed and disgusted them:

I was raised by a left-leaning, feminist family who (at least I thought at the time) were relatively open about sex. But while I arrived at college with a healthy respect for women, I was totally unprepared for the complex realities of female sexuality.

“Oh,” sighed one platonic female friend after we had just watched Harrison Ford grab Alison Doody and kiss her is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, “Why don’t guys do that kind of thing anymore? Now days they are all too scared.”

On our second night together, one of my first partners threw up her hands in disgust. “How am I supposed to get turned on when you keep asking for permission for everything like a little boy?” She said. “Just take me and f– me already.”

As we discussed earlier, the California “affirmative consent” law actually requires an “agreement” for “sexual activity,” not just consent in a less legalistic sense. This “agreement” requirement is misguided: There are lots of things in this world that I like, and view as consensual, that I never “agree” to, such as when my wife or daughter suddenly hug me without asking for permission.

This “agreement” requirement could intrude deeply into people’s private lives.  Ezra Klein, a former Democratic operative and leading supporter of the new law, says it will define as guilty of sexual assault people who “slip naturally from cuddling to sex” without a series of agreements in between, since

it tries to change, through brute legislative force, the most private and intimate of adult acts. It is sweeping in its redefinition of acceptable consent; two college seniors who’ve been in a loving relationship since they met during the first week of their freshman years, and who, with the ease of the committed, slip naturally from cuddling to sex, could fail its test.

The Yes Means Yes law is a necessarily extreme solution to an extreme problem. Its overreach is precisely its value….

If the Yes Means Yes law is taken even remotely seriously it will settle like a cold winter on college campuses, throwing everyday sexual practice into doubt and creating a haze of fear and confusion over what counts as consent. This is the case against it, and also the case for it. . . . men need to feel a cold spike of fear when they begin a sexual encounter. . . To work, “Yes Means Yes” needs to create a world where men are afraid.

Creating a “world where men are afraid” constitutes precisely the sort of sexually hostile educational environment that the Fourteenth Amendment forbids state officials to create.  (Courts have held that government officials violate the Fourteenth Amendment when they sexually harass people, in court rulings like Bator v. State of Hawaii and Hayut v. State University of New York, and creating an anti-male climate constitutes sexual harassment, see Hartman v. Pena, 914 F.Supp. 225 (N.D. Ill. 1995), a case in which a judge allowed male employees to sue over an intimidating, anti-male sexual-harassment sensitivity training seminar).

Moreover, affirmative-consent rules that require “state-mandated dirty talk” before intimate touching and sexual activity should also be recognized as violating the First Amendment freedom from compelled speech, recognized in the Supreme Court’s 1977 Wooley v. Maynard decision.

Not all liberals or progressives support California’s “affirmative-consent” law, which was criticized by Batya Ungar-Sargon at the New Republic, Michelle Goldberg at The Nation, and Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine. As we noted earlier, California’s law, also known as SB 967 and the Yes Means Yes law, was opposed by the Los Angeles Times, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, former ACLU Board members Wendy Kaminer and Harvey Silverglate, and the Orange County Register.  It was also criticized by many columnists, such as Megan McArdle at Bloomberg News, Cathy Young at Real Clear Politics, and Ashe Schow at the Washington Examiner.

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. Hans also writes for CNS News and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”


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