In his comment on my Sept. 19 essay, “The Feminist War Against Fraternities,” Duke Cheston has abandoned the argument he made in a Sept. 13 essay for the Pope Canter that college fraternities are incubators of rape–and hence should be abolished. Indeed, he quotes with approval from Heather Mac Donald’s “The Campus Rape Myth,” her 2008 article for the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal in which she effectively demolished the assumption–dear to the hearts of feminists–that rape is widespread on college campuses in the first place. Mac Donald dug behind that oft-repeated Women’s Center statistic–that one out of every four college women becomes a rape or attempted-rape victim by the time she reaches age 25–and discovered that it was based on a single faulty study commissioned by Ms. magazine in 1987 whose lead researcher had simply concluded on her own that certain kinds of sexual encounters reported to her by her female informants constituted rape. Some 42 percent of those supposed victims went on to have sex again with their supposed assailants. It goes without saying, then, that there can’t be too many rapes committed by fraternity men–because there aren’t too many rapes (as defined in the criminal legal system) committed by college men, period.
instead raises a different argument
: that fraternity men aren't morally fit to function in the role I assigned them in my essay: puncturers
of the balloons of political correctness that float noxiously over nearly all college campuses these days. Cheston
believes that Greek-house residents, because they themselves have taken advantage of the campus hookup culture, can't be aware that carrying a sign reading "We love Yale sluts" in front of the Yale Women's Center, as some members of the Yale chapter of Zeta Psi did a couple of years ago, could constitute a genuine political protest against the humorless campus feminists who promote such conceptual atrocities as "slut walks" in the name of sexual freedom. Or that the Yale chapter of the Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE
) fraternity, suspended this past spring for having its pledges chant, "Yes means no, and no means anal!" intended only to communicate a desire to have sexual relations with non-consenting females. Cheston
Although they may occasionally embarrass university administrations by pointing out their contradictions, the idea that there are contradictions is not even a fully formed thought in their own minds. It’s a bit like an affirmative action bake sale—illustrating absurdity by being absurd—with the key difference that the demonstrators don’t know what they’re protesting against (or that they’re protesting at all). I suspect if we tried to award a medal to the Dekes for outstanding service to the Cause of Truth, they wouldn’t take it. That’s not really what they’re interested in.
Cheston seems to think that the Zeta Psi brothers wrote, "We love Yale sluts" on the placard they held up in front of the Women's Center because…they just loved Yale's slutty women–and what better place to find women than the Women's Center? He believes that protests against the dreary ideological ethos that currently pervades college campuses should be more appropriately lodged by a higher grade of dissenters: the clever scribes who write for conservative college newspapers or outspoken conservative professors such as Harvard's Harvey Mansfield.
I argue that it's as plain as the nose on your face (unless you're a feminist wearing your rape-culture blinders) that the brothers of Zeta Psi and Delta Kappa Epsilon were perfectly aware not only that they were protesting, but exactly "what they were they were protesting against" and why. They chose their targets carefully, and they fired with maximum impact. The jokes they made were certainly gross, but they were not mindless. The brothers of DKE and Zeta Psi were legitimate free-speech heroes not only because the First Amendment protects boorish as well as polite speech but also because they, almost alone on their campus in New Haven (I can't think of a Yale equivalent to Harvey Mansfield), dared to mock the reigning orthodoxy—unsupported by any facts, as Heather Mac Donald pointed out—that college campuses in general, much less fraternity houses, are hotbeds of Class I felonies involving female students routinely and brutally victimized by their male classmates. Fraternity houses are among the few places on campus where truth can be spoken, if not to power (that gets you into trouble), at least to like-minded souls, your sworn brothers, who can see very well the silliness and implausibility of the officially promoted rape myth.
The real problem—and here I think Cheston would agree with me—is that colleges, including and perhaps especially the omnipresent Women's Centers, vigorously promote casual sexual encounters among their undergraduates, all in the name of liberation and gender equality, and then are shocked, shocked that universal happiness does not ensue, especially among the female participants. Yale's biennial "Sex Week" featuring professional strippers, porn stars, and sex-toy consumer reps peddling their wares to 20-year-olds is just one of similar events on campuses all over the country. where the ins and outs, so to speak, of condom-fitting and leather-fetishism are just another part of the college experience. I am not the first person to observe that the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s was largely a revolution of women, who were suddenly as free to be as promiscuous and vulgar as men. Not surprisingly, men have been all too happy to take advantage of the newly granted female sexual license—and on campuses no group has been so happy as extroverted, athletic, better-than-average-looking fraternity men at the peak of their testosterone production helped along by the fact that downing tequila shots with the best of them is now also a marker of gender equality at colleges.
In short, there's not a rape-culture problem on campuses but a hookup-and-booze culture problem that has degraded both sexes. And it's unfair to single out fraternities and their members for punishment in an unfortunate situation for which college administrators, faculty feminists, and yes, the female students who behave as grossly as their male counterparts but who refuse to take responsibility for their actions are equally to blame. And that's why I continue to give one or two cheers for college fraternities, even in their current decadent state.