On Tuesday, Feb. 19, two Nexus articles caught my eye. The first was titled “Campus, Community Groups Run Campaign Against Sexual Assault.” The second was a “Left Said” opinion piece on drone strikes. Although these two articles seem unrelated at first glance, a closer examination reveals a subtle and worrisome theme tying the two together.
In “Left Said,” Michael Dean wrote an article critical of American drone strikes in foreign countries. He criticized the racism implicit in our drone policy which allows the government to “reduce” the civilian death toll by writing off “combatants” as all young men killed by drones “who fit a certain phenotype” (i.e. who are Arabs).
But while Dean and others have pointed out the unwritten racism of such a policy, they fail to point out the written misandry. U.S. policy lists young men as combatants. Imagine, if you will, what would happen if it were to become known that U.S. policy called for killing women of military age. People would riot in the streets and drone strikes would be halted tomorrow.
What does the drone example teach us? Men are warriors and men are disposable. Even in 2013, we are still expected to die in wars. Just as the Selective Service Act requires all American young men to register for the draft, Pakistani young men are indirectly “drafted” by our foreign policy.
Drone policy also reveals our society’s presumption of male culpability. Men are guilty. This presumption is the reason why men receive longer prison sentences for the same crimes. It is why black men in the Jim Crow South could be lynched based solely on a white woman’s accusation of rape. It is why we can ignore male domestic violence victims, and dismiss male victims of crime by saying that “men committed the violence.” (Would we dare say the same thing about minorities or the poor?) And this ties into the second article, the one concerning sexual assault.
Just as young Pakistani men are seen as terrorists, young American men are seen as rapists. Of course, sexual violence is a very serious problem, and I do not believe that the people who are trying to stop it have anything other than the noblest intentions. But I worry that they may be doing more harm than good.
Take, for instance, the signs by the bike paths — the “excuses” used to justify rape. What exactly do these signs hope to accomplish? What good will it do to remind students of rape every day while biking to class? I doubt the signs will stop a single sexual assault, but they will constantly remind female students of their supposed vulnerability and powerlessness — while at the same time wagging a finger at male students, reminding us of our potential violence and criminality.
The article says that the signs are meant to “open up conversation on sexual violence,” so allow me to add an alternate perspective to the conversation. Do with it what you will.
One sign says, “She said no but meant yes.” The problem is, a 1988 study by Texas A&M University found that 39.3 percent of college women had at some point said “no” when they meant “yes.” Another excuse reads, “We were both so drunk.” This one is even more problematic; if we extend the definition of rape to include consensual sex while drunk, then I suspect the majority of Isla Vistans are guilty. And what if both the man and woman are drunk? Do they simultaneously rape each other? If the woman is not responsible for her actions while drunk, why should the man be? And, most importantly, does the woman feel raped? In many cases of consensual drunk sex, I would suspect that the answer is no.
In the words of Dr. Warren Farrell, “Laws against date rape with broad definitions are like 55-mile-per-hour speed limits — by making everyone a violator, they trivialize those who are real violators.”
American men do not live in the shadow of drones, but the principle is the same. We are the guilty ones. At the dawn of the 21st century, we live under a burden of original sin more subtle than anything the Church ever concocted.
Jason Garshfield is a first-year undeclared major.