Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy birthday!

to Katha Pollitt - one of my favorite writers.

One of my favorite essays by her:
"STICK to straight liquor," my father advised me when I left for college, in the fall of 1967. "That way, you'll always know how drunk you are." I thought he was telling me that real grownups don't drink brandy Alexanders, but, of course, what he was talking about was sex. College boys could get totally plastered, and the worse that would happen to them would be hangovers and missed morning classes. But if I didn't carefully monitor my alcohol intake one of those boys might, as they used to say, take advantage of me. Or, as they say now, date-rape me.

Veiled parental warning like the one my father gave me- don't go alone to a boy's room, always carry "mad money" on a date, just in case - have gone the way of single-sex dorms, parietal hours, female-only curfews, and the three-feet-on-the-floor rule, swept away like so much Victorian bric-a-brac by the sexual revolution, the student movement, and the women's movement. The kids won; the duennas and fussbudgets lost.

Or did they? In "The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism on Campus" (Little, Brown; $19.95) Katie Roiphe, a twenty-five-year-old Harvard alumna and graduate student of English at Princeton, argues that women's sexual freedom is being curtailed by a new set of hand-wringing fuddy-duddies: feminists. Anti-rape activists, she contends, have manipulated statistics to frighten college women with a nonexistent "epidemic"
of rape, date rape, and sexual harassment, and have encouraged them to view "everyday experience"- sexist jokes, professional leers, men's straying hands and other body parts- as intolerable insults and assaults. "Stranger rape" (the intruder with a knife)
is rare; true date rape (the frat boy with a fist) is even rarer. As Roiphe sees it, most students who say they have been date raped are reinterpreting in the cold grey light of dawn the "bad sex" they were too passive to refuse and too enamored of victimhood to acknowledge as their own responsibility. Camille Paglia, move
over.
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