Categories
antifeminism antifeminist women bad boys consent is hard dark enlightenment empathy deficit evil sexy ladies grandiosity misandry misogyny MRA patronizing as heck rape rape culture red pill straw feminists victim blaming violence against women

How Camille Paglia gets date rape — and human evil — so desperately wrong

Camille Paglia: "Young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark."
Camille Paglia: “Young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark.”

That powerful and obnoxious odor of bullshit you may have noticed in the air? That’s just Camille Paglia, evidently aiming for a bit of a comeback.

One of the first-generation of antifeminist feminists who came to public attention in the 1990s, Paglia is less a scholar than an intellectual entertainer, astonishingly adept at generating controversy by packaging rather conventionally reactionary ideas as bold contrarianism. And then getting everyone to talk about her rather than the issues at hand.

If Paglia was feeling a little starved for attention, the short piece she published on Time.com yesterday (donotlink version here) with the portentous title “The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil” should fix that problem in a hurry. An appalling bit of rape apologia gussied up as a bold meditation on human evil, it’s already generating applause from Men’s Rights and Red Pill Redditors, The Daily Caller, and fellow antifeminist feminist Christina Hoff Sommers.

If you removed a brief swipe at conservatism and added some incoherent references to hypergamy and “whores,” it’s a piece that would fit right in on any “dark enlightenment” blog.

Paglia’s thesis is that female college students and campus administrators alike are, by focusing on the issue of rape, obsessing over the wrong kind of human evil.

Wildly overblown claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on American campuses are obscuring the true danger to young women, too often distracted by cellphones or iPods in public places: the ancient sex crime of abduction and murder.

You might think it makes sense to focus more on rape than on “the ancient sex crime of abduction and murder” because, well, rape is appallingly common on college campuses while kidnapping and murder, horrific as they are, are rare.

Paglia answers that obvious objection by simply redefining date rape as not-rape, essentially little more than a bit of sexual awkwardness stemming from inexperience and horniness.

Despite hysterical propaganda about our “rape culture,” the majority of campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault are not felonious rape (involving force or drugs) but oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.

Oh those blurred lines!

Having thus waved away the problem of date rape – and Time magazine’s own reporting on the subject – Paglia takes a swipe at those actually trying to do something about it:

Colleges should stick to academics and stop their infantilizing supervision of students’ dating lives, an authoritarian intrusion that borders on violation of civil liberties.

As Paglia sees it, college students, professors and administrators have simply forgotten “what evil lurks in the hearts of men,” to borrow the famous catchphrase from a radio drama popular in Paglia’s youth, instead blaming the ills of the world on “racism, sexism, and imperialism — toxins embedded in oppressive outside structures that must be smashed and remade.”

Paglia, despite her earlier snide remarks about “hookup melodramas,” is no stranger to melodrama herself, and she ends the piece with what is essentially a pretentious, extremely long-winded restatement of the old cliché “boys will be boys.”

The gender ideology dominating academe denies that sex differences are rooted in biology and sees them instead as malleable fictions that can be revised at will. The assumption is that complaints and protests, enforced by sympathetic campus bureaucrats and government regulators, can and will fundamentally alter all men.

But extreme sex crimes like rape-murder emanate from a primitive level that even practical psychology no longer has a language for. …

The sexual stalker, who is often an alienated loser consumed with his own failures, is motivated by an atavistic hunting reflex. He is called a predator precisely because he turns his victims into prey. …

Misled by the naive optimism and “You go, girl!” boosterism of their upbringing, young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark. They assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic. They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.

So apparently, in Paglia’s mind, the only thing that can be done about this “evil that lurks in the hearts of men” is for young women to stop dressing like sluts.

In the end, it’s hard not to conclude that it is Paglia, not campus anti-rape activists, who misunderstands the nature of evil. By hand-waving away date rape and focusing attention instead on the comparatively very rare cases of strangers who stalk and murder young women – the “animal eyes glowing … in the dark,” it is Paglia who fails to see the potential for evil that lurks in the eyes of young men (and women) who look like everyone else.

One of the real accomplishments of the feminist movement of the past twenty years is that it has enabled us to see and take seriously the predatory sexual behavior – from sexual harassment to rape – that is inflicted on women (and men, and non-binary folks) by people they know and trust.

By pretending that date rape is little more than a kind of “ oafish hookup melodrama,” it’s Paglia who is not only blinding herself to human evil – but also helping to perpetuate it.

150 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Myoo
Myoo
7 years ago

@alaisvex

Oh, also, this article contains a good explanation of why “rape as a reproductive strategy that worked in the Stone Age” isn’t a good argument, biologically and anthropologically speaking.

Okay, I don’t believe rape is a “reproductive strategy that worked in the Stone Age”, but that article is really bad, particularly this bit:

Or so it seemed. But Hill had something almost as good as a time machine. He had the Ache, who live much as humans did 100,000 years ago.

The Aché do not live as humans did 100,000 years ago, they live as people living today, because that’s what they are. They are as much the product of evolution as every other person in the world, they have their own culture, and it’s incredibly wrong to just use them to represent caveman simply because their society doesn’t fit the “civilized” mold.

ceebarks
ceebarks
7 years ago

I remember drinking like a fish in my late teens/early 20s. Sure, I knew Mom and Dad would have disapproved of my reckless abandon, if they’d been flies on the wall, but it’s your first (and maybe last) couple years of wild freedom, so you might as well make the best of it!

Nothing awful happened, but that’s more down to luck and the decency of the people around me than my own savviness or vigilance. I remember my now-husband propping me up to pour in a glass of water and an aspirin before pouring me into my bed on more than one occasion. AND NOT RAPING ME. sheesh.

My daughter will be that age someday, so I think about it too. I think I will tell her, just like her brothers, that she should have sex only when she and her partner *both* really want to, that it’s not ok for someone to pressure you into it or for you to pressure someone else. That they need to put some thought into the possible consequences beforehand, and talk it over with the other person, because honesty and communication are extremely important parts of having a grownup sex life.

And that sex IS a grownup activity, so they should all wait at least ’til they have graduated high school. “Don’t make me a grandma before I’ve even gotten the nest emptied for awhile, I implore you!”

But I can’t see making a big production about rape prevention. :/ I mean, what would you say “don’t go out, don’t drink, never walk alone, don’t travel by yourself– in short, do what I say, not what I did?”

Would I rather my young-adult children spent their Fridays nights crocheting doilies behind a deadbolted door? At some level, sure. Is that reasonable or likely or fair to them? No!

zoon echon logon
zoon echon logon
7 years ago

@ cassandrakitty

Paglia’s writing has always been like this, a lot of sound and fury attempting to conceal how little logic or meaning there is underneath. The fact that the idea of men as savage and yet somehow noble beasts full of uncontrollable urges seems to make her happy in her pants doesn’t help, and is awkward to observe.

Yes.
This is all that really needs to be said about her.

alaisvex
alaisvex
7 years ago

Sorry, Myoo. My impression was that Hill, because she said that she didn’t observe any rapes occurring among the Ache and therefore wasn’t evaluating them on the way that they handled rapes and pregnancies resulting from rapes in their culture, used them to calculate things like the probability of a Stone Age woman being fertile on any given day and the probability of a Stone Age woman miscarrying because their actual living conditions (e.g. diet, medicine, sanitation, hygiene, etc.) rather than their society or culture. I thought that her methods were sort of similar to the methods that historians of ancient civilizations use to try to estimate average life expectancies in those civilizations. They don’t always have much empirical data form ancient civilizations, so they extrapolate life expectancy from the UN life tables for developing countries. They’re not assuming that those countries are exactly like, say, an ancient Greek city-state; rather, they’re looking at people who are living in conditions that are as close as possible to those in which the Ancient Greeks lived. But I do recognize that the statement that the Ache lived exactly as people lived 100,000 years ago is wrong.

@ceebarks

But I can’t see making a big production about rape prevention. :/ I mean, what would you say “don’t go out, don’t drink, never walk alone, don’t travel by yourself– in short, do what I say, not what I did?”

Would I rather my young-adult children spent their Fridays nights crocheting doilies behind a deadbolted door? At some level, sure. Is that reasonable or likely or fair to them? No!

Yeah, I think that the only possible good “rape prevention” advice that you can give is to let kids know that, if they ever encounter someone who makes them feel uncomfortable and/or unsafe and who doesn’t seem to respect boundaries, it’s okay to steer clear of that person. Don’t tell them that they always have to be nice and polite when turning people down or give them the impression that they have to tolerate every single person’s presence, even if one or more of those people makes them feel uncomfortable and doesn’t respect their boundaries. But of course that’s creep shaming, which is a great misandrist evil.

LBT
LBT
7 years ago

RE: ceebarks

it’s your first (and maybe last) couple years of wild freedom, so you might as well make the best of it!

This is fascinating to me, because being in my teens/early 20s were… pretty hellishly restricted. (Hell, I had more freedom during the Homeless Year!) Freedom for me came AFTER I left college. (Which admittedly I did when I was twenty, but still, it would’ve been the same had I taken two years or four.)

Still don’t know whether my freedom would be called ‘wild,’ though. The wildness came from outside circumstances, rather than myself. I really am stodgy, I promise.

ceebarks
ceebarks
7 years ago

@LBT, that sucks. Especially the homeless part!! Dang.

I joined the military after high school. Had a few fun, wild years there, and then got married/had a bucket of kiddos. Didn’t graduate college til I was 31! 😮

Glad I had a chance to get some “wilding” out of the system before the demands of parenthood kicked in. 😀 I’m pretty stodgy these days too.

Ciiiiircle of liiiiiiife

Alaisvex, that sounds right on to me! My mom used to say that the voice that warned you away from certain people was from God Himself. I don’t believe in that, but I DO believe that you can sometimes process things on a level that’s not immediately completely accessible to your “logical” brain and that you should probably listen to that feeling and steer reasonably clear, instead of rationalizing it away to avoid hurting someone’s feelings and risking yourself in the process.

I’ve met more than a couple of people who didn’t “do” or “say” anything all that tangibly wrong when I met them… but they just seemed TOO slick, TOO… something. Later you find out they got caught doing something awful and you’re like “wow, but not THAT surprised, something always seemed off about him/her”

OTOH, some people are apparently very, very good at hiding their intentions. So nothing’s foolproof.

LBT
LBT
7 years ago

RE: ceebarks

that sucks. Especially the homeless part!! Dang.

It was better than the alternative. I survived, I made comics about it and got my life on track, so I consider it a success.

It sounds like you had a lot of fun with your wild years! I know my hubby had some himself, and he seems to have enjoyed them. I’m glad other folks can have fun like that, and do feel a slight pang of envy. Oh well, I can have some wild fun in carefully controlled circumstance now!

Tracy
Tracy
7 years ago

An article that might help mitigate the bitter taste of Paglia:

http://www.raptitude.com/2014/09/dear-young-men/

Avidly reading and absorbing all of the advice for teens here – my niece is 15. I really like the suggestion to keep it to teaching her about how to set and protect her own boundaries, and how to detect when someone is testing them… so thank you. I’ve also directed her to Laci Green, and if anyone has any other suggestions for good blogs/youtubers please post them!

GrumpyOldMan
7 years ago

In the long run, I think the best you can do is try to make your daughters more street-wise. That means get rid of the idea that you’re raising sweet shy flowers — maybe sweet tough cookies?

kittehserf - MOD
7 years ago

sweet tough cookies

Butternut Snaps! Tooth-breakers, those.

Arctic Ape
Arctic Ape
7 years ago

Cloudiah:

I do feel like changing the phrase “date rape” to “acquaintance rape” would make it clearer that this doesn’t always happen when someone is on an actual date.

I thought date rape and acquaintance rape were separate technical categories, the other two being partner rape and stranger rape. Which leads to…

But it is kind of a weird distinction, based on the assumption we can’t get people to understand that people can be raped by people they know, which bothers me. Is it playing into the common assumption that raping someone you know is a different (lesser?) crime? I don’t mean among us; clearly no one here seems to think it’s a lesser crime. But in general?

Honestly I don’t know if it’s a good idea to distinguish different categories. I suppose if you do it, you should also call stranger rape “stranger rape” and not just “rape”.

I think rape apologism primarily comes into play with partner and date rape because a) there’s plausible chance that the sex was consensual and b) it’s assumed that by being romantically and sexually involved with someone you “halfway consent” to having sex with them at any time. Often in date rape (and sometimes in stranger rape) it’s also assumed that the victim was more or less looking to have sex with *someone* on that particular night, so again not a big deal.

Acquaintance rape, which occurs in non-sexual relationships, is generally more difficult to apologize, just like stranger rape. Apparently, it rather gets brushed under the carpet, because with stranger rape as stereotypic rape you can frame rapists as “Other” and something avoidable.

(I hope this makes sense)

booburry
booburry
7 years ago

@proxieme
I think you’re an awesome mom and I wish my parents had half the sense you do. My parents were/are a mixture of extremely uninformed, naive, and until I was a certain age, very squeamish when it came to talking about anything sexual. I also grew up in a school system where sex ed was all about pregnancy and herpes (at least they tried?) and not so much consent. In fact it seemed like most of my friends were totally clueless about sex besides “use a condom” and knowing who to call a slut or a prude.
When I was a teenager I spent many a night getting way too drunk with almost no supervision. I was raped multiple times across those years and it wasn’t until almost a decade later that I even *knew* that it was rape rather than “just things guys do to get laid”.
Maybe nothing you can say will stop tragic things from happening but I think it can be really helpful. I was never very cautious due to nobody ever mentioning rape apart from stranger danger type situations. I didn’t have anyone to turn to as most of my friends had the same dumb views. I didn’t feel comfortable turning to my parents because I never felt comfortable turning to them for anything sexual.
I may have done all the same things had I known more about date rape and people badgering you into saying FINE so they will go away, who knows. I never have had a strong backbone. At least if the outcome was the same I would have known it wasn’t my fault and maybe would have found someone (even on the internet) to turn to into thinking it was some terrible shameful secret to hide forever because I was just being a dumb slut. (My friends and I were not very progressive I’m sure you can tell.)

tl;dr :proxieme , you’re a cool as fuck mom and I wish my parents had given half as much thought to this question as you are doing!

booburry
booburry
7 years ago

into is supposed to be “instead of”
silly brain.

booburry
booburry
7 years ago

Now that I’m thinking about it I had an actual relationship with a guy who, on the first night of meeting me, sat next to me at a party where I was on drugs and pestered me until I agreed to have sex with him. Literally for at least an hour it went
Asshole: hey, how about we go in the other room ans fuck?
Me: No, I don’t even know you
Asshole: Come on, don’t be like that.
Me: I don’t even know you
Asshole: I know you want to, come on
Me: Please stop I just want to hang out at this party
Asshole: Pleeeaaaase

etc etc. This actually wore me down into saying yes after a long ass time and not only did I not think he did anything wrong – I actually saw this guy for over a year afterwards (mostly because he provided me with very cheap/free drugs tbh and it was a bad time in my life). There is just something so fucking wrong when women (I was probably 20 or so at the time) don’t even realize that this kind of shit is WRONG.

vaiyt
7 years ago

But it is kind of a weird distinction, based on the assumption we can’t get people to understand that people can be raped by people they know, which bothers me.

It might bother you, but it’s true. So many people who promote in victim-based rape precautions have a real time grokking that stranger rape is by far the most uncommon kind, and the more you explain to them, the angrier and more defensive they get.

Policy of Madness
Policy of Madness
7 years ago

The term “date rape” served a useful purpose, at least at one time – it got people accustomed to the idea that a date can also be a rapist. I remember when this was not a thing that people believed.

I’m sorry that I can’t provide a citation for this, because I can’t recall enough detail, but there was an episode in the late 80s of one of those sitcoms meant for “the whole family.” Like Family Ties or Full House, although I don’t think it was one of those. In the episode, a teenaged girl character goes on a date with a boy. They go to a restaurant and she orders lobster. He later pressures her for sex in the car. She refuses, and he doesn’t rape her, but drives her home and then is very cold to her.

She is distraught and consults one of her friends, who does a forensic analysis of the date. As soon as our protagonist girl reveals that she ordered lobster at the restaurant, the friend is all AH HAH by ordering lobster you were promising him sex! And then you didn’t put out! It’s no wonder he’s upset at you!

The resolution of this (as far as I recall and remember that my memory may be suspect here) was NOT that ordering lobster does not actually constitute a secret contract for sex, but that the girl was at fault for leading the boy on, and she had to apologize to him. So viewers of this show were assured that if a girl or woman orders an expensive dinner at a restaurant, that means the boy or man is entitled to sex and it’s perfectly natural for him to require her to provide it.

I also recall one of those real-crime shows telling the story about a guy who took a woman out on a date, raped her in the car before taking her home, then kissed her and said good night and later called her for another date. Then when she met him at the door with the cops, he was bewildered because he hadn’t any idea that he’d done anything wrong.

My point with this is that the term “date rape” is not useless. When people don’t grasp that this act that we term date rape is rape, giving it a special label is helpful. It’s maybe less helpful now, because of course not all “date rape” comes from a date, and I think the idea has sufficiently penetrated our culture that it’s fine to retire it in favor of “acquaintance rape” or maybe “rape-rape.”

GrumpyOldMan
7 years ago

It was not necessarily that the boy thought he was entitled to sex as compensation — although that might be true — but it also could be that he took her ordering of the expensive meal as her signal that she wanted to have sex with him. Since it has never been considered quite acceptable for a girl to come out and say “I want to sleep with you”, boys are always looking for signs that a girl is interested/willing, and ordering an expensive meal on a date was supposedly one of the ways for a girl to say it without saying it in so many words. Of course that assumes that both parties are speaking the same non-verbal language, which was very often not the case. I always thought that the cure for this problem was to empower the girls to tell the boys exactly what they think — if the message is something like, “I really like you, and I’m considering sleeping with you, but I’m not ready yet,” I think almost all boys would find that quite acceptable — it lets them know where they stand, which always makes things easier. I think there has always been an assumption on the part of boys that girls expect them to pressure them for sex to some degree — that the boy is expected to go as far as the girl will let him. I think that idea is pretty deeply ingrained in our culture.

Our culture has made it far too difficult for people — especially inexperienced young people — to negotiate in sexual situations. It was fairly easy for me, because I didn’t start dating until I was almost 20, and I started out with the assumption that girls were not interested in sex so I didn’t have to worry about whether or not they would sleep with me. (Note: When I was young, college-age people generally referred to each other as boys and girls.) But today the official line still forbids premarital sex while other elements in the culture imply that everyone should be banging away incessantly. Whenever I read something like Booburry’s post — and I couldn’t count the number of times I’ve read similar things — I think of how much damage our inability as a culture to come to mature and commonsense attitudes about sex has caused. The idea that sex and sex organs are shameful, that is is normal or even desirable for young people to be partly ignorant about such a major issue in their lives, at a time when they are trying to deal with such huge changes in their bodies and minds — it has always boggled my mind. It was much worse when I was young, so maybe there’s hope. When I was young, the term rape was seldom used — it was called “criminal assault” — as if there were kinds of assault that were not criminal. The words penis and vagina were never spoken out loud, never used on TV or radio, for example. Some decades ago I had a conversation about sexual ignorance with a woman who was a few years older than me — she told me that she had lost her virginity at 15 because she was so ignorant about sex that she didn’t realize that what the boy was doing was what her mother had tried to tell her she wasn’t supposed to let boys do.

I read discussions about rape on WHTM and I think, yes, that all makes sense, but you DO understand that the definition of rape that most people here would agree on is not generally agreed on in society as a whole — at least not yet. I think there is a very substantial number of young men who are sincerely convinced that it is OK to have sex with a woman who is intoxicated as long as she is not passed out, or that it is OK to have sex with a woman as long as you can badger (but not actually physically force) her into going along with it — because such beliefs are traditional and are also being promoted by a substantial segment of the culture. (A bad segment, it is true, but nevertheless …) It seems to me that a feminist view of rape has made a lot of progress and may ultimately become the dominant belief, but that battle has not been won yet. (I think one of the most useful indicators of the progress feminism has made is the outrageousness of the lies anti-feminists have to fabricate.)

I know I did a few things when I was young that I now regard as inappropriate and uncomfortably close to the boundary of what I would now regard as rape, and certainly by Robin Morgan’s famous definition of rape I am unquestionably a rapist, so perhaps I should ask you to consider my thoughts as coming from an admitted rapist — although I did not understand at the time that what I was doing could be considered to be rape so I do not believe that it is true that everyone who commits what we would consider rape is aware that that is what he is doing IS rape. My opinion is that there is a gray area between what every sensible person would consider rape and a feminist view of rape, but the problem is not so much one of defining rape — how do you define when someone becomes too intoxicated to consent and how does someone who is also drinking make this judgment — but is more a matter of challenging underlying false beliefs about male and female sexuality (and human sexuality in general). (I think anyone here could probably come up with a pretty good list of wrong and damaging beliefs about sexuality in our culture, so that is your homework assignment. The first one I’ll give you as a starter: All men always want casual sex, but only slutty women do.)

tl;dr Our culture has such seriously fucked up attitudes toward sexuality, and encourages poor communication between men and women about sex, so there is bound to be a lot of non-consensual sex and very serious disagreement about what rape even IS. Education and an effort to establish a feminist definition of rape as the standard is required.

LBT
LBT
7 years ago

RE: Policy of Madness

I remember when this was not a thing that people believed.

*snort* People STILL believe it. I was getting shit for that less than ten years ago from my peers.

freemage
freemage
7 years ago

GrumpyOldMan: I’ll just note that one sign of success is that if you ask most people today, “Is it rape if one person doesn’t consent,” you would get a “Yes” answer. Now we need to hammer home the idea of what consent actually entails, and what can render it an impossibility (including age, intoxication, etc.).

Skanky Tits
7 years ago

“ancient sex crime of abduction and murder” sounds like a black metal song :/

LBT
LBT
7 years ago

Also, how in the hell is it even a sex crime? Abducting and murdering someone doesn’t necessarily involve sex at all!

kittehserf - MOD
7 years ago

GrumpyOldMan

I just had to look up the Robin Morgan quote, not knowing anything about her – was it “I claim that rape exists any time sexual intercourse occurs when it has not been initiated by the woman, out of her own genuine affection and desire”? That’s slightly mind-boggling, though it makes sense in the power context of its time.

Another Holocene Human
Another Holocene Human
7 years ago

@Dennis Jernberg

Just wanted to pop up and let you know that I enjoyed your thoughtful comment and I think I learned something too.

To me Camille has not only not changed and become a parody of herself, but quickly – yes, about the time of the Salon column – jumped from literary criticism and then much weaker cultural criticism to subjects she blatantly knows nothing about, such as in this case criminology. At least when she was naval gazing in Sexual Personae one could reasonably infer that her statements about herself and her enthusiasms were baseline factual, but this latest column is just one blatant, ERRONEOUS assertion after another.

alaisvex
alaisvex
7 years ago

I just found another good critique of this piece and the shockingly positive MRA response that it’s generated.

http://www.alternet.org/gender/camille-paglia-thinks-rape-intrinsic-mens-nature-and-some-men-are-ok

bluegreen8
bluegreen8
7 years ago

What is troubling about Paglia is that she doesn’t do research. At all. Just pulls stuff out her own (to her) elevated consciousness.. Otherwise know as her butt hole.

1 4 5 6
%d bloggers like this: