Title IX: The changing dialogue | HBR Talk 81

 

When feminism was young, it was argued that women were being held back from experiencing sexual equality by falsely applied moral and social rules. The truly liberated woman, it was argued, has every right to casually partake of the smorgasbord of available partners at her leisure, without fear of loss of reputation or status as a result. Society has no right to tie morality to one gender. Despite the laws and social standards in place that treated male promiscuity as irresponsible and damaging to women, feminists saw promiscuity as a right afforded to men. Therefore, in the name of equal rights, women must be allowed to be equally promiscuous. Then they discovered that sexual equality came with consequences, and a whole new narrative was created.

In the dating arena, this has led to an environment wherein men must ask permission for each and every step along the path between introduction and orgasm, handling their partners' supposedly cripplingly fragile emotional and mental states as if they are courting soap bubbles which might burst and expire upon the slightest bit of unplanned excitement. Among feminists, this is known as the Enthusiastic Consent standard.

That standard began to become popular on university campuses during the ‘90s, when the grip of victim identity politics on these environments had hit a peak similar to its manifestation today. Following that, campus feminists began pushing for legislation to back it up. They received that from the Obama administration in the form of the 2011 Dear Colleague letter that created a kangaroo court system on university campuses. Dear Colleague mandated an investigative, judicial, and punishment process when allegations of sexual misconduct were reported to university personnel. The policy laid out stipulations that conflicted with students’ due process rights, and as a result, over the next six years over 300 students, mostly male, ended up filing lawsuits against their universities. 

In addition to numerous court victories under due process standards and anti-discrimination law, men’s advocates have spent the last six years agitating for education department policy change. While we were mostly rebuffed by Obama administration officials, the Trump administration’s Secretary of education, Betsy DeVoss, concluded that the policies laid out in Dear Colleague were leading to discrimination and civil rights violations. 

Last year, her department came out with revised standards intented to restore due process recognition and gender-equal treatment where these conflicts arise. 

In our coverage of Title IX activities, we noted that activists were scrambling to keep abreast of the changes, while simultaneously lamenting them as an attack on their “progress,” one that needed to be pushed back. Now, it has become obvious they’re not going to achieve that. When feminism was young, it was argued that women were being held back from experiencing sexual equality by wrongly applied social norms. The truly liberated woman, it was argued, has every right to casually partake of the smorgasbord of available partners at her leisure, without fear of loss of reputation or status as a result. Despite the laws and social standards in place that treated male promiscuity as irresponsible and damaging to women, feminists saw promiscuity as a right afforded to men. Therefore, in the name of equal rights, they argued that women must be allowed to be equally promiscuous, with impunity. Then they discovered that sexual equality came with consequences they hadn’t considered, and a whole new narrative was created to protect women from the scourge of personal accountability.

As a result, men’s advocates have spent the last half-century countering demonization of men and marginalization of their experiences. Little has been so dramatically prejudicial against men as the feminist rape culture narrative, a belief that relies on viewing the sexes through a more traditional filter. Our society has gone right back to presuming women to be perpetually reluctant and men to be perpetually ambitious toward sexual interaction, the latter being an attitude that is portrayed as selfish and predatory. To shield women from the potential consequences of unwise sexual choices, the feminist rape culture narrative transfers all responsibility for any sexual encounter to the guy. Viewed through this lens, whether a given decision under a given set of circumstances may be viewed as a deliberate, willful act, or an inflicted experience can depend on the sex of the individual under discussion.

While the guy’s consent is presumed implied, the gal’s consent is presumed... complicated. Nothing she does, right up to and including initiation of and active physical participation in a sex act, can be interpreted as evidence of consent. It is never to be expected that she voice her feelings unprompted. It must instead be assumed that the otherwise strong and liberated woman's disabling psychological weakness may prevent her from verbally refusing unwanted sex.

In the dating arena, this has led to an environment wherein men must ask permission for each and every minor step along the path between introduction and orgasm, handling their partners' supposedly cripplingly fragile emotional and mental states as if they are courting soap bubbles which might burst and expire upon the slightest bit of unplanned excitement. Among feminists, this is known as the Enthusiastic Consent standard.

That standard began to become popular on university campuses during the ‘90s, when the grip of victim identity politics on these environments had hit a peak similar to its manifestation today. Following that, campus feminists began pushing for legislation and policy to back it up. They got their desired policy from the Obama administration in the form of the 2011 Dear Colleague letter that created a kangaroo court system on university campuses. Dear Colleague mandated an on-campus investigative, judicial, and penalization process when allegations of sexual misconduct were reported to university personnel. The policy laid out stipulations that conflicted with students’ due process rights, and as a result, over the next six years, more than 300 students, mostly male, ended up filing lawsuits against universities whose handling of their cases either included a civil rights violation, or was outright discriminatory. 

In addition to the pressure from numerous court victories among those suits, men’s advocates have spent the last six years agitating for education department policy change. While we were mostly rebuffed by Obama administration officials, the Trump administration’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVoss, concluded that the policies laid out in Dear Colleague were leading to the discrimination and civil rights violations over which universities have been getting sued. 

Last year, her department came out with revised standards intended to restore due process recognition and gender-equal treatment to university handling of these cases. 

In our coverage of Title IX activities, we noted that activists were scrambling to keep ahead of the changes, while simultaneously lamenting them as an attack on their “progress,” one that needed to be pushed back. Last year we examined discussion on that very note by Title IX conference presenters and attendees. 

Now, it has become obvious their pushback isn’t going to work. Betsy DeVoss has maintained her dedication to her proposed changes in policy, and the court system is driving home the fact that due process violations against college students as part of the university imitation of a court system will not be tolerated.

So what’s the new narrative? Are administrators going to have to update their attitudes and policies regarding student allegations of sexual misconduct… or are they gearing up to deal with more lawsuits?

With this year’s round of Title IX activities coming up, we’ll soon find out.

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