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Sexual consent: yes, no, maybe

By Bettina Arndt - posted Friday, 8 September 2017


Candice Jackson, a top Trump Education official, hit the headlines recently by claiming ninety per cent of sexual assault claims on campuses involve couples who are both drunk. Judging from recent media reporting of our own campus rape crisis the same might be true here.

"I didn't think I could even walk by myself. I think I knew what was going to happen but I was so drunk that I just like went along with it," said Tasmanian University student Lorna Nilssen appearing on the ABC's 7.30 Report claiming the Human Rights Commission survey showed alarming levels of assault and harassment.

The same programme featured ANU law student Freya Willis alleging she was raped by a fellow student at a campus event. "We were both quite intoxicated. I was much more intoxicated than he was and he separated me from my friends and we went back to a room where we were both staying and that's where it happened."

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So many stories of drunken young women being taken advantage of - often by equally drunk young men. There were horrific tales of women falling victim to groups of men, having their drinks spiked or falling into the hands of serial predators. These are the cases highlighted by media promoting the feminist position that all sexual activity involving an intoxicated woman is sexual assault as she cannot give consent. And that discouraging female students from drinking risks blaming the victim and shaming such women into not seeking help.

Yet that's only part of the story as shown on SBS's recent Insight programme on sexual consent. President of the Law Society of NSW, Pauline Wright, talked about a boyfriend and girlfriend out on a date. They've had a few drinks, they regularly have sex. "They both get drunk, they go home and the usual thing for them would be to have sex. The girl might be saying yes but perhaps the next day thinks that was wrong." Maybe they split up the next day, maybe there was reason for the girl to redefine her experience, suggested Wright. "It bothers me that because she was drunk the law might say that she didn't have the capacity to say yes. That becomes really difficult for a young man."

Very difficult, because as Candice Jackson pointed out, these regret-sex incidents can easily end up with a young man being charged with sexual assault, even many months later.

Wright also described a hypothetical first date where the girl thinks she doesn't want to have sex but then they have too much to drink and do have sex. "The next morning, he doesn't call, he doesn't ring, she feels humiliated. Is that then a sexual assault? " she asked.

Certainly most juries wouldn't think so. They rarely convict in the date rape cases involving contradictory he-says, she-says evidence which constitute the bulk of campus rape allegations. That's why the activists are pressuring universities to getting involved in such cases, promoting their simple narrative of men as perpetrators and women victims.

Just a few months ago the University of Canberra website included a Party Safe page advising students to "pace yourself if you are drinking and stay alert. When you are drunk or using drugs, you are more likely to do things you normally wouldn't do when you are sober." This advice was attacked by activist Nina Funnell on abc.net.au who denounced universities for still teaching "don't get raped" rather than "don't rape". The advice has since been removed from the Party Safe page.

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"Don't get raped" is conspicuous by its absence in the universities' virtue-signalling activity following the August 1 release of the HRC data. Our universities are strenuously ignoring the fact that the HRC data showed mainly good news - thankfully small figures for sexual assault, 1.6 per cent over two years, and the harassment was mainly unwanted staring, which most of the women dismissed as not serious or not requiring help.

Yet with most of our media choosing to misrepresent the figures and promote the fake news rape narrative, our universities have fallen into line and funded measures including online sexual consent courses consent courses which put the onus for preventing sexual assault squarely on the shoulders of young men.

These online consent courses are intriguing. Most are adapted from an Epigeum course constructed by proud feminists including Californian consultant Alan Berkowitz – a man who boasts of his ongoing battle against "unconscious sexism and male privilege." The programme pretends to be gender-neutral and includes case histories involving some gay couples and a few female perpetrators such as a woman who ponders going down on her sleeping partner and is later congratulated for restraining herself. But the programme is mainly pitched at teaching young men to decipher women's messages regarding consent:

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This article was first published in The Australian. Bettina Arndt is now vlogging, and her latest can be watched by clicking here.



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About the Author

Bettina Arndt is a sociologist.

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