By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The same goes for a recent UCLA grad, Joycelyn. “I have a very sensible group of friends and acquaintances who are not prone to ‘blind’ dating or online dating,” writes the 21-year-old, whom I contacted through her personal ad on an online dating network. “We usually meet new people through our friends, and as such, there is a network protecting the prospective daters within our group. For example, no one is going to try anything stupid as far as rape because the mutual friends will hear about it.”
“To me, if you put yourself in a situation knowing what the situation is, you shouldn’t call it rape,” says Maria, a second-year political science student at UCLA. “If you’re getting wasted yourself and one thing leads to another, then the next day you can’t call it rape.”
Their male peers tend to agree: Rape is wrong, they say, whenever and however it happens, but a woman should not be absolved of all responsibility.
“Generally, date rape means drugging a girl to rape her,” says John Bowley, a 19-year-old student at the Musicians Institute. “When drugs like GHB are involved, a girl is fucked from the start. Otherwise, if the girl’s not willing to fight back, then she isn’t putting any effort into her self-preservation. There is just no reason why these women shouldn’t carry Mace.”
“Man’s structural capacity to rape and woman’s corresponding structural vulnerability are as basic to the physiology of both our sexes as the primal act of sex itself,” wrote Susan Brownmiller in her 1975 treatise on rape, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape.Very little has happened in the last 30 years to suggest she was wrong. In 2000, the U.S. Department of Justice under Janet Reno released a study called “The Sexual Victimization of College Women” remarkably similar to Koss’ work, only far more explicit. Written with enough detail to be either comical or erotic, depending on your bent, the report defines “sexual contact” as “touching; grabbing or fondling of breasts, buttocks, or genitals, either under or over your clothes; kissing; licking or sucking; or some other form of unwanted sexual contact.” It distinguishes “completed rape” from other forms of sexual assault. And it found — almost exactly as Koss did — that 27.7 women out of every thousand had experienced either a “completed rape” or an “attempted rape” over a period of a little under seven months — suggesting, then, that 5 percent of college women experience a sexual assault in a calendar year. “Over the course of a college career,” the report read, “which now lasts an average of five years — the percentage of completed or attempted rape victimization among women in higher educational institutions might climb to between one-fifth and one-quarter.” In other words, close to one in four.
Last year’s Justice Department statistics show that out of the 215,820 women who reported having been raped, only 28 percent had been assaulted by strangers. A full 57 percent were raped by men they called friends.
The statistics have not come down, but at least the decades of vigorous public debate have mitigated the shame that kept victims quiet. Serena may not have told the police about her trauma, but she has told parents, friends, family and even co-workers. Two of her friends have been unsympathetic. “They say, Serena, c’mon, you slept at his house! They’re the ones who think of themselves as the most strong, direct and clear,” she says. “And they think I must have not been so strong, or so clear, because if I was it leaves open the possibility that it can happen to them.”
Most of her friends, though, have rallied to her side. “I’m surrounded by supportive family members and friends,” she says. “And we’re dealing with it. We really are.”
That openness is probably the biggest difference between Karen’s generation and Serena’s; it’s perhaps why, unlike Katie Roiphe, today’s college-age men and women mostly doseem to know someone who was date raped. (One man I talked to, a 19-year-old at Cal Poly Pomona, even claims that he knows a 20-year-old man who was overpowered by two women who forced him to submit to oral sex.) And as much as they wish the woman (or in that one case, the man) would have exercised more cautiousness, or defended herself more vigorously, few of them let the perpetrator off the hook completely.
“Some people might argue that with date rape it is a girl’s fault,” says Karim Wahba, a 23-year-old man studying physics at UCLA. “But that shouldn’t translate into a guy getting a lesser sentence. It should be the same sentence for date rape as it is for rape. Both are serious crimes.”
“I wouldn’t know personally, but I imagine being raped would be comparable to someone killing a family member,” says John Bowley. “It’s beyond demeaning. It would make you lose trust in men.”
Katie from Claremont is even more adamant. “I firmly believe that date rape is one of the worst possible insults against a human being. Not only are you taking away the essential freedom of choice, but you are humiliating the victim and breaking the sense of security and trust that the victim has in the person who is raping her, and even in the world around her. The trust and security that can be destroyed in one short hour can take years to rebuild.”