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The Sexual Totalitarian Campus

According to the University of Michigan’s website educating students and others about forms of abuse [1], this constitutes “sexual violence” (boldface mine):

Examples of sexual violence include: discounting the partner’s feelings regarding sex; criticizing the partner sexually; touching the partner sexually in inappropriate and uncomfortable ways; withholding sex and affection; always demanding sex; forcing partner to strip as a form of humiliation (maybe in front of children), to witness sexual acts, to participate in uncomfortable sex or sex after an episode of violence, to have sex with other people; and using objects and/or weapons to hurt during sex or threats to back up demands for sex.

OK, let me see if I understand this. According to the University of Michigan, a man who is insufficiently attentive to his partner’s desires in bed is guilty of sexual violence, and the woman who tells her partner that the sex they just had wasn’t very good for her because he didn’t pay enough attention to her needs is also guilty of sexual violence. A person who asks for more sex than his or her partner wants to have is guilty of violence, as is a person who denies his or her partner the sex they want to have.

These people are out of their minds. They are making these kids into complete neurotics by educating them to think that normal sexual give-and-take is pathological, and even criminal. Who wants to risk a relationship when if things go wrong in perfectly ordinary ways, one can find oneself officially accused of sexual violence, with all the penalties that carries?

Of course very few men would

From the College Fix: [2]

As for the definitions given by the University of Michigan, asked by The College Fix whether they are extreme and erroneous, campus spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said they stand when taken in a larger context.

“The definitions of behaviors of violence … describe most accurately what occurs in an abusive relationship,” he said in an email. “Those behaviors not in the context of violence are not abusive.  A reader of this site would recognize that it’s described as one behavior in the context of a pattern of behaviors to maintain power and control over an intimate partner.”

[Janet] Bloomfield has a different take on what readers will “recognize” when perusing the website.

“Using the exact same logic and method of reasoning deployed by UMich – namely, that readers will recognize the behaviors within a larger pattern of behaviors – readers will also recognize that victims are implicitly female and perpetrators are male – even though the policy does not explicitly state that,” she said, adding such extreme examples essentially label normal relationship behavior “abuse” and throw men under the bus.

“Normal relationship behaviors are pathologized and framed as abuse when MEN do them,” she noted. “I am unaware of a single case in which the accused student is a woman and the victim is a man.”

As for the topic of the campus rape epidemic, she said she believes campuses are whipping up “rape hysteria” for a variety of reasons.

“It comes down to this: colleges are creating rape hysteria so college employees who run these sexual assault centers can keep their jobs and benefits. Women are encouraged to interpret normal sexual and relationship behaviors as abuse and encouraged to have the young men they are partnering with sanctioned by the college,” she said.

Bloomfield is a men’s rights activist who writes on this libertarian website [3] — a place whose editors say that they have about as much regard for traditionalist conservatives (like me) as they do for feminists, which is to say, very little. Still, they’re absolutely right about this, and it frightens me for my sons. If one of them gets caught up in a college relationship with a manipulative woman, they could have their lives ruined if, after a breakup, she denounced them to the university as guilty of sexual violence. And it would be a woman who did this; very few men would be so lacking in self-respect as to complain to the authorities that their ex-girlfriends are guilty of sexual violence because they withheld sex, or whatever.

And I am scarcely less worried for my daughter. I absolutely do not want her to accept abuse from her partners. But at the same time, I absolutely do not want her to believe that she is so fragile that ordinary sexual behavior and verbal, um, intercourse amounts to abuse. And I absolutely do not want her to have that kind of power over the men she dates.

Initiatives like the University of Michigan’s infantilizes undergraduates, which is bad enough. It is emotionally and psychologically crippling to train them to see intimacy as fertile grounds for grievance. Worse than that, though, is the way it totalitarianizes the sexual relationships of students. At the University of Michigan, even ordinary words passing between lovers can be construed as on the same level as punching and hitting. How can you trust your partner when you never know when your partner might report you to the secret police for saying something that hurts her feelings? Every lover is a potential informant with the power to destroy your life.

It’s madness. It warps the mind.

UPDATE: A reader who is a mom writes:

Let me clarify for the UMich representative that students don’t, in fact, understand the ‘one behavior inside a pattern of behavior’ as my son was the recipient of an accusation of ‘emotional abuse’ based on his ‘withholding of sex and affection.’ As a young adult in his first relationship, just trying to figure out his feelings, it’s very likely he did withhold now and then. That’s pretty typical teenage behavior. However his ex obviously didn’t get the “behavior inside the behavior” message until she’d rendered her verdict and sent my son into a tailspin of despair, thinking he was the worst of the worst. Tellingly, the girl later apologized for her intemperate word choice but the damage was done.

You’re absolutely right: I now have a son who is leery of any relationship and finding out how difficult it is to trust someone who holds all the cards. We are leaving these kids so confused and abandoned with these mixed messages. And if this is supposed to help women, I can’t for the life of me see how.

73 Comments (Open | Close)

73 Comments To "The Sexual Totalitarian Campus"

#1 Comment By La Lubu On September 26, 2014 @ 7:34 pm

Aren’t all the forms of abuse described on that site in relationship to domestic abuse situations?

That’s exactly what I was thinking. It’s like whoever composed the website cribbed notes from various domestic violence informational sites (I suspect the [4]), and then changed the header from “abuse” to “violence”. Except…the definitions on this website aren’t as detailed as most domestic violence websites (like [5]). The goal is for people to be able to recognize unhealthy and/or abusive patterns; to be able to distinguish between what is and is not normal.

If you click on the rest of the resources section, it’s pretty clear that the context is abuse.

#2 Comment By frater On September 26, 2014 @ 9:52 pm

Why don’t you understand it? Meaningless sex is one that is not well ordered (a order whose proper context is Holy Matrimony) — I mean, the end of something is part of the essence of something. And this disorder not only is bad in itself but it causes problems everywhere: in this case among partners, it breeds suspicion, it becomes a tool for violence, so on and so forth.

#3 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On September 26, 2014 @ 10:30 pm

Makes me think arranged marriage might need reviving.

#4 Comment By O.L. Johnson On September 26, 2014 @ 11:42 pm

Rod, send your kids to a college picked out of the Newman Guide and you should avoid this nonsense.


#5 Comment By Darwin’s S-list On September 27, 2014 @ 12:25 am

I wonder how much of these goofy rules stem from the increasing female/male ratio in college student bodies. While women are increasingly getting access to higher education, that puts them at a disadvantage in the college dating market.

One way to read these rules is that they’re an attempt to discourage males from using their numerical advantages to procure fun if meaningless hook-ups and encourage them towards the more traditional dating relationships that women tend to prefer. But since these schools have either forgotten or despise the moral vocabulary of traditional courtship and expecting boys to grow into gentlemen, they enact Kafka-esque nonsense like this.

#6 Comment By Surly On September 27, 2014 @ 10:01 am

They didn’t put trigger warnings on their policies. I’m calling my lawyer.

#7 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On September 27, 2014 @ 10:38 am

Re: One way to read these rules is that they’re an attempt to discourage males from using their numerical advantages to procure fun if meaningless hook-ups and encourage them towards the more traditional dating relationships that women tend to prefer

Two caveats here:

1) while I’m much more in favour, both morally and personally, of sex being in the context of actual relationships rather than ‘meaningless hookups’, the kind of emotionally abusive behaviours that the Michigan list refers to are exactly the kind that are going to occur in actual relationships. The guy you hook up with at a party is probably not going to do most of those listed behaviours, since they all presuppose the context of an actual relationship. As more than a few singers of romantic ballads over the past half-century have told us, the absolutely most sure way to avoid getting hurt emotionally, unfortunately, is to avoid investing yourself emotionally (which is part of why a lot of people eschew actual relationships in favour of hooking up). N.B. this is not an argument in favour of casual sex, in case anyone has reading comprehension issues.

2) It’s unquestionably true that men are more interested in casual sex than women, on the whole. Just as it’s also true that men are more interested in leadership, social dominance, mathematics and highly mathematical sciences, athletic competition, and so forth. Nevertheless, as one of my professors in grad school said in this context (a very esteemed evolutionary biologist, and one who definitely does believe in innate differences between men and women), “the mean is not the variance”. The variation within each gender is bigger than the difference between them, so you will certainly find women who are interested in physics, engineering, politics, athletic excellence, though fewer than men. And you’ll also find women (I know quite a few) who like their flings, hookups, and so forth. As the evolutionary biologists are increasingly telling us, the optimal reproductive strategy for a woman is not necessarily “marry a successful man and have his babies”, it’s more like “marry a successful man, have occasional flings with the mailman or the teenage gardener, and then have your husband take care of all of their babies.”

#8 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On September 27, 2014 @ 10:43 am

Re: Makes me think arranged marriage might need reviving.

Yea, those Pakistani dudes who ran the sex rings at Rotherham all grew up in an arranged-marriage culture. (A largely incestuous arranged marriage culture at that). Seems to have worked out great for everyone concerned.

I’m quite aware that places like the U of M campus have their problems, but I’m equally certain that ‘return to the good old days of arranged marriage, no sex before Holy Matrimoney, etc.’ is not the solution.

#9 Comment By Turmarion On September 27, 2014 @ 10:46 am

For what it’s worth, studies cited [7] indicate, based on the best current studies, that the rate of false reports of rape is only about 2.8% to (at most) 8%. It’s worth noting that this is cited by the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women, at the National District Attorneys Association, so they’re not going to be biased in favor of men. The study referenced [8] examined every rape report at a college over a ten year period and reached similar conclusions.

I think the UMich policy is stupid, too, and I think false accusations are a very bad thing. Given the data, though, I’m skeptical that they’re rampagingly common (though of course any number is too many). I also think such PC policies are really bad because they play into the hands of Roissy types that want to portray all women as castrating b*****s who have it in for men, and those who seem feminism as such as irredeemably evil. After all, the feminist mother whose son was accused didn’t repudiate feminism because of that; and at the end of the day, vastly more violence is perpetrated against women than men than vice versa, and 90-97.2% of rape allegations were not false.

Let’s protect women and men, and in as non-ideological a way as possible.

#10 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 27, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

I’m curious who the bald male in the giant poster hanging from the building in the photo is supposed to be. Hitler wasn’t bald, even at the end, and the face doesn’t look like Lenin either — the two most likely candidates for villain in a piece like this.

That reminds me… during the Civil War that followed the overthrow of the hapless and incompetent Kerensky, Alexandra Kollontai and a Red Army commander whose name escapes me ran off to a Black Sea resort to indulge a romantic affair. When they returned. many central committee members, notably Leon Trotsky, demanded that they be executed for desertion of post in time of war, dereliction of duty, etc. Most armies in the world would have seriously entertained such a penalty in such circumstances, at least for the military officer involved. But Lenin said he had in mind a much more severe penalty… he proposed that they be sentenced to five years of mutual fidelity.

[NFR: That’s Big Brother from the film 1984. — RD]

#11 Comment By KD On September 27, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

What is being accomplished is the total divorce of sex from the obligation of love and commitment. It is only love and commitment that protect against violence and rape. There can be no discourse about ending a rape culture that can accomplish anything but tyranny unless it is about promoting a committed love-based culture. Given a multiplicity of wills in a relationship, there can only be mutual submission to a higher will and harmony, or there is a war-of-wills or oppression, one will dominating the other.

Marriage is a public covenant of commitment before a community and before God. Fornication is a private for-profit contract and will always leave one (or both) sides feeling ripped off after the deal. We have reduced the legal status of marriage to fornication, and many rightfully question what the difference between marriage and fornication is: there is none under secular law.

A society of fornicators will be a society of oppression and exploitation: a rape culture. The point of a business contract is to take advantage of the other side. Contracts always require legal intervention to protect from sharks. The clever always only steal as much as they can get away with legally, and make sure that they influence the writing and enforcement of the rules. There is no love in contracts, only mercenary profit.

Rites of commitment, such as the consent rules, are meaningless because they have nothing higher behind them. (We can compare these left-wing attempts at ceremonial magic with the chastity vows on the right.) Marriage symbolizes love and commitment, but the rite itself cannot create love or commitment. Those interested in fighting the rape culture need to focus on the true source of strife, which is not the absence of magic incantations before copulation, but the societal promotion of self-will and vice, and the societal model of marriage as a private commercial transaction.

#12 Comment By Erik Johnson On September 27, 2014 @ 4:12 pm

I’m discovering that anytime anyone says they are trying to ‘raise awareness’ on any issue, it’s best to get away from them as quickly as possible.

#13 Comment By stef On September 27, 2014 @ 7:50 pm

OK, still holding my sides laughing at Bloomfield and his “men going their own way” nonsense. Good. Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

What he forgets is that most women do pretty well without men; most of their lives they live without them, especially if they’re widows. And anyway, as the MRAs are fond of telling us, women’s “sale date” range is about seven years (18-25), so who cares what they think, anyway?

Women in groups do just fine, especially when they’re educated and not dragged down by dysfunctional relationships. Once your six years (LOL) expires, ladies, welcome to the world of spinsterhood, and you never have to worry about some jerky PUA blocking your path on the street or even slapping a handcuff on your wrist, just for fun.

* * * * *

Re: the sex-negativity of the U of MI policy: Why would someone who’s a conservative Christian, who thinks that one naughty *thought* with full deliberation and full consent of the will can land you in an eternity of hellfire, should care if someone gets bounced from uni for committing sexual abuse, especially if it’s premarital sex anyway?

I would think keeping people from having sex would be a feature, not a bug.

As for the married students at university:

@ginger: Re: domestic vs. non-domestic situations. Many colleges have a large minority of married students, especially if they have big graduate programs (like U of MI.) Married students often live in “family housing,” on university property, and thus university codes apply to them.

So focusing on the unmarried persons’ issues (“courtship,” etc.) may be missing the point. Domestic violence is a reality on college campuses among married students.

And, Disgusted in DC, it may be that the married students living on-campus ARE a serious problem.

@Hector St. Clare: So how would you like to “trade off biology against economics?” Repeal the 1964 Civil Rights Act? Repeal women’s suffrage?

I know that MRAs talk about this in their comboxes, when they don’t think anyone else is reading, but I like to hear such plans put right out there, in plain black and white.

@Siarlys Jenkins: The whole of most women’s history since at least the onset of agriculture has been one of marital rape, by today’s standards. The alternative was getting clubbed over the head, Yanamamo-style (where one of the leading causes of women’s deaths were skull fractures.)

And the MRA Rod linked to has all these gushy quotes about “courtly love.” I feel the laughter coming on again.

[NFR: “Re: the sex-negativity of the U of MI policy: Why would someone who’s a conservative Christian, who thinks that one naughty *thought* with full deliberation and full consent of the will can land you in an eternity of hellfire, should care if someone gets bounced from uni for committing sexual abuse, especially if it’s premarital sex anyway?” What a completely bizarre thing to say. — RD]

#14 Comment By Anne On September 27, 2014 @ 8:55 pm

Hector_St_Clare:“…the policy isn’t as dumb as it first appeared.“

If only everyone would go back and read that explanation of the policy (that it referred to acts within the context of violence, i.e., an abusive relationship, NOT to every such act by itself), I think they would see that to be the case.

#15 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 27, 2014 @ 11:38 pm

NFR: That’s Big Brother from the film 1984. — RD

Thanks. I never watched the movie. I only read the book. I never developed a physical image of Big Brother. But he would never have jovially suggested that Winston and Julia be sentenced to five years of mutual fidelity.

Stef, it would help to have some context to your remark — I can’t tell what you are responding to, or how your assertion is a response. I think you exaggerate though — genuine mutual devotion has been a theme of human literature quite as long as rape, which is certainly glorified in some aspects of the literature and tradition of many cultures. I’d like to see some statistics on the incidence of skull fracture.

Once your six years (LOL) expires, ladies, welcome to the world of spinsterhood, and you never have to worry about some jerky PUA blocking your path on the street or even slapping a handcuff on your wrist, just for fun.

I personally knew a woman in her 60s who was raped by a young man who carefully removed all the items on her bathroom window in order to quietly sneak in and surprise her, with no other intention. Robbery was not a motive. I was the second person over to her house after the phone call. Police arrived twenty minutes later. Whatever gave you the notion that after age 25, women are not targeted?

A society of fornicators will be a society of oppression and exploitation: a rape culture. The point of a business contract is to take advantage of the other side.

I think that is rather insightful. Like I said before, that’s one reason we have a formal arrangement called marriage. What is truly “dumb” about the U of M policy as stated so far is that it attempts to micro-regulate a complex and intimate relation that simply is not amenable to that sort of precise regulation.

I am reminded of a Maryland rape case where both parties testified that it began consenually, the woman said this is hurting me, stop, and the man did stop. The charge of rape turned on whether he stopped fast enough. You can’t legislate with that kind of precision. The result will be absurd, because there is no way to set laws and rules for it. Even consent has its hazards.

Trying to write rules for anything more complex than, [did you invite him into your room? Did you voluntarily accompany him to his room? Did he threaten you with death, blackmail or imminent bodily harm?] is going to be, inevitably, ridiculous.

#16 Comment By William Dalton On September 28, 2014 @ 12:54 am

Wouldn’t it be a marvelous thing if the neuroses being implanted by the sex police on college campuses actually impelled more students to lives of chastity? Sure, I spent a lot of my college years obsessing about girls and what they thought of me, and how to find and nurture a relationship with a girl, but none of my dates or other encounters ever devolved into inappropriate relations. If young men and women know the rules of courtship are cemented in the cardinal rule of no sex before marriage (or least not before a long period of formal engagement), they won’t be burdened by the absurd edicts of the University of Michigan. You can’t be accused of sexual violence for withholding sex when the rule was set that it was never yours to give.

#17 Comment By William Dalton On September 28, 2014 @ 1:16 am

A golden oldie from an unlikely source as sex advice columnist, Murray Rothbard:


#18 Comment By Jack On September 28, 2014 @ 9:02 am

what is so interesting here is that the U of Michigan policy can only be safely navigated by avoiding all relationships and all sexual contact, full stop. No touching, no kissing, no hand holding, nothing…..only strict platonic friendship. It is a policy that leads men to favor abstinence and chastity, not on religious grounds but on legal grounds. I would love to see a movement where all men on a huge campus like Michigan join together and pledge to avoid all relationships and sexual contact completely. It would be quite fascinating to see how the campus responds.

#19 Comment By Anne On September 28, 2014 @ 11:34 am

@Siarlys Jenkins,
The U of M policy is not attempting to regulate intimate relationships; that list of behaviors was simply to warn those in sexually abusive (potentially violent) relationships by identifying the symptoms of that kind of abuse. It’s like listing warning signs of cancer; it’s not done to scare everybody who may have one or two symptoms from some other cause, or none, but to reach those few who may actually need to recognize what’s happening to them.

#20 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 28, 2014 @ 7:16 pm

Anne, the mother Rod references, whose son was a U of M student, provides anecdotal evidence to the contrary — and when one makes a blanket statement as to what the policy is and is not, one anecdotal exception proves the blanket statement wrong.

It is of course possible that the young man, and/or his ex-girlfriend, and/or whatever hapless university employees were involved, misunderstand the stated intent of the policy. But that simply proves my point: it is not humanly, nor bureaucratically, possible to regulate something as complex as sexual relations in so much detail without people running off in all kinds of unintended directions with ruinous consequences.

I see no rational basis for asserting that failing to give affection is a symptom of a sexually abusive, potentially violent, relationship. “Not tonight dear, I have a headache.” “Abuse, abuse, dial 9-1-1!!!” I’m sure proponents of this policy have more sensible notions in mind, but what counts is the impact in the real world.

Neither the community, nor the state, nor your four-year college of choice, can provide you with smooth, satisfying relations with the opposite sex. Law enforcement can, and should, provide reasonable response that removes those who commit violent acts or false imprisonment from the general population, and give those who are tempted cause to think twice. Other than that, sorry, no matter how appealing the psychology, you’re on your own.

#21 Comment By William Harris On September 29, 2014 @ 7:25 am

In a spirit if generosity, is the text really worthy of the scorn? At the very least the umbrage seems misplaced. Is this even a policy? The statement in question comes from hr.michigan, and so seems aimed at employees (and yes the University is a substantial employer.) it is more definition than proscription.

But more precisely, where is the beef with the policy as written, especially if it is written for employees? Note that the section on sexual violence follows that of physical violence, it is an extension of abuse. In the context of abusive relations, is the withholding of affection benign? Or is it part of a pattern of coercion?

In short, we have a document written not for the students in the dorms, but for the single mom working in Food Service, a townie. To read it as proscriptive or to read as a student-oriented document is to mistake the document for what it plainly is.

#22 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 29, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

In the context of abusive relations, is the withholding of affection benign? Or is it part of a pattern of coercion?

What difference does it make? Its not suitable to meaningful regulation. If the document is written as “friendly advice,” leave that to Dear Abby, it is not the business of an employer. If, as is more likely when someone takes the time write such a ponderous tome, it is meant to be in some sense enforceable edict, it is absurd to attempt that sort of nuanced regulation.

The law is too blunt an instrument, as is an employee handbook. If there is an abusive relationship, there are likely empirical acts which are amenable to regulation, such as assault, battery, slander, harassment (there is such a thing, although the notion can be overdone). There is no way to regulate “an abusive relationship” as such. The best one can do is offer shelter to those running away from such, which is the most sensible course.

#23 Comment By Patrick On September 30, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

Don’t underestimate the romantic possibilities in the mutual waiver-form-signing ceremony.