Progressive Liberals, Christian Conservatives Unite to Criminalize Sex on Campus


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An interesting facet of the "Yes Means Yes" campus rape debate is the overlap between the progressive liberal feminist position and the Christian social conservative position. Libertarianism's two main opponents on culture issues are taking similar stances—albeit for different reasons—that college students' sex lives should be encumbered for the greater good of society.

Over at National Review, David French doubles down on Heather Mac Donald's assertion that we are witnessing the unravelling of the sexual revolution—at least on college campuses:

It turns out that sexual "liberation" has not led to sexual fulfillment, but instead to a landscape littered with broken hearts, long-lasting psychic pain, and a consequent desperate effort to create and enforce a bizarre "neo-Victorian" sexual ethic grounded not in any real morality, but instead in an effort to use institutional power to shift the emotional, psychological, and legal consequences of sexual regret and ambiguity to men and — as much as possible — men alone.

Just like those on the left who say something must be done to challenge campus rape culture, French favors a college intervention of sorts. For liberals, the answer is a law that tips the scales of justice against those accused of sexual assault, which will result in more wrongful convictions, more legal disputes, and quite possibly, less sex (sex is sex, sure, but when the government increases the likelihood of being expelled for having it, one would expect a discouraging effect). For social conservatives, the answer is Christian sexual norms. In fact, the current kerfuffle over campus culture is a "Vindication of Christian Sexual Ethics," writes French:

This is exactly the time when Christians should step forward with a different ideal, the holistic, healthy, and proven model of sobriety always, chastity before marriage, and fidelity afterwards — all because marriage is sacred, our bodies are a temple to God, and we love our spouses more than we love our own lives. …

We must propose to replace the current mess with something – not just point our fingers and shake our heads at other people's desperate foolishness.

And that something isn't a new law, nor is it exactly a new culture. It's an old culture, an old morality, one that we can never live perfectly but will be better for trying. And it's one that has the benefit of pointing us to the oldest story, the story of our Creator and Redeemer.

So, Christians on campus — to the extent you're still allowed to meet and speak – now is your time to step into the breach with a sexual ethics that is actually viable, sustainable, and life-affirming, a sexual ethics that is grounded in eternal values. It will likely be the best message you will ever share.

My reaction: They are welcome to try that, as long as no one is forcing anyone else. Everybody is free to be an advocate for a cause—just don't ask the government to mandate it. (And to be fair, in the specific case of public university campuses, social conservatives are almost universally the ones being aggressed against rather than the aggressors.) I don't expect such an approach to work, nor do I agree that restoring antiquated sexual norms is an inherently good idea. But they are free to attempt it in non-coercive fashion.

Mac Donald, on the other hand, is totally in favor of achieving the Christian conservative goal vis a vis the governmental controls favored by the left:

Unlike the overregulation of natural gas production, say, which results in less of a valuable commodity, there is no cost to an overregulation-induced decrease in campus sex. Society has no interest in preserving the collegiate bacchanal. Should college fornication become a rare event preceded by contract signing and notarization, maybe students would actually do some studying instead.

That's a more obviously anti-freedom view, and should serve as powerful reminder that libertarianism's foes are always lying in wait, ready to use the powers of the state to enforce some dubious social good.

In any case, since depravity is the justification for government action, it's worth considering whether campus culture is indeed as depraved as the far-left and far-right claim it to be. An interesting exploration of hook-up culture conducted by Time's Maia Szalavitz last year cast doubt on some of the hand-wringing over declining teen morality:

Despite racy headlines suggesting that college kids are increasingly choosing casual liaisons over serious relationships, a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association finds that just under one-third of college students have had more than one partner in the past year.

And that's exactly the same proportion of students who were surveyed between 1988 and '96, and between 2002 and '10; both groups also had the same number of partners. So kids aren't hooking up more than they ever were, or even more than their parents did, which is what recent media coverage has implied. …

How students think of their liaisons with fellow students has clearly changed, and so has the college culture, apparently. All of the evidence points to the fact that college kids today are drinking less, taking fewer drugs and even having less sex than their parents' generation. Hooking up just isn't what it used to be.

Many journalists have also criticized the supposed epidemic of college rape and insist that sexual assault rates on campuses are not nearly as high as activists claim. The unavoidable conclusion is that claims of depravity seem almost universally overhyped.

Whatever the actual levels of binge drinking and sexual assault are on campuses, if people want to lessen them, I maintain that they should join libertarians in demanding a lower drinking age. Unlike clumsy consent regulations and outdated sexual norms, a lower drinking age could actually incentivize better behavior for reasons I detailed here. As libertarians long have recognized, the creation of a better society usually requires merely that the government get out of the way—and that's precisely what it should do here.

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  1. Don’t tell Congress about this.

    Michele Bachmann and Nancy Pelosi working together is frightening to think about.

  2. First. McDonald is a professed atheist. Make of that what you will. But she is not a Christian.

    Second, for being as smart on some issues, she is fucking insane on this one. What the hell does she mean “there is no cost to regulating campus sexuality”? That is completely idiotic. We are just going to regulate the most private behaviors of consenting adults. I mean there will never be any proof problems or any abuses that could occur when the government steps into regulate intimate relationships. That is a less evil position but it still manages to be a dumber position than Ezra Klein’s. Klein is evil but his position at least makes some sense; hanging the innocent and guilty alike does tend to have a deterrence effect, you have to give Klein that.

    Other than the fact that he is a Christian so Reason and thus anything he writes will cause Reason to get its smug douche bag on, I don’t see the problem with French. He is right. The Prog position on sex is insane. This is a huge opportunity for anyone, Christina or not, to offer a coherent view of sex.

    1. It turns out that sexual “liberation” has not led to sexual fulfillment, but instead to a landscape littered with broken hearts, long-lasting psychic pain

      If French wrote this, French is full of shit and Reason has every reason to get its smug on. That’s all SoCons are good for anyway.

      1. If you don’t think that the sexual revolution didn’t result in a lot of unfulfilled promises and misery for a lot of people, you are more out of touch with reality than I thought you were.

        The free love experiment failed. It just doesn’t work for most people. That doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t have been free to try it. It just means that it didn’t work. All French is doing is pointing that out.

        Have you been living in a cave for the last 30 years? Did you just not notice the aftermath of the 70s? You know when all the communes and the wife swapping closed and such. You never have met people who were promiscuous when young only to later realize that it really wasn’t very fulfilling?

        Is there any subject that you don’t let your ideology blind you?

        1. French went a little beyond saying that free love communes had shortcomings or failures. There’s a pretty large middle ground between hippie free love communes of the 70s and the sort of sexual ideals French is arguing for.

          1. Sure there is. And feel free to follow whichever works for you. French isn’t arguing for government coercion here and shouldn’t be lumped in with those who are.

            1. And the author said the exact thing you did. He didn’t lump in French with MacDonald. He did make a mistake in describing MacDonald’s views as “Christian.”

  3. I keep noticing how Robby keeps using the term “Rape Culture”…. almost as though it actually ‘exists’?

    Is it considered ‘polite journalism’ or something to go along with whatever bullshit, contrived moral-panic happens to be in vogue… just so you don’t get labeled a Rape Apologist on twitter or something?

    1. Its just kind of the air that he breaths.

  4. Progressive liberals and Christian conservatives must be forming their views on university sex based on their viewing of Pornhub’s college section.

  5. Progressive Liberals, Christian Conservatives Unite

    Dog bites man. Water is wet. These and other stories, tonight at 11:00.

    1. In this case, it’s Progressive Liberals, Atheist Conservatives Unite.

  6. A new definition of a cosmotarian: Someone who can write a moral-equivalence passage like this:

    “For liberals, the answer is a law that tips the scales of justice against those accused of sexual assault, which will result in more wrongful convictions, more legal disputes, and quite possibly, less sex (sex is sex, sure, but when the government increases the likelihood of being expelled for having it, one would expect a discouraging effect). For social conservatives, the answer is Christian sexual norms.”

    So at one extreme, there are those who want to increase the chance of sexual-assault convictions. On the other hand, there are those who support traditional sexual mores – and calling these standards “Christian” is an insult to other believers (or nonbelievers) who likewise support these standards.

    Instead we should speak of “sexual norms of the modern secular West” versus norms of the rest of the world and of the West at earlier times. Now, consult the meaning of “norm” and it doesn’t mean “this never happens,” but “people generally consider certain things wrong when they happen.”

    A private college, at least, should be able to be selective about its students, rejecting those who try to bring western secular norms onto the campus. With private colleges, you can’t make the “none of the state’s business” argument you can try and pull with state-run colleges.

    1. increase the chance of *wrongful* sex-assault convictions.

    2. Exactly this. McDonald is a loon and an atheist, something that is never mentioned as she is lumped in with Christians.

      I don’t understand how they can be this stupid.

  7. I assume Reason would not be supportive of colleges offering students GoogleGlass for rent prior to sexual liaisons and then storing the A/V records, in the event that there was some later complaint.

  8. I think abolishing fraternities would go a long way to solving any sexual violence epidemic. It’s hypermasculine reinforcement cultures like frats that distort perceptions of decency and propriety. Without that support structure of horny idiocy, you pretty much can figure out whether you’re raping someone or being raped, I’d think.

  9. I propose that campus sexuality be regulated by the old dueling codes. Substitute fucking for shooting or stabbing. So see you at 8 in the middle of the quad with your seconds and an impartial judge chosen by both parties.

  10. Hell, Reason ought to just go ahead and make shriek an associate editor.

  11. Lol at equoting Ezra Klein with anything posted by NR on this. The conservatives are leading by example and on this topic they are right.

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