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The news this week out of college campuses once again raises the question of whether sexual liberation is really compatible with respect for the rights of women (and men) that feminism champions. An anonymous member of the Reed College community has filed a Title IX complaint alleging that a certain campus tradition has created a hostile learning environment for victims of sexual assault. According to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

A Reed spokesman told the newspaper that the complaint stemmed from an annual ritual that takes place before the first lecture in a humanities course that is required of all freshmen. Juniors and seniors convene outside the building and demand that freshmen offer up “libations” for the gods. The students pour coffee and other drinks on the ground in the hopes of being granted good luck for the academic year.

While some students showed up dressed as gods, others came naked, and the spokesman said some students have also appeared naked in past years. John R. Kroger, the college’s president, wrote in an e-mail to the campus cited by the newspaper that freshmen could not enter the building without encountering those students, who were yelling and gesticulating.

The administration is investigating the matter, as perhaps with the federal government. The question is how the school will weigh the rights of people to walk around with no clothing on against the rights of people who don’t want to have to encounter naked people “yelling and gesticulating.”

Meanwhile back at the center of all Title IX issues, Yale has released a series of hypothetical scenarios in order to clarify for the community exactly what constitutes sexual assault and what consequences will be visited on the perpetrators. Part of it sounds like a rehash of the old Antioch College policy in which students must ask the other participant at each step of the process whether they would like to continue. “May I unzip your dress? May I kiss your neck? May I…” You get the picture.

According to the Yale Daily News:

Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd ’90 said nonconsensual sex by Yale’s definition is broader than rape and includes any instance of sex — oral, vaginal or anal — that does not include positive, unambiguous, voluntary agreement at each point during the sexual encounter.

Again, one is left to wonder exactly how the encouragement that we all be more free and open and loose with our sexual activities is compatible with the idea that we need to constantly provide “positive unambiguous, voluntary agreement at each point during the sexual encounter.” Otherwise the administration will assume it’s “nonconsensual,” which, by the way, is not the same as rape, according to the administration.

The one adjective I would have liked to see on the dean’s list is not there. What about “sober”? That’s the real issue with much of the nonconsensual sex on campus these days. But to say it might suggest that women and men bear responsibility for the circus-like sexual atmosphere on campus.

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