Kathy Pollitt wrote this review for the 10/4/93 New Yorker about Katie Roiphe's "The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism on Campus".

This is a book anyone involved in rape education should read. Roiphe runs the gamut on some of the most common arguments for victim-blaming. And because the media so embraced her book, and gave Roiphe so much publicity, some of her new arguments have been embraced by those determined to keep gender inequities at the status quo. --Aaron

"STICK to straight liquor," my father advised me when I left for
college, in the fall of 1967. "That way, you'll always know how
drunk you are." I thought he was telling me that real grownups
don't drink brandy Alexanders, but, of course, what he was talking
about was sex. College boys could get totally plastered, and the
worse that would happen to them would be hangovers and missed
morning classes. But if I didn't carefully monitor my alcohol
intake one of those boys might, as they used to say, take
advantage of me. Or, as they say now, date-rape me.
     Veiled parental warning like the one my father gave me- don't
go alone to a boy's room, always carry "mad money" on a date, just
in case- have gone the way of single-sex dorms, parietal hours,
female-only curfews, and the three-feet-on-the-floor rule, swept
away like so much Victorian bric-a-brac by the sexual revolution,
the student movement, and the women's movement. The kids won; the
duennas and fussbudgets lost. Or did they? In "The Morning After:
Sex, Fear, and Feminism on Campus" (Little, Brown; $19.95) Katie
Roiphe, a twenty-five-year-old Harvard alumna and graduate student
of English at Princeton, argues that women's sexual freedom is
being curtailed by a new set of hand-wringing fuddy-duddies:
feminists. Anti-rape activists, she contends, have manipulated
statistics to frighten college women with a nonexistent "epidemic"
of rape, date rape, and sexual harassment, and have encouraged
them to view "everyday experience"- sexist jokes, professional
leers, men's straying hands and other body parts- as intolerable
insults and assaults. "Stranger rape" (the intruder with a knife)
is rare; true date rape (the frat boy with a fist) is even rarer.
As Roiphe sees it, most students who say they have been date raped
are reinterpreting in the cold grey light of dawn the "bad sex"
they were too passive to refuse and too enamored of victimhood to
acknowledge as their own responsibility. Camille Paglia, move
     These explosive charges have already made Roiphe a celebrity.
The Time Magazine ran an except form her book as a cover story:
"Rape Hype Betrays Feminism." Four women's glossies ran respectful
prepublication interviews; in Mirabella she was giddily questioned
by her own mother, the writer Anne Roiphe. Clearly, Katie Roiphe's
message is one that many people want to hear: sexual violence is
anomalous, not endemic to American society, and appearances to the
contrary can be explained away as a kind of mass hysteria,
fomented by man-hating fanatics.
     How well does Roiphe support her case? "The Morning After"
offers itself as a personal testimony, with Roiphe- to use her own
analogy- as a spunky, commonsensical Alice at the mad women's
studies-and-deconstructionism tea party familiar from the pages of
Paglia and Dinesh D'Souza. As such it's hard to challenge. Maybe
Roiphe's classmates really are as she portrays them- waiflike
anorexics, male-feminist wimps, the kind of leftist groupthinkers
who ostracize anyone who says Alice Walker is a bad writer. Maybe
Roiphe was, as the claims, "date-raped" many times and none the
worse for it. The general tone of her observations is unpleasantly
smug, but in her depiction of a tiny subculture on a few Ivy
League campuses, she may well be onto something. The troupe is
that "The Morning After," although Roiphe denies this, goes beyond
her own privileged experience to make general claims about rape
and feminism on American campuses, and it is also, although she
denies this, too, a "political polemic." In both respects, it is a
careless and irresponsible performance, poorly argues and full of
misrepresentations, slapdash research, and gossip. She may be, as
she implies, the rare grad student who has actually read
"Clarissa," but when it comes to rape and harassment she has not
done her homework.

HAVE radical feminists inundated the nation's campuses with absurd
and unfounded charges against men? Roiphe cites a few well
publicized incidents: at Princeton, for example, a student told a
Take Back the Night rally that she had been date-raped by a young
man she eventually admitted she had never met. But Roiphe's claim
that such dubious charges represent a new norm rests on hearsay
and a few quotations from the wilder shores of feminist theory.
"Recently," she writes, "at the University of Michigan, a female
teaching assistant almost brought a male student up on charges of
sexual harassment," because of some mildly sexist humor in a
paper. When is "recently"? In what department of the vast
University of Michigan did this incident occur? How does Roiphe
know about it- after all, it only "almost" happened- and know that
she got it right? Roiphe ridicules classmates for crediting and
magnifying every rumor of petty sexism, but she does the same;
hysterical accusations are always being made at "a prominent
university." Don't they teach the students at Harvard and
Princeton anyone about research anymore?
     Where I was able to follow up on Roiphe's sources, I found
some fairly misleading use of data. Roiphe accuses the legal
scholar Susan Estrich of slipping "her ideas about the nature of
sexual encounters into her legal analysis" in "Real Rape," her
study of acquaintance rape and the law - one such idea being that
women are so powerless that even "yes" does not necessarily
constitute consent to sex. In fact, in the cited passage Estrich
explicitly lays that view aside to pursue her own subject, which
is the legal system's victimization of women who say no. Nowhere
does Roiphe acknowledge that- whatever may happen in the
uncritical, emotional atmosphere of a Take Back the Night rally or
a support-group meeting for rape survivors (a term she mocks)- in
the real world women who have been raped face enormous obstacles
in obtaining justice in the courts or sympathy from their friends
or families. Nor does she seem to realize that it is the
humiliation and stigmatization and disbelief reports by many rape
victims, and documented in many studies, that have helped to
produce the campus climate of fear and credulity she deplores.
Indeed, the only time Roiphe discusses and actual court case is
the argue that the law veers too far to the victim's side:

In 1992 New Jersey's Supreme Court upheld its far
reaching rape laws. Ruling against a teenager charged
with raping his date, the court concluded that signs of
force or the threat of force is [sic] not necessary to
prove the crime of rape- no force, that is, beyond that
required for the physical act of penetration. Both the
plaintiff and the defendant admitted that they were
sexually involved, but the two sides differed on whether
what happened that night was rape. It's hard to define
anything that happens in that strange, libidinous
province of adolescence, but this court upheld the
judgment that the girl was raped. If the defendant had
been an adult he could have gone to jail for up to ten
years. Susan Herman, deputy public defender in the case,
remarked, "You not only have to bring a condom on a
date, you have to bring a consent form as well."
Roiphe should know better than to rely on a short item in the
Trenton Times for an accurate account of a complicated court case,
and she misrepresents even the sketchy information the article
contains: the girl was not the boy's "date," and they did not both
"admit" they were "sexually involved." The two, indeed, disagreed
about the central facts of the case. The article does mention
something Roiphe chose to omit: the girl was fifteen years old.
The Supreme Court opinion further distinguishes this case from
Roiphe's general portrait of date-rape cases: the hypersensitive
female charging an innocently blunder male with a terrible crime
for doing what came naturally and doing it without a peep from
her. The offender, it turns out, was dating another girl living in
the house where the rape took place, and not the victim, who, far
from passively enduring his assault, did what Roiphe implies she
did not: she slapped him, demanded that he withdraw, an, in the
morning, told her mother, whereupon they went immediately to the
police. It is absurd to use this fifteen-year-old victim- who had
surely never heard of Catharine MacKinnon or Take Back the Night-
as an example of campus feminism gone mad. And it is equally
absurd to suggest that the highly regarded New Jersey Supreme
Court, which consists of one woman and six middle-aged men, issued
an unanimous decision in the victim's favor because it had been
corrupted by radical feminism.
     The court did affirm that "signs of force or the threat of
force"- wounds, torn clothes, the presence of a weapon- were not
necessary to prove rape. This affirmation accord with the real
life fact that the amount of force necessary to achieve
penetration is not much. But it is not true that the court opened
the door to rape convictions in the kinds of cases Roiphe takes
fort the date-rape norm: sex in which the woman says yes but means
no, or says yes, means yes, but regrets it later. The court said
that consent, which need not be verbal, must be obtained for
intercourse. It's easy to parody this view, as the defense counsel
did with her joke about a "consent form"- but all that it really
means is that a man cannot penetrate a woman without some kind of
go-ahead. Roiphe ridicules this notion as "politically correct"
and objects to educational materials that remind men that "hearing
a clear sober 'yes' to the question 'Do you want to make love?' is
very different from thinking, 'Well, she didn't say no'" But is
that such terrible advice? Roiphe herself says she wants women to
be more vocal about sex, yet here she is dismissive of the
suggestion that men out to listen to them.
     Roiphe's attempt to debunk statistics on the frequency of
rape is similarly illinformed. A substantial body of research, but
no means all of it conducted by feminists, or even by women,
supports the contention that there is a staggering amount of rape
and attempted rape in the United States, and that most incidents
are not reported to the police- especially when, as it usually the
case, victim and offender know each other. For example, the
National Women's Study, conducted by the Crime Victims Research
and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina,
working under a grant from the National Institute of Drug Abuse,
which released its results last year, found that thirteen per cent
of adult American women- one in eight- have been raped at least
once, seventy-five per cent by someone they knew. (The study used
the conservative legal definition of rape which Roiphe favors: "an
event that occurred without the woman's consent, involved the use
of force or threat of force, and involved sexual penetration of
the victim's vagina, mouth or rectum.") Other researchers come up
with similar numbers or even higher ones, and are supported by
studies querying men about their own behavior: in one such study,
fifteen per cent of the college men sampled said they had used
force at least once to obtain intercourse.
     Roiphe does not even acknowledge the existence of this
sizable body of work- and it seems she hasn't spent much time
study the scholarly journals in which it appears. Instead, she
concentrates on a single 1985 article in Ms. Magazine, which
presented a preliminary journalistic account of an acquaintance
rape study conducted by Dr. Mary Koss, a clinical psychologist now
at the University of Arizona. Relying on opinion pieces by Neil
Gilbert, a professor of social welfare at Berkeley. Roiphe accuses
Koss of inflating her findings- one in eight students raped, one
in four the victims of rape or attempted rape- by including as
victims women who did not describe their experience as rape- by
including as victims women who did not describe their experience
as rape, although it met a widely accepted legal definition. It is
unclear what Roiphe's point is- that women don't mind being
physically forced to have sex as long as no one tells them it's
rape? Surely she would not argue that victims of other injustices-
fraud, malpractice, job discrimination- have suffered no wrong as
long as they are unaware of the law. Roiphe also accuses Koss of
upping her numbers by asking respondents if they had ever had sex
when they didn't want to because a man give them alcohol or drugs.
"Why aren't college women responsible for their own intake of
alcohol or drugs?" Roiphe asks, and it may be fair to say that the
alcohol question in the study is ambiguously worded. But it's
worth noting that the question doesn't come out of feminist
fantasyland. It's keyed to a legal definition of rape which in
many states includes sex obtained by intentional incapacitation of
the victim with intoxicants- the scenario envisioned by my father.
Be that as it may, what happens to Koss's figures if the alcohol
question is dropped? The number of college women who have been
victims of rape or attempted rape drops from one in four to one in

ONE in five, one in eight- what if it's "only" one in ten or
twelve? Social science isn't physics. Exact numbers are important,
and elusive, but surely what is significant here is that lots of
different studies, with different agendas, sample populations, and
methods, tend in the same direction. Rather than grapple with
these inconvenient data, Roiphe retreats to her own impressions:
"If I was really standing in the middle of an epidemic, a crisis,
if 25 per cent of my female friends were really being raped,
wouldn't I know about it?" (Roiphe forgets that the one-in-four
figure includes attempts, but let that pass.) As an experiment, I
applied Roiphe's anecdotal method myself, and wrote down that I
know about my own circle of acquaintance: eight rapes by
strangers, (including one on a college campus), two sexual
assaults (one Central Park, one Prospect Park), one abduction
(woman walking down street forced into car full of men), one date
rape involving a Mickey Finn, which resulted n pregnancy and
abortion, and two stalking (one ex-lover, one deranged fan); plus
one brutal beating by a boyfriend, three incidents of childhood
incest (none involving therapist-aided "recovered memories"), and
one bizarre incident in which a friend went to a man's apartment
after meeting him at a part and was forced by him to spend the
night under the shower, naked, which he debated whether to kill
her, rape her, or let her go. The most interesting think about
this tally, however, is that when I mentioned it to a friend he
was astonished,- he himself know of only one rape victim in his
circle, he said- but he knows several of the women on my list.
     It may be that Roiphe's friends have nothing to tell her. Or
it may be that they have nothing to tell her. With her adolescent
certainty that bad things don't happen, or that they happen only
to weaklings, she is not likely to be on the receiving end of many
painful, intimate confessions. The one time a fellow student tells
her about being raped (at knifepoint, so it counts), Roiphe
cringes like a high-school vegetarian dissecting her first frog:
"I was startled... I felt terrible for her, I felt like there was
nothing I could say." Confronted with someone whose testimony she
can't dismiss or satirize, Roiphe goes blank.

ROIPHE is right to point out that cultural attitudes toward rape,
harassment, coercion, and consent are slowly shifting. It is
certainly true that many women today, most of whom would not
describe themselves as feminists, feel outraged by male behavior
that previous generations- or even those women themselves not so
long ago- quietly accepted as "everyday experience." Roiphe may
even be right to argue that it muddies the waters when women
colloquially speak of "rape" in referring to sex that is caddish
or is obtained through verbal or emotional pressure or
manipulation, or when they label as "harassment" the occasional
leer or off-color comment. But if we lay these terms aside we
still have to account for the phenomenon they point to: that women
in great numbers- but no means all on elite campuses, by no means
all young- feel angry at and exploited by behavior that many men
assume is within bounds and no bid deal. Like many of those men,
Roiphe would like to short-circuit this larger discussion, as if
everything that doesn't meet the legal definition of crime were
trivial, and any objection to it mere paranoia. For her, sex is
basically a boys' game, with boys rules, like football, and if a
girl wants to make the team- whether by "embracing experience" in
bed or by attending a formerly all-male college- she has to play
along and risk taking some knocks. But why can't women change the
game, and add a few rules of their own? What's so "utopian" about
expecting men to act as though there are two people in bed and two
sexed in the classroom and the workplace?
     Roiphe gives no consistent answer to this question. Sometimes
she dismisses the problems as inconsequential: coerced intercourse
is bad sex, widespread sexual violence a myth. Sometimes she
suggests that the problem is real, but is women's fault: they
should be more feisty and vociferous, be more like her and her
friends, one of whom she praises for dumping a glass of milk on a
boy who grabbed her breast. (Here, in a typical muddle, Roiphe's
endorsement of assertive behavior echoes the advice of the anti
rape education materials she excoriates.) Sometimes she argues the
women's movement has been so successful in moving women into the
professions that today's feminists are whining about nothing. And
sometimes she argues that men, if seriously challenged to charge
their ways and habits, will respond with a backlash, keeping women
students at arm's length out of a fear of lawsuits, retreating
into anxious nerdhood, like her male-feminist classmates, or even,
like the male protagonist of David Mamet's "Oleanna," becoming
violent: "Feminists, Mamet warns, will conjure up the sexist beast
if they push far enough."
     Coming from a self-proclaimed bad girl and sexual rebel, this
last bit of counsel is particularly fainthearted: now who's
warning women about the dangerous of provoking the savage male?
When Roiphe posits a split between her mother's generation of
feminists- women eager to enter the world and seize sexual
freedom- and those of today, who emphasize the difficulties of
doing either, she has it wrong, and not just historically. (Sexual
violence was a major theme of seventies feminism, in whose
consciousness-raising sessions women first realized that rape was
something many of them had in common.) The point she misses is
that it was not the theories of academics or of would-be Victorian
maidens masquerading as Madonna fans that made sexual violence and
harassment an issue. It was the movement of women into male
dominated venues- universities, professions, blue-collar trades-
in sufficiently great numbers to demand real accommodation from
men both at work and in private life. If Roiphe's contention that
focussing on "victimhood" reduces women to passivity were right,
the experience of Anita Hill would have sent feminists off
weeping, en masse, to a separatist commune. Instead, it sparked a
wave of activism that revitalized street-level feminism and swept
unprecedented numbers of women into Congress.
     Roiphe is so intent on demonizing the anti-rape movement that
she misses an an opportunity to address a real deficiency of much
contemporary feminism. The problem isn't that acknowledging
women's frequent victimization saps their get-up-and-go and allows
them to be frail flowers; it's that the discourse about sexuality
says so little about female pleasure. Unfortunately, Roiphe, too,
is silent on this subject. We hear a lot about heavy drinking,
late nights, parties, waking up in strange beds, but we don't hear
what made those experiences worth having, except as acts of
rebellion. In a revealing anecdote, she cites with approval a
friend who tells off obscene phone callers by informing them that
she was her high school's "blow job queen." Not to detract from
that achievement, but one wonders at the unexamined equation of
sexual service and sexual selfhood. Do campus bad girls still
define their prowess by male orgasms rather than their own?
     It's sad for Roiphe and her classmates that they are coming
of age sexually at a time when sex seems more fraught with danger
and anxiety than ever. Indeed, AIDS is the uneasily acknowledged
specter hovering over "The Morning After": the condom, not the
imaginary consent form, is what really put a damper on the campus
sex scene. Certainly AIDS gives new urgency to the feminist
campaign for female sexual self-determination, and has probably
done a lot, at both conscious and unconscious levels, to frame
that quest in negative rather than positive terms. But that's just
the way we live now- and not only on campus. Rape, coercion,
harassment, the man who edits his sexual history and thinks safe
sex kills passion, the obscene pone call that is no longer amusing
because you're not in the dorm anymore but living by yourself in a
not so safe neighborhood and it's three in the morning: it's not
very hard to understand why women sometimes sound rather grim
about relations between the sexes.
     It would be wonderful to hear more from women who are
nonetheless "embracing experience," retaining the vital spark of
sexual adventure. Roiphe prefers to stick to the oldest put-down
of all: Problems? What problems? It's all in your head.

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