Antioch College is a small, liberal arts college in rural Ohio. It was shut down in 2008 because of funding issues, but recently reopened and has received many applications – although the enrollment in October 2012 was only 75 students with many students declining acceptance. Apparently, many students turned down the chance to attend an “elite” school to help rebuild the decayed institution.
Antioch College was founded in the middle of the 1800’s and was a bastion of progressive politics from its inception – it was one of the first schools to accept applications from black people. Its stature grew over time, and had its heyday in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It was a center for the anti-war movement, anti-racism and feminism. The school was committed to democracy and community governance – which includes students. Students play a real, active role in the governance of the campus and the development of school policy. Further, the students do not receive grades, but detailed breakdowns, over several paragraphs, of their professor’s opinions of the student’s performance. Part of this is to break down the hierarchy between professors and students in order to foster more equal relations.
The school began to decay in the 1980’s and 1990’s and really tailed off in the 2000’s – and was not helped by it’s absurd sexual assault policy articulated in the 90’s.
What makes the college of interest isn’t their cartoonish commitment to liberalism, but their real and absurd sexual consent policy. In 1990-1991 term, a couple of date rapes were reported to the school. Remember this – two date rapes that were never substantiated were used as the impetus for producing this policy. A group called “Womyn of Antioch” began to rumble about how the school did not take sexual assault seriously enough and some women actually stated the school actually wanted to encourage sexual assault of women – sound familiar? That spurred the group to produce a new university code applying to sexual assault. It was not formalized at the time, but it was the next year.
The code developed a new standard for deciding whether a woman consented to a sex act or sexual contact – “the act of willingly and verbally agreeing to engage in specific sexual contact or conduct.” Also, the school stated a position that sexual assault isn’t just a violation of an individual, but a violation of the community. Yes, they collectivized sexual assault – it isn’t just one woman’s problem, but every man and woman’s problem. The piece was gender-neutral, but feminist writing on the policy quickly reassured distraught equalists that it really is about women. Feminists further argued even when the policy’s approach recognizes a male victim, the policy is still based solely out of helping women – men are just incidentally helped as victims. The real purpose was to cure the campus of male privilege by forcing men to divest themselves of rape culture that is part and parcel of hooking up on campus.
The policy was modified, refined and codified in 1996. In the time before that, the policy attracted a media circus, which mostly mocked the approach. Some commentators, such as the insufferable Ellen Goodman, endorsed the approach in the national press. The attention was not welcome for the university, as they see themselves as morally superior to rest of the knuckle-draggers that inhabit America. Antioch College saw the criticism as misogynistic, rape-supporting and reeked of people who refused to understand Antioch College’s superior wisdom and morality that rids the world of
sexuality sexual assault.
There are two very striking aspects of the policy, both relating to consent and what it means. First, is the need for verbal approval. The policy explicitly states that silence is not consent nor is body language – unless a person explicitly states he or she consents, then it is not consent. The aforementioned Ellen Goodman mentions that in movies women can consent with eye contact and body language, but this school takes the “better” approach of requiring verbal consent.
The reality is that people who support this policy are narcissistic losers who only know how to interact with other humans in their head – i.e. they don’t how to deal with others in real life. They don’t know how to interpret body language, most assuredly in the sexual arena. To them, two people meeting and engaging in the timeless dance of seduction and sex is absolutely foreign to them. In their world, the only way people have sex is through an escalation of verbal agreements. This robotic approach to natural human relations is very narcissistic, as it is completely represses feelings of lust and desire.
Further, consider the escalation doctrine. In order to meet the consent standard, you must ask and receive verbal approval for any escalation of sexual activity. For example, let’s say you go to the bedroom with an Antioch female and you have verbally escalated to making out. Before touching her boobs, you have to ask for consent. So, you have to stop kissing and ask if you can touch her boob. Then, if you want to lick her boobs, you have to ask for that. If you want to do anything beyond that hasn’t already been verbally agreed to, you have to ask. Can you imagine doing this drunk – can you remember all the shit you asked for? It is an incredibly fumbling way to approach sex. If you take some woman to the bedroom, is making out with you – body on body – she knows damn well where she wants this go. She wants to have sex. You know damn well what you want. You want to have sex.
What if you forget you only asked to fondle her left boob and not her right? Touch her right boob and now, under this administrative standard, you are now a man who has committed sexual assault. You would have been administratively deemed to have committed the same act if you broke into her dorm and room and forcibly raped her. Always beware of Orwellian designations that group vastly different behaviors under one umbrella term.
This policy is just moral puritanism taking the form of feminist sexual policy. It has the stab of something we would have gotten from some Cotton Mather type of person. This sort of policy does nothing to stop sexual assault and penalizes a whole raft of behavior that really is just misunderstanding or, usually, nothing at all. All it does it create a chilling effect on the expression of sexuality – which is the real impetus for this policy.
Criminal law in the United States is more than adequate to deal with sexual assault. Further, there are Constitutional safeguards that the accused get that they do not at the collegiate level. In civilized republics, we should place a higher value on protecting the accused rather than over-zealously hunt for offenders. This Antioch approach not only is frightfully skewed in favor of women and the accuser, but also relies on administrative law which has fewer Constitutional safeguards than criminal law.
The true fire for this policy is to put an administrative chill on the expression of sexuality. You can use your religion, you can use morality in general or you can use fear of sexual assault – at the end of the day, it is based out of the need to drown out anti-social thoughts in the heads of the puritans. The supporters of Antioch College’s policy approach are, essentially, closeted freaks. They tamp down, drown out and do their best to ignore all their deviant sexual thoughts and need to oppress other’s expression of their sexuality in order ease their puritanical anguish.
In general, the administrative framework developed to deal with sexual assault cases by universities is woefully lacking – especially after Obama lowered the evidentiary standard for administrative proceedings dealing with sexual assault accusations. The twin vector’s of Antioch’s approach and the Obama standard create a dangerously puritanical atmosphere on Antioch’s campus that is aimed at burying human sexuality in America’s narcissistic closet as deep as it can. Nothing sounds so good to narcissistic puritans as the complete disavowal of sexuality and the anxiety that stems from expressing that sexuality.