Cognition & Reality

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Katie Roiphe & Date Rape

Filed under: Date Rape,Propaganda,Sex & Love — drtone @ 10:18 am

It seems that I have reinvented yet another wheel. Not surprisingly, the arguments I have made about the standards against which “date rape” is measured were put forward before. They were presented, in the face of angry criticism, a little less than twenty years ago by Katie Roiphe. In an article, and later a book, The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism on Campus, both published in 1993, she raised the same questions I have in recent posts on this subject, and in much the same way. For example, she suggested that the typical characterization of “date rape” casts young women–at least those from the higher social strata–as “chaste objects,” much as they were portrayed in pre-feminist times. Of course, Roiphe also raised questions about the definition of rape and date rape with particular emphasis on problem of differentiating date rape from bad sex. Predictably, she was denounced by an army of feminist writers, who may have felt an extra sting of betrayal because Roiphe’s mother, Anne, is a prominent feminist.

There is much that could be said about the content of both Katie Roiphe’s article and the comments of various critics. For now, however, I wish to point out that Roiphe pushed a hot button about the status of women. The button is “hot” at least partly because it is connected to rape, but I do not believe that what is at issue here is confined to questions about what does or does not constitute rape.

The date rape “debate” is encrusted with a brand of social commentary that I have criticized elsewhere, which involves placing an issue of importance on the Procrustean bed of left-right politics. Unfortunately for someone like me who identifies with the left, it is a ploy used by those on the left more than by those on the right. This anti-Roiphe article, for example, addresses much of  its criticism of Roiphe to the resemblance between her stand and that of some of those on the right. It need hardly be said that this form of special pleading would count as frivolous were it not also widespread.

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