Parker: Thinking dangerously
ELON, N.C. – When I first heard that some Elon University students were protesting my invitation to speak on campus and saying my thoughts were "dangerous," I was, of course, thrilled and immediately amended my bio.
No one has ever considered me dangerous that I know of, other than a couple of dozen ungrateful birds I mysteriously collected while recuperating from a concussion. Despite having rescued and tended them for the past three years, they invariably scream, flap and flock to yon-est corner of their respective extravagant bird mansions anytime I approach.
I'll try to resist the metaphorical implications and parallels and simply report that about 300 students here signed a petition exhorting the administration to disinvite me. They claimed most seriously that yours truly is a "rape apologist." This charge was based on their obvious misreading of my 2008 book, "Save the Males," which until this moment almost no one had read, as well as snippets from a couple of random columns culled from a body of around 2,000 stretching across 29 years. (One more year and I get to brag.)
What had I said that was so controversial? In my book, I had questioned assumptions, which is my job, after all, on the always-sensitive issue of campus rape, which was received less than warmly. I learned that one especially doesn't dare challenge the presumption of rape when male and female sexually convene while the female is "drunk."
I dared, but not much. I merely wondered: What if the guy is also drunk?
Remember, this was more than 10 years ago. I've written hundreds of columns since then. And much has changed during half a generation. Even so, I'm confident of my research in the writing of the book, and will never apologize for an opinion. It's a thought, an idea, a conclusion based on evidence and experience. Opinions may change, including my own, but I always reach them in good faith.
Thus, I concluded and wrote in this very same book — and repeated at Elon — that I wasn't making excuses for the male, who, by virtue of physical characteristics, including superior strength, bears the greater responsibility in such encounters.
At one point during the question-and-answer period following my speech, which was mostly about politics and the presidential campaign, I also suggested that girls stop getting so drunk. Gasp. What parent wouldn't say as much? This isn't blaming the victim, as certain feminists would insist, but is highlighting the obvious. In the real world, we'd call this a risk assessment indicating a statistically significant correlation between intoxication and unwanted behavior and/or attention.
Or, simply, science.
Today, my erstwhile rhetorical question — what about the guy? — which was really a plea for fairness and due process, is outdated and moot. North Carolina, among other states, has made it law: If a woman is drunk, then sexual intercourse with a male human is, ipso facto, rape.
Whether one agrees with this law is irrelevant, as Elon students are told on the first day of school.
It was odd to have to delve into these issues in the midst of a historic and potentially catastrophic election, which has been the focus of my work the past two years. Indeed, university President Leo Lambert urged me to focus on politics, which I did after briefly addressing the protest and speaking a few minutes about the crucial need to allow even unpopular speech on campuses in the service of tolerance and education.
Alas, I wasn't able to distract my finely feathered foes, who flocked to the microphone armed with mini-congressional floor statements, statistics and quotes from my book. I felt like a witness on "Law & Order" whose words get twisted and taken out of context. I tried to be sensitive, which lasted about 30 seconds or so, before lapsing into my more comfortable truth mode. When a female student demanded my position on a variety of gender options — trans, duo, not sure, etc. — I trilled: "I love all human beings and the more happy people, the better."
A grateful audience applauded rapturously.
My questioner obviously hadn't read my column condemning North Carolina's recent transgender-bathroom law (HB2). Or the next one about bumping into North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory in makeup at NBC, which was a gas. Nor did she or her comrades appreciate my sense of humor or the tone of my presentation, which one journalism professor described in a tweet as "a hybrid of Mark Twain, @JonStewartHBO, @DonRickles, & @celiarivenbark."
I only wish I could have made the girls laugh, too.
Kathleen Parker is a columnist for The Washington Post.