Washington, DC - I am now certifiably an “old man”—well past social security age with a gray beard.
And, the sexual mores of today are so different than those prevailing when I was young that one wonders how a young man (often with his “brain” between his legs) is able to negotiate the minefields laying between his desire for sexual intercourse and acceptable female acquiescence in his desire.
Recently, an Internet Headline News article, ostensibly directed at Canadian athletes but applicable to all young men, displayed as part of its story a wall-mounted poster listing a dozen examples illustrating how and when “NO MEANS NO.” These included what might have been regarded as ambiguous (non)statements such as “silence” (at the top of the list). Apparently, silence no longer means consent. They include inter alia “Crying” and statements such as “I don’t know…” and “I’m too drunk.” To be sure there are blunt rejections on the list such as “Get out” and “Back off” and “I’m going home—alone.”
These are a considerable linguist/social distance from the once-upon-a-time sobriquet that went, “If a lady says ‘no,’ she means ‘maybe.’ If a lady says ‘maybe,’ she means ‘yes.’ If a lady says ‘yes,’ she’s not a lady. Thus young males pressed (drunk or sober) for maximum sexual access but normally did not brutalize their prospective partner. There were tales of one or another fraternity that was an “animal house” (and coeds were not ignorant of the brothers’ activities) and of young women who dress included “postage stamp” girdles that required two of their dorm mates to help them into these chastity belt equivalents, but outright rape was simply not reported.
Instead marriage came early—marriage in early/mid-20s was frequent. “Better,” as Paul said in the Bible’s First Corinthians, “to marry than to burn.” And marriage offered “the maximum of access with the maximum of opportunity.”
But circumstances changed. The “pill” and other effective contraception eliminated the constant fear by “nice” girls that sex could lead to pregnancy (with abortion on demand not available). Now even nice girls could have as much sexual activity as they desired—a circumstance devoutly enjoyed by young males who set aside historical interest in virgin brides for (rather) risk-free sexual activity (despite the danger of various STDs) without the prerequisite of marriage. Such proved more fun for men (“Why buy the cow when you get milk free?”) than women, who gradually found that they were getting less in the form of protracted commitment and caring than “wham-bang-thank-you-mamma” one-night stands.
And now circumstances have changed again. Women are demanding more control over social-sexual encounters and resulting sexual activity. Despite the media attention, one doubts that there is more outright rape occurring today than in past decades. But that is not the point. Sexual “abuse” is being defined in ways designed to have a chilling effect on even the most lustful male.
Thus the cases of the two MPs defenestrated from Liberal caucus. For one, the woman willingly came to his apartment, having participated in earlier drinking session. Although claiming reluctance, she provided him with a condom prior to intercourse. For the second, the Liberal MP followed the NDP MP to her residence, pressed himself upon her physically, and sought (presumably) sexual activity. Rejected, he departed and subsequently bad-mouthed her. Boorish at best. An earlier era, however, would be hard pressed to describe these activities as sexual abuse, let alone rape. Nevertheless, these former Liberal MPs are now political pariahs; careers effectively incinerated.
Today “mutual consent” between adults comes closer to requiring a signed, notarized statement agreeing to sexual activity rather than anything that might occur as part of the mating game practiced by countless generations of males and females. And even such a consent form presumably would be invalidated by the “I’ve changed my mind” statement on the unofficial list of what means “NO.”
Consequently, the current sexual signposts for a young male are obscure at best. The penalties are draconian for misreading the signals (the U.S. Marine Corps will prosecute any charge of sexual misconduct, eliminating the military unit commander’s previous discretion regarding whether the activity was spurious driven by spite, administrative objectives (a quick reassignment), or consensual sex.
A cautious male could well be advised to practice celibacy, return to the ancient custom of frequenting sex workers (which has its own perils), or marrying earlier than current norms. In contrast to history, women now control the mating game.