Kevin Padden | Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Thank you, Shea Streeter, for starting the conversation on sexual assault at Notre Dame (“Necessary conversations,” Mar. 7). As a man this issue affects me differently than it does women. Nevertheless, this is an issue with which I have a close personal relationship and have had many conversations about. I have two friends from home who have been victims of rape/sexual assault and, quite frankly, the conversations I’ve had with them are very different from the ones “College HAS Issues” tells us we ought to have.
We learn freshman year that the man is eternally at fault, regardless of the situation — easy for our women to accept, but not as easy for the men. While this is not always spelled out as explicitly, it seems quite often to be the tacit assumption. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are guys here who are guilty as you charge them, but I’m not sure such a blanket approach is the most appropriate one. Nearly all talks I had following that seminar revolved around one question: “What if she says yes?”
Tradition says that if the female is drunk, then the man should know better, and I wholeheartedly agree. I despise the kind of man who would force himself on a woman who clearly objects. The question, though, is should he be a criminal, especially if he’s drunk too? The oft given response to my question is that alcohol is not an excuse. And yet, this strikes me as quite the double standard. Is alcohol not the same basis by which the victim’s consent is dismissed?
I am not narrow-minded enough to believe that all rape and sexual assault cases proceed in this fashion, but I think that this specific case is especially relevant to college students. Now it is important to recognize the dichotomy between the situation I describe here, and one where the female clearly says, “No.” Unfortunately, with alcohol added to the mix, figuring out which situation is which can become nearly impossible. It’s a difficult situation no matter how you look at it, but in fairness to us males, I think it’s important to consider the following. Sexual assault is defined as any unwanted sexual contact. Is it sexual assault if it’s consensual by night but a mistake in the morning?