“The only unnatural sex act is that which you cannot perform.”
—Alfred Kinsey, Indiana University
“Our criteria for consent…are conscious, coherent, and into it.”
—Zoe Hayes, Purdue University
Maybe the old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be, but the rest of these here Disunited States have seen their heyday, too. Even so, Indiana remains the Land of Babbitt, brimming with old-fashioned folk of down-home sensibilities who worship God and the GOP and wait with bated breath for basketball season. Yet Indiana’s state-funded universities have long taken pleasure in kicking Everyman Hoosier in the gonads, spending his hard-earned money to mock his morality.
It’s a subversive tradition stretching back to the hoary days of Alfred Kinsey, the Indiana University eugenicist who pioneered sex research, bringing the bedroom into America’s living room and befouling both. For his own pigsty version of a bedroom that he presented as normative is the kind that a smart maid wouldn’t clean without arm-length rubber gloves, protective eyewear, and a stiff upper lip. Although his “scholarship” later was discredited as the inked ejaculations of a sex-crazed fiend, that happened long after he popularized perversion and lubed the Sexual Revolution’s pistons before his 1956 death.
Flash forward to today. The Sexual Revolution groaned to a halt decades ago, its hulking engines rusting into the cultural soil like the abandoned steel mills littering northwest Indiana. But it petered out only because it reached its destination. Its major precept is more or less accepted by most people under the age of 60 and embraced ecstatically by pop culture: Sex is a means of self-gratification. How and when to express it is a matter of choice. In fact, sexual expression’s only modern-day restriction is that it be consensual—although this can be a messy gray area, as noted below. Otherwise, anything goes.
The mere hint of questioning that sole restriction, however, can set the stage for a modern-day morality play. When protagonist and antagonist sing in the same chorus, however, it makes for a comedy of the absurd, like crossing Electra with The Mikado.
Such a scenario played out the other week at Purdue University, archrival of Kinsey’s IU, but only on the playing field. When the game is subsidizing ideologically skewed scholarship that ends up polluting the cultural mainstream, both schools wear the same colors.
This play was cast into motion by a cartoon. Every Friday, The Purdue Exponent features a comic strip called “The Sex Position of the Week” (SPOW), depicting figures performing acts that make the Kama Sutra look positively Amish in comparison. Presented to a literate audience, the lurid twists and turns are accompanied with how-to descriptions that shoot for laughs if not—given some of the positions’ challenging nature—actual emulation.
According to the daily Exponent’s online archives, SPOW occasions the occasional letter of complaint from Christians and sundry troglodytes.
But on Friday, September 17, 2010, the paper went too far. Much too far. Like, all the way. This would be the first time moral revulsion came from the other side, i.e., sexually liberated liberals.
First, the cartoon strip. An artless three-panel graphic, it features a scenario called “The Prestige,” a take on a 2006 movie about dueling musicians. The first panel depicts a man in silhouette taking the back-alley approach to a woman crouched on all fours, an attempted humanization of bestiality that does our doggy friends no respect. The second shows the man quickly exiting and high-fiving his buddy waiting in the background, who promptly takes over—so fast that the woman doesn’t realize the switcheroo. The third shows Man #1 waving outside the bedroom window at his tag-team partner and the silhouetted woman who, pointed in the opposite direction, remains literally in the dark. “If properly executed, the receiving partner will be astonished as if a magic trick has just occurred. Tah dah!”
Just another Friday feature of the SPOW show. Or so the editors thought as they went home for a weekend of laidback study and kinky sex.
Instead, the paper’s inbox promptly bulged with outraged emails, and a Facebook page and online petition materialized literally overnight, calling for action to be taken against the paper for printing “The Prestige.” Why? Because the sex wasn’t consensual! Yes, this was a cartoon, the less hysterical opponents acknowledged, but it nonetheless condoned “a culture of rape” by encouraging the misogynistic objectification of women. Judging from the Facebook page, the harshest criticism came from women whom the Sexual Revolution might have liberated, but not into the arms of a man.
Rapidly aroused from a state of shock, Exponent editor-in-chief Zoe Hayes owned up to their grievous sin. How could she and her fellow editors have been so blind to the obvious? Her effusive apology ran in the following Monday’s edition. As the grammar and illogic suggest, it was a quickie.
“When we saw the sex position of the week graphic, we weren’t thinking in terms of rape,” she wrote. “When we conceived of the position, we assumed that everyone involved would meet our criteria for consent, which are conscious, coherent, and into it. When we saw the graphic, that’s what we, in retrospect mistakenly, assumed was taking place—consensual, albeit kinky, sex between three adults.”
Despite the cartoonish figurines being unable to explain themselves, the sentence was swift: Rape had been made the subject of (attempted) humor.
“But I’ve heard the stories; I’ve heard all the scary numbers,” Miss Hayes seemed to remind herself in self-recrimination. “There is a rape every 21 hours on an American college campus. Only 10 percent of college women who are raped report the rape. One in four women will be sexually harassed, abused, or raped in her life. How could I have forgotten that sex isn’t always consensual?”
This shan’t ever happen again, she promised. Furthermore, they were going to do something about it.
Their supine apology and pseudo-courageous call to action quickly quelled the protesters and blunted a typically wishy-washy liberal reprimand from the dime-a-dozen academic functionaries who preside at Purdue, just as do their clones elsewhere in academe. The day after Miss Hayes’s apology, the paper ran a letter from the graduate student who started the Facebook group. Not only was Michaela Null propitiated, but she enthusiastically endorsed The Exponent‘s pledge to “use its platform to educate, spread awareness, and make a positive impact” by “rais[ing] awareness about sexual assault and misogyny.”
First, the editors could use some education themselves: a little light to dispel Miss Hayes, if you will.
Several considerations never dawn upon the aggrieved editors of this “educational institution”:
• First, did they consider that featuring a cartoon strip suitable to the funny pages of Hustler (if that, given the artistry’s poor quality) might be, well, wrong? Morally wrong, of course—granted, moral considerations would have slippery traction with Sex Revolution babies—but also inappropriately sleazy for a highly ranked institution of higher education.
• Second, that both behavior and ideas have consequences. Running such cartoons, and in an editorial context condoning sexual profligacy, encourages behavior that, consensual or not, does real harm. The harm is not just spiritual and moral—psychological, if you’re a secularist—but physical in measurable ways: unwanted pregnancies (and abortions), diseases, the stray suicide, ad nauseam.
• Lastly, that the sorest losers in the Sexual Revolution are the same girls who, freed from sexual morality, are shocked to find themselves in compromising positions when getting primal with the stronger sex—often under the influence of alcohol, women getting as stinking drunk as sailors being another of those benighted taboos jettisoned in our enlightened age. Might The Exponent be contributing toward the sexual-assault statistics Zoe rolled out like a brainwashed zombie, i.e., perfect product of public education? “OMG!”
Might any “constructive dialogue” include such considerations? You can bet your first-edition signed copy of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male against it. In the Temple of Tolerance, faith and reason are the unknown gods.
Yes, the children are in error, but they should be forgiven. They know not what they do. Sexuality was desacralized and converted into a commodity well before these college students were born in the late 80s and early 90s. What they need is a classic education in good old-fashioned right and wrong. Such an education is not really old, however. Actually, it’s timeless. Virtues do not change, for they are the pillars supporting the natural law governing all human relations, in all places and at all times. Although that law never changes, it can be denied at one’s peril. Alas, traditional morality and her virtues, like the heroes of Western Civilization who exemplified them, have been jettisoned from the academic mainstream like flotsam clogging the flow of tolerance. Such an education cannot be bought for the $20,000-$30,000 per year charged by such august educational institutions as Purdue University unless it happens purely incidentally.
Matthew A. Rarey enjoyed temporary Hoosier status during his halcyon days of youth at Wabash College (class of 2000). He writes from Chicago.
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