TYRRELL: An American tragedy

WASHINGTON — A superb report in the Wall Street Journal by that inimitable journalist, James Taranto, moves me to reflect on the modern university and things sexual. Taranto has come across another of those poor saps, a male student as fate would have it, who fell into the clutches of a predatory female student.

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The two met while attending Auburn University in the spring of 2011, and she, as she herself has testified, “rather quickly moved into his place. … Everything was great until pretty much June 29.” On that date while they were sharing the same bed at “his place” she was in some way discomfited. I believe it had something to do with sexual congress. She called the cops. He was detained for questioning. She, however, did not press charges. “In fact,” as the indefatigable Taranto reports, “before sunrise she returned to his apartment, and the couple agreed to continue dating.” Alas, their arrangement faltered, and in September she again had him arrested for allegedly striking her two days earlier in a public place. He insisted that at the time of the alleged assault he was 15 miles elsewhere. He denied the charge, which eventually metastasized into a misdemeanor for simple assault and a felony for forcible sodomy. That June 29 thing had been revived.

On Feb. 3, 2012 a grand jury refused to indict the young man because the evidence against him proved insufficient to establish probable cause for prosecution. By May 24, 2012 this idealistic oaf — he, after all, claimed to be transiently in love with his accuser — had the simple assault case dismissed, too, because his accuser failed to show up in court. Yet at old Auburn he was still guilty. By then, through a procedure that was a laughable travesty of justice, he was expelled from the university for something called “sexual assault and/or sexual harassment.” If he set foot on Auburn’s campus, the campus cops would arrest him for “criminal trespass.”

Such procedures by universities against young Romeos ought to give all young men fair warning to lock their doors against any woman who would enter their place, much less move in. This sort of thing is occurring too frequently and at an alarming cost to all involved. Frankly, my advice to collegians is to acquire the services of a reputable “escort service,” and otherwise spend more time in the campus library.

The problem is that on most college campuses there is a war going on between the proselytizers of sex and the puritans. The puritans often win out, though it is not frequently noted.

Oddly enough, both parties, though seemingly at cross-purposes, operate from the same presumptions: an excess of zeal, utter humorlessness and an obsession with sex. Most adults know about the puritans’ obsession with sex. We have been hearing about it for two generations, usually from the vaguely anti-American critic who thinks that most Americans are ashamed of sensuality and victims of their pilgrim heritage. For about a generation, perhaps a bit longer — I think it started in the late 1960s — the sex proselytizers have been at work on college campuses, in what we call the arts, anywhere they see a chance to advance their mania.

What is their mania? Well, it starts with sex itself. The proselytizers see sex as the answer to all sorts of human interactions from warfare — “Make Love,” they sloganize, “Not War” — to the arts and related matters: “Sex is a Beautiful Thing” is another of their slogans. Nowadays on university campuses, the sex proselytizer is a particularly inescapable nuisance. They hold campus sex weeks. Harvard comes to mind. They bring in crackpot lecturers. They boom films and toys and obscure practices that the puritans of yore once had certified as illegal. At their blandest, they distribute such accouterments as condoms as a hygienic necessity to be available everywhere. At times, they are sources for increased pleasure. In their most absurd moments, these lunkheads champion nudity even when they themselves look most unappetizing.

Now, as I say, in the battle between these sex proselytizers and the puritans, the puritans usually win. Certainly, they win on campus. The fate of the young man at Auburn is telling. He thought he was just having a mature experience with the young damsel who moved in with him. To be sure, many of the campus’s sex proselytizers would have agreed with him, though they would have been sticklers for the proper use of the condom. Yet things went wrong. He suffered the fate that might have befallen a group of 1920s collegian libertines out on a panty raid. He was expelled from old Auburn. Today, as back in the American Dark Ages, the puritans won. What has changed?


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