Friday, January 30, 2015

the bounds of human decency….

A new documentary is being broadcast soon on CNN and released in theater called "The Hunting Ground" which features rapes on college campuses. The schools included in the "piercing exposé" include the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Am I surprised? I attended college there four decades ago. In my freshman and sophomore years I was invited to many fraternity parties.

I do remember getting drunk on punch at the SAE House; I don't remember any frat man treating me discourteously (is that word even used any more?). And I didn't hear of anyone else being assaulted which doesn't mean it didn't happen. Of course it may have but not been recorded or even talked about. Quite honestly, however, I believe that there was another ethic in practice at that time. I believe that societal norms were substantially different. I think the entire country has been hugely sexualized since then -- through the media largely, plus video games and what's on-line - the huge growth of the porn industry. Yes, boys read Playboy Magazine (my brother certainly did) but that's tame compared to what's out there now….

In those days, there were things to be afraid of, for sure, places you didn't go, precautions you took -- but being raped on campus by a college colleague was not one of them. I probably won't go to see "The Hunting Ground" - but I'm glad someone produced it. I don't doubt colleges have been dismissive of girls reporting assault. Dismissing women's experiences is not something new at all. And no doubt there are many college males who need to be held accountable for their violent actions. Because rape is violence against women.

In fact I believe the rape epidemic is comparable in some respects to the mass killings which occur regularly nowadays and were virtually unheard of when I was growing up. I also strongly believe part of the "owning up" has to be societal in scope -- why and how has our contemporary society become so inundated with violence and sex? It's not surprising to me that Muslim countries react in such a radical way by covering their women up from head to toe -- there exists such a dearth of ordinary human modesty and respect among people all over the industrialized world.

And it's contagious, it spreads and once the bounds of decency have been trespassed, it's hard to legislate them back into place -- even by compelling people to recognize its existence in a harsh documentary.