Title IX has been under fire by the right since the “Dear Colleague” letter, but there’s a compelling reason why denizens of “kink” world should be highly concerned about the creeping definitions of “rape” and “abuse” on campuses.
Hypocrisy is breeding on campus when it comes to acceptance of diversity, at least in the realm of sexuality. While student unions and administrations sponsor “Sex Week” seminars, those same groups are stepping into the territory of defining what is acceptable practice in intimate relationships, thanks to Title IX.
Consider the case of Zoe Katz, the 22-year-old girlfriend of Matt Boermeester – both had been students at USC. Katz had been engaged in consensual activity with Boermeester which involved something that appeared to be abusive to some observers. Boermeester was ousted from USC over this incident, primarily because instead of school officials taking Katz at her word, it was assumed that she was suffering from some form of denial about being abused.
Katz definitely did report feeling that she had been victimized, but not by her boyfriend, Boermeester. The perpetrators were the school officials, who continually ignored her statements that she had never been in danger in the first place. She characterized the activity as “horse-play” from the start, and never wavered from that contention. In spite of that, the USC administration insisted that she was actually the victim of abuse, and was incapable of determining exactly what happened.
The actions of the USC administration were definitely out of line, but they wouldn’t have been able to do what they did to Katz if it wasn’t for Title IX. It is laudable that they are trying to make it easier for true victims of sexual assault to report what happened to them, but Title IX has reached the point where it’s beyond just suspension of due process for individuals who are accused of rape (something that is categorically wrong as well.) Now, it’s reached the point where schools are telling women when they are victims, even in circumstances where the women are saying that they were consenting.
Since a great deal of what people from the world of kink could be considered abusive by outsiders who are unfamiliar with it, this new development should be highly concerning. In spite of the relative mainstreaming of BDSM, school officials in colleges apparently are unaware of the meaning of consensual kink – ironic since these same officials may have been defending the fact that seminars on BDSM are often included in their “sex week” activities.
Also, it should be disturbing to realize that self-proclaimed feminists apparently have no problems with Katz being ignored, and treated as though she is incapable of making decisions about her intimate relationships without the guidance of USC Title IX officials.
Maybe it isn’t such a terrible thing that the current administration is looking to scrub Title IX altogether. Now that it’s reached the point where it is infringing on the individual rights of women, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. There has to be a better way to deal with rape on campus. Maybe the universities need to take a page from the book of kink – start teaching empowerment, consent, communication, and the importance of trust in intimate relationships.
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Title IX, Kink, Women and the Loss of Individual Rights