September 26, 2014

VIRGINIA POSTREL: Frat Boys, Drunken Girls and Paternalism.

Given the mounting concern about sexual assault on college campuses, you might expect activists to welcome a fraternity adviser’s message that Greek houses should take positive steps to protect inebriated women from potential dangers.

You’d be wrong. Apparently it’s not enough to watch out for the welfare of drunken young women. You have to do so without suggesting that they, rather than the diabolical forces of fraternity life, have any responsibility for their intoxication — even if they arrive at a party plastered. Judging, or even acknowledging, the risky behavior of female college students has become a cultural taboo.

Hence the fate of Forbes.com contributor Bill Frezza, who briefly published a column — under the deliberately provocative headline “Drunk Female Guests Are The Gravest Threat To Fraternities” — warning fraternities to watch out for female party guests who show up intoxicated. “I don’t care how pretty or flirtatious a young lady is; if she’s visibly intoxicated, don’t let her in,” he wrote. The consequences, he warned, could be grave. . . .

The column was almost immediately jerked from the site, and Frezza, who has written for Forbes since 2011, was summarily fired. . . . Commentators were outraged that Frezza — a man! — appealed to the self-interest of fraternity members, and addressed the subject from their perspective rather than tackling broader issues of morality or condemning the decadence of Greek life. . . . The reaction to the piece was entirely overwrought. You’d think Frezza had called for getting women drunk and raping them rather than suggesting that fraternity members escort intoxicated women out of the party and put them safely in cabs.

Campus sex hysteria is an engineered moral panic. Its purpose is to justify targeting, punishing, and isolating the people the panic-engineers don’t like. Nothing that counters the chosen narrative, however sensible, can be tolerated. Because it’s not about helping women. It’s about demonizing and marginalizing men.

Let me be clear, as a great man likes to say: This is not a case of good intentions gone wrong. It is a case of bad intentions given free rein. Forbes should be ashamed to play the role of useful idiot here. But read the whole thing for Virginia’s somewhat more nuanced approach.

UPDATE: From the comments: “I had no idea Forbes was so cowardly.” It’s not the magazine it used to be, which is too bad.

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