This week, self-described dissident feminist and social critic, Camille Paglia, published a Time magazine article entitled “The Modern Campus Cannot Comprehend Evil.”
The article begins with the subtitle in bold letters: “Young women today do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.” At that point, even before beginning to read the article, I questioned the assumption of her language.
I knew immediately that she was just another individual, despite having a high social status, that yet again obscured the woman’s voice in society.
Upon reading the article, I don’t know what bugged me more: the limited binary perspective of her lens or her blatant protection of the male ego, besides the obvious fact that other people around the world will read this and defend her theory.
For one, Paglia’s article assumes that women are the only gender that experience rape violence, which is false. But yet she states, “the majority of campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault are not felonious rape (involving force or drugs) but oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.”
In this theory, all genders are responsible for the acts of sexual assault committed on college campuses across the globe. Paglia’s denial of the seriousness of sexual violence invalidates all of the survivors' real and traumatizing experiences.
And yet, somehow, this is not the most offensive part of her article. She begins to psychoanalyze the survivors, generalizing them all as “young middleclass women” who are “raised far from the urban streets, seem[ing] to expect adult life to be an extension of their comfortable, overprotected homes.”
She goes on to explain that the world remains a wilderness, and the price of women’s modern freedoms is “personal responsibility for vigilance and self-defense.”
Again, Paglia’s argument is based on several assumptions that the audience must accept to be true in order for her theory to be supported: 1. the women that are raped are from privileged backgrounds, 2. their privilege contributes to their chances of experiencing rape, and 3. women indirectly should expect to be raped for the price of their desire for social freedoms.
She concludes the article with a serious criticism of the elite society that breeds the sheltered, young woman – who we assume to be white, naturally – who has not been taught sexual social cues, such as “they assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic.”
For Paglia, and perhaps many other people, the young woman’s sexuality is too powerful and otherworldly for her to understand – so intense that it provokes a deeper, instinctual urge that drives a man to claim it as his own.
Let us deconstruct this pseudo intellectualism and focus on the horror of Paglia’s faulty premises.
Her generalizing remarks are quite offensive and infantilizing. It is no surprise to me that other men identify with Paglia’s condescending tone because it justifies rape’s insidious goal to achieve power and control, without the moral responsibility of stripping a human of their most basic life-sustaining source: their sense of security.