Redefining Rape

Duke University, bowing to the pressure of feminists at the Duke Women’s Center, has rewritten its “sexual misconduct” policy in such broad terms that even consensual sex can be considered rape. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has issued a statement on the matter and is challenging the new policy:

Duke University has instituted a new “sexual misconduct” policy that can render a student guilty of non-consensual sex simply because he or she is considered “powerful” on campus. The policy claims that “perceived power differentials may create an unintentional atmosphere of coercion.” Duke’s new policy transforms students of both sexes into unwitting rapists simply because of the “atmosphere” or because one or more students are “intoxicated,” no matter the degree. The policy also establishes unfair rules for judging sexual misconduct accusations …

“Duke’s new sexual misconduct policy could have been written by Mike Nifong,” said FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley. “Members of the men’s basketball team could be punished for consensual sexual activity simply because they are ‘perceived’ as more powerful than other students after winning the national championship. Students who engage in sexual behavior after a few beers could be found guilty of sexual misconduct towards each other …”


Duke’s vastly overbroad definition of non-consensual sex puts nearly every student at risk of being found guilty of sexual misconduct. Students are said to be able to unintentionally coerce others into sexual activity through “perceived power differentials,” which could include otherwise unremarkable and consensual liaisons between a varsity athlete and an average student, a senior and a freshman, or a student government member and a non-member.

Further, students are said to be unable to consent to sexual behavior when “intoxicated,” regardless of their level of intoxication. Duke has turned mutually consensual sexual conduct, which might merely be poorly considered, into a punishable act. Adding to the confusion, if both parties are intoxicated at all, both are guilty of sexual misconduct, since neither can officially give consent. North Carolina law does not support this definition of consent.

“Of course, there is no way that everyone who was intoxicated during sexual activity, let alone ‘perceived’ as more powerful, is going to be charged with sexual misconduct,” said Adam Kissel, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “Add to that the provision about an unintentional atmosphere of coercion, and anyone can see that Duke’s policy is impossible to rationalize or to fairly and equitably enforce. As a result, this policy effectively trivializes real sexual misconduct, which is a gravely serious crime.”

The new policy even makes reporting of so-called sexual misconduct mandatory for any Duke employee who becomes aware of it, regardless of the wishes of the alleged victim.

So what we have is a feminist group on campus that has actually managed to redefine rape to the point of absurdity. With this new policy, it is literally possible for two students in a relationship to have consensual sex and have another person report it as rape if because of the “perception” that one of the persons involved has a higher social status than the other.

I wonder if the first wave feminists of so long ago envisioned a world where feminism was used as an excuse to implement draconian policies that would make it possible to prosecute any man for any perceived slight?

Dr. Helen has a good point about the concern with power dynamics that permeates the new policy:

It seems to me that the most powerful group on Duke’s campus is the group of feminists that got this policy passed. If you have sex with one of them, you have obviously been raped and need to file charges.

Hat Tip to Clarice Feldman at American Thinker.


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  1. #1 by iusbvision on Thu 08 Apr 2010 - 09:28

    Hi Heretic,

    I saw this story too when I got Adam Kissel’s tweet about it. Often after FIRE launches a media onslaught like this college administrators “come to Jesus” and see the light. If Duke doesn’t get straight by tomarrow I will be writing about it as well.

    Only a fool takes on Adam Kissel and FIRE. Duke needs to get right with the law and common decency.

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