Dear community disorganizer:
I quote your necktie party’s faux-reflective call to action (Argus, 18 April), signed by 400 folles (and chuck in your fellow wise fous):
“Because fraternities are male-exclusive and the possessors of some of our campus’s largest party spaces, they explicitly and implicitly cultivate a gender-based power dynamic that privileges men, the hosts, over women, who are among the guests. This power dynamic engenders sexual assault because women are institutionally encouraged to ‘repay’ men for their hospitality, often with sex, and men are institutionally provided with a control over their guests, especially women.”
Dahling, your agenda’s wrinkled slip is showing: we’re already well aware of the “power dynamic that privileges.” It isn’t merely “settled science,” it’s the very air of Marxist dogma we’re privileged to gulp down up in Privy Ledge on High.
But if allaying (you modestly disdain the term “solving”) the problem of sexual assault is the point, your call is beside it. Worse, it’s counterproductive. (The one thing Marxists produce in abundance is the counterproductive allayer; it’s what they do.)
Why would your high-speed, low-grade call to action (“meaningful co-education of Wesleyan’s residential fraternities, to eliminate gender-based power dynamics”) be counterproductive? Because familiarity breeds contempt. It’s bred ever more contempt for women ever since the first co-eds’ arrival in 1972. Your clever living arrangement will breed even more of it.
Over the years a few (I fear the tip of the iceberg) letters to the editor – signed “Anonymous” – chronicled the writers’ chronic, morning-after mood of regret – regret over having fallen for the Great God Peer Pressure. What would you call that lingering, bitter aftertaste? I’d have to call it self-contempt. And what would you call a lass’s erstwhile duty to “come across” or “repay” (your words) a frat for crossing its threshold? I’d have to call it something in hot (or would it be cold?) pursuit of that sorry mood.
Once upon a time, when mothers bothered to teach their daughters just HOW to “know your place” in “a man’s world,” said daughters were made of sterner stuff. In the game of chicken – the game of “who needs whom the more?” – that chick wasn’t bluffing. Her bearing – her very being – bespoke it:
“My visitation to your brotherhood’s wholly monastic – I note, immaculate – enclave, I trust, is not unwelcome. You will be mindful of my allergies to four-lettered words and gross behavior, or you will trigger a most severe reaction and your weekend date’s immediate departure. Should I remain, I’ll be the sport escorted to the game, where I shall sit or stand and freeze in the stands and not complain. Your team will be my team, I’ll lustily cheer, but never boo (it isn’t becoming a lady), and if I yawn, I’ll cover my mouth. That evening at the dance you’ll notice I’m gowned in white, and if the punch is spiked, the mark of a gentleman is that he hold his liquor. I’ll imbibe, but sparingly, and you’ll not try to ply me. After the prom you’ll squire me back to the off-campus room you’d rented for me, at the door I’ll kiss you warmly (not too warmly), and you will leave. You’ll go directly to your cell, you’ll NOT have passed Go and collected. But you’ll not sigh, “I’ve poorly-invested!”, for, by the time your date takes leave of you on Sunday she’ll have you wholly believing that the sole – the only – reason she’d answered “yes” to the invitation you’d written (a thoughtful expenditure on your part), was to have you reveal your ports of call and your Holy Grail, your days in the sun and your time-forgetting works and days – enthusiasms she’d prompted you to raise the curtain on, impromptu occasions (courses she’d plotted to steal you away from the madding crowd) permitting.”
The lady will have made another conquest. It was the era of the Dear John letter, the kiss-off so dreaded that in the fraternity house it was spoken of in whispers.
Those women have gone the way of Old Wes. The celebrated “attitude” of “new and improved” Wes’s students is a guy-thing. For women with “attitude” you have to retreat to all-male Old Wes, where women weren’t under foot, being kicked around, and taken for granted. Old Wes has gone the way of the flesh, for….
Hark! (cacophonous music) Enter, Stage Left, that mammoth shift in the balance of power between the sexes, the counter-culture’s “empowering” sexual revolution, with its women empowered to “come across.” Nietzsche’s “trans-valuation of values” was the gateway drug. It hooked the “anything goes” gang and led to the animal house, the “liberating” hook-ups (women liberated to “repay” said house), the wholly predictable rise in assault statistics, and the agenda-driven ambulance-chasers – also wholly predictable.
Now let us return to that cure for insomnia, your drowsing demand that the last three all-male houses co-educate. I’ve already said it would breed even more contempt for the women taken in (taken in, indeed). Your cake is naked without the icing; I’ll try to be the smooth lay-er: the female “brothers” held in contempt will also be resented. (Marxists are resentment-breeders; it’s in their DNA.) Your prescription (“you’ll take them if you know what’s good for you”) has revived the hallowed institution of the shotgun wedding: “Do you take this woman?” “Whatever you say.” A match made on High, a stone’s throw from Heaven!
Comrade conflagrator (I hold the Chair of University Troublemaker, thank you very much), congratulations! It isn’t every day I get to see 400 grown-ups playing with matches.
— Martin Benjamin ’57
Benjamin is a member of the class of 1957.