Last month, I posed the question, “What to Do When There is Perfection in Collapse?” My answer was that we should do nothing at all, since it is not good to conserve a thing that is not good to begin with. I illustrated this principle with the story of my visit to an art exhibit where the wretched and ridiculous “work” on display collapsed into a heap of sticks and wires. As this collapse improved (in my opinion) the artistic tone of the exhibit, standing to one side with my hands in my pockets was, I maintained, the correct response. I then went on to draw an analogy between the sexual mores of college students and that pre-collapse assemblage of sticks and wires, as both are rickety, unattractive, and yet officially valorized as a thing that we should defend.
If those sticks and wires had been, say, a stack of broken box springs at the city dump, their collapse would have occasioned no anxious glances, no wrung hands, no solicitous condolences. A creak, a crash, a cloud of dust, and that would have been that. But those sticks and wires whose only difference from a stack of broken box springs was that they were housed in an art gallery were different. They were valorized. They were art!
The sexual antics of young adults have caused a fracas since Adam first chased Eve round the Tree of Knowledge. Sober men therefore devised sexual mores to tame this fracas and channel its erotic energy into the necessary work of family formation. Their aim was to maximize the number of good citizens, while minimizing the number of bastards and broken hearts. That was, rather, what men did until fifty years ago, when they suddenly announced that sexual fracas is fun, and that everyone ought to overcome their prejudices against bastards and broken hearts.
In fact, it isn’t only fun—it is holy and therefore not to be touched by profane hands. It is valorized. It is sex!
But when something goes wrong in the sexual fracas, it is “all hands on deck” (be those hands profane or sanctified), since if this rickety contraption were to collapse, The Revolution will have been in vain.
This all came to mind as I read a report that our University Police Department sent out this morning, as required by law. In the wee hours of last Sunday morning, it tells us, a young woman was sexually assaulted by a “slender white male, 18 years of age.” How she fell into his paws is what William Dean Howells might have styled “a modern instance.”
“The victim met the suspect at a Northgate entertainment district bar.”
The Northgate entertainment district is a string of alcohol dispensaries adjacent to campus, the entertainment on offer being essentially intoxication and whatever amusements may or may not follow in its wake.
“The victim and another friend were invited by the suspect and another male to a party off campus.”
We may suppose this to have been of those glamorous and exclusive “afterhours parties” where the real hangovers (and other shame-making mistakes) are made.
“After attending the party, the two males, the victim and the other female friend returned to the residence of one of the males at a Park West Apartment.”
“Whatever gets you through the night, ‘salright, ‘salright. (Thanks, John.)
“The two females later went to sleep on a bed while the suspect insisted on sleeping in the same room.”
Might that have been because it was his room, indeed his bed? Or I suppose the three of them might have passed out together amidst the musty towels and dirty underwear of some other complete stranger who happened to be away for the weekend. (Note how, in this age of sexual equality, the two weary princesses help themselves to the bed.)
“The victim was woken in the early morning hours when the suspect started fondling her.”
Over to you, Bill.
“Imagine her as one in dead of night
From forth dull sleep by dreadful fancy waking,
That thinks she hath beheld some ghastly sprite,
Whose grim aspect sets every joint a-shaking;
His hand, that yet remains upon her breast, —
Rude ram, to batter such an ivory wall! —
May feel her heart—poor citizen! —distress’d,
Wounding itself to death, rise up and fall . . .”
Poor citizen, indeed—and rude ram. But our victim did not take her pounding heart as a sign that she had strayed into a bad place, and that she and her friend really ought to go home. No,
“She rebuffed him and went back to sleep.”
What do you suppose that rebuff was? “Unhand me, you cad!”
Whatever it was, it did not damp the kindling ardor of that “slender white male.” No, it appears he sat on the floor brooding, amidst those musty towels and that dirty underwear, like foul Tarquin in Shakespeare’s Rape of Lucrece (1594), until at last he resolved on a course of action
“I have debated, even in my soul,
What wrong, what shame, what sorrow I shall breed;
But nothing can affection’s course control,
Or stop the headlong fury of his speed.
I know repentant tears ensue the deed,
Reproach, disdain, and deadly enmity;
Yet strive I to embrace mine infamy.”
And thus it was that:
“The victim was later woken up with the suspect sexually assaulting her.”
It will be said, I know, that the dignity of woman requires that she be allowed to pass out drunk in the company of virtual strangers, and that she be suffered to snore with her ivory walls unprofaned by the rude rams of ghastly sprites . It will be said, I know, that the equality of women requires that that any slender young male who may pass out with her content himself with cuddling a musty towel, down on the floor.
But this is all nonsense, as every sentient adult understood only fifty years ago.
Tarquin was certainly rationalizing his own crime when he said that “nothing can affection’s course control,” but what he said is not altogether inapplicable to the case of a slender white male who has been, of late, reveling in the Northgate entertainment district and at an afterhours party. Indeed, dastardly Tarquin could have taught our “victim” a thing or two that no modern adult was, apparently, prepared to tell her. Lust does have a “headlong furry,” alcohol is an accelerant, and there is a point well before the door of a strange bedroom when even clear foreknowledge of “repentant tears” availeth naught.