Think­ing dan­ger­ously

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - By Kath­leen Parker Kath­leen Parker

When I first heard that some Elon Univer­sity stu­dents were protest­ing my in­vi­ta­tion to speak on cam­pus and say­ing my thoughts were “dan­ger­ous,” I was, of course, thrilled and im­me­di­ately amended my bio.

No one has ever con­sid­ered me dan­ger­ous that I know of, other than a cou­ple of dozen un­grate­ful birds I mys­te­ri­ously col­lected while re­cu­per­at­ing from a con­cus­sion. De­spite hav­ing res­cued and tended them for the past three years, they in­vari­ably scream, flap and flock to yon-est cor­ner of their re­spec­tive ex­trav­a­gant bird man­sions any­time I ap­proach.

I’ll try to re­sist the metaphor­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions and par­al­lels and sim­ply re­port that about 300 stu­dents here signed a pe­ti­tion ex­hort­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion to dis­in­vite me. They claimed most se­ri­ously that yours truly is a “rape apol­o­gist.” This charge was based on their ob­vi­ous mis­read­ing of my 2008 book, “Save the Males,” which un­til this mo­ment al­most no one had read, as well as snip­pets from a cou­ple of ran­dom col­umns culled from a body of around 2,000 stretch­ing across 29 years. (One more year and I get to brag.)

What had I said that was so con­tro­ver­sial? In my book, I had ques­tioned as­sump­tions, which is my job, af­ter all, on the al­ways-sen­si­tive is­sue of cam­pus rape, which was re­ceived less than warmly. I learned that one es­pe­cially doesn’t dare chal­lenge the pre­sump­tion of rape when male and fe­male sex­u­ally con­vene while the fe­male is “drunk.”

I dared, but not much. I merely won­dered: What if the guy is also drunk?

Re­mem­ber, this was more than 10 years ago. I’ve writ­ten hun­dreds of col­umns since then. And much has changed dur­ing half a gen­er­a­tion. Even so, I’m con­fi­dent of my re­search in the writ­ing of the book, and will never apol­o­gize for an opin­ion. It’s a thought, an idea, a con­clu­sion based on ev­i­dence and ex­pe­ri­ence. Opin­ions may change, in­clud­ing my own, but I al­ways reach them in good faith.

Thus, I con­cluded and wrote in this very same book — and re­peated Tues­day night at Elon — that I wasn’t mak­ing ex­cuses for the male, who, by virtue of phys­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics, in­clud­ing su­pe­rior strength, bears the greater re­spon­si­bil­ity in such en­coun­ters.

At one point dur­ing the ques­tion-and-an­swer pe­riod fol­low­ing my speech, which was mostly about pol­i­tics and the pres­i­den­tial campaign, I also sug­gested that girls stop get­ting so drunk. Gasp. What par­ent wouldn’t say as much? This isn’t blam­ing the vic­tim, as cer­tain fem­i­nists would in­sist, but is high­light­ing the ob­vi­ous. In the real world, we’d call this a risk as­sess­ment in­di­cat­ing a sta­tis­ti­cally sig­nif­i­cant cor­re­la­tion be­tween in­tox­i­ca­tion and un­wanted be­hav­ior and/or at­ten­tion. Or, sim­ply, science. It was odd to have to delve into these is­sues in the midst of a his­toric and po­ten­tially cat­a­strophic elec­tion, which has been the fo­cus of my work the past two years. In­deed, univer­sity Pres­i­dent Leo Lam­bert urged me to fo­cus on pol­i­tics, which I did af­ter briefly ad­dress­ing the protest and speak­ing a few min­utes about the cru­cial need to al­low even un­pop­u­lar speech on cam­puses in the ser­vice of tol­er­ance and ed­u­ca­tion.

Alas, I wasn’t able to dis­tract my finely feathered foes, who flocked to the mi­cro­phone armed with mini-con­gres­sional floor state­ments, statis­tics and quotes from my book. I felt like a wit­ness on “Law & Or­der” whose words get twisted and taken out of con­text. I tried to be sen­si­tive, which lasted about 30 sec­onds or so, be­fore laps­ing into my more com­fort­able truth mode. When a fe­male stu­dent de­manded my po­si­tion on a va­ri­ety of gen­der op­tions — trans, duo, not sure, etc. — I trilled: “I love all hu­man be­ings and the more happy peo­ple, the bet­ter.”

A grate­ful au­di­ence ap­plauded rap­tur­ously.

My ques­tioner ob­vi­ously hadn’t read my col­umn con­demn­ing North Carolina’s re­cent trans­gen­der-bath­room law (HB2). Or the next one about bump­ing into North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory in makeup at NBC, which was a gas. Nor did she or her com­rades ap­pre­ci­ate my sense of hu­mor or the tone of my pre­sen­ta­tion, which one jour­nal­ism pro­fes­sor de­scribed in a tweet as “a hy­brid of Mark Twain, @JonSte­wartHBO, @ DonRick­les, & @celiariven­bark.”

I only wish I could have made the girls laugh, too. Kath­leen Parker’s email ad­dress is kath­leen­parker@wash­post.com

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