California recently passed a law requiring that sexual encounters between students in universities and colleges can proceed only on the basis of “affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement.” Failure to resist or to ask the partner to stop the encounter can no longer be taken as consent. Institutions that wish to receive state funds or financial aid must adhere to this standard when investigating charges of “sexual assault,” a phrase redefined to include behaviors once considered boorish or insensitive, but not legally actionable. The California law follows on the 2011 Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights’s “dear colleague”letter that instructed schools investigating sexual assault complaints to use the “more likely than not” or “preponderance of the evidence” standard of evidence rather than the “clear and convincing” one.
Sometime in the mid-first century a.d., an otherwise little known consular official, Gaius Petronius, wrote a brilliant satirical novel about the gross and pretentious new Roman-imperial elite. The Satyricon is an often-cruel parody about how the Roman agrarian republic of old had degenerated into a wealth-obsessed, empty society of wannabe new elites, flush with money, and both obsessed with and bored with sex. Most of the Satyricon is lost. But in its longest surviving chapter — “Dinner with Trimalchio” — Petronius might as well have been describing our own 21st-century nomenklatura.
‘Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here,” is the placard that Herman Cain must have read last week when he descended into the Sexual Harassment Inferno, from which he has not yet emerged. Continue reading “Cain Lost in the Labyrinth”→
Almost everyone who has written about Strauss-Kahn has, quite correctly, used the adjective “allegedly” in relation to the charges against him, which are as yet unproven in a court of law. Continue reading “Not So Fast on Strauss-Khan”→
Former congressman Anthony Weiner, who has now resigned in disgrace, took, and then transmitted, various photos of himself — either posing and flexing in gym attire, pointing to his private parts, smiling in various states of undress and sexual arousal, or in combinations of these themes. Continue reading “Anatomy of Congressional Narcissism”→
The full story is not out on Dominique Strauss-Kahn and he is innocent of forcible sexual battery until proven guilty, but already the case has exposed an ancient abyss between European elite and American popular cultures — accentuated by the differences between New York’s rough-and-tumble media and legal worlds on the one hand and IMF technocracy and French privilege on the other. Continue reading “A Teachable Moment on American-European Faultlines”→