By Rosemary C. McDonough
My husband, my daughter, and I are all alumni of Franklin and Marshall College, which recently made the Obama administration's list of 55 colleges and universities that allegedly mishandled charges of student sexual misconduct.
The schools are being investigated to determine if, in their handling of campus sexual assaults, they violated Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination at colleges that receive federal funding.
Over the years, my alma mater has worked hard to earn a national reputation. But making this particular list, alongside Harvard, Princeton, and Berkeley, is not what any of us had in mind.
How have we arrived here? The college implemented efforts to prevent, report, and adjudicate alleged sexual misconduct over a decade ago. When the White House called upon colleges to enhance Title IX enforcement, F&M expanded its efforts and increased the staff and budget to do so.
My daughter and I graduated from F&M 35 years apart. What's changed in between?
It is hard to imagine a college climate potentially more conducive to sexual misconduct - but in my era, not hers. When I arrived on campus in 1972, F&M had been co-ed for just three years. I was one of 550 women among 1,900 students. Title IX had just become law.
The good news: At 5-foot-4, I got to play varsity basketball. The bad news: When my teammates and I tried to shower, we were greeted by a sign in the gym that read, "Men only beyond this point." (Why? So the men could walk around naked.) That sign was the "No Irish Need Apply" of its day, but we girls (we weren't called women yet) duly made an about-face and showered in our dorms.
Yet despite women being new and few, I cannot recall one incidence of alleged rape. Not officially and, even more telling, not in the hushed, late-night conversations in our dorms. Then as now, we women told each other everything. None of that means rapes didn't occur, but I never heard one word about sexual assault.
Today, F&M's student population is more than 50 percent female. Women have gone "beyond this point" and further. We are valedictorians and varsity athletes. We are radiation oncologists and judges, research scientists and professors.
And we are victims of rape.
I blame this, in part, on our sexually confusing times.
Forty years ago, even as the women's movement was gaining traction, the rules were clear. Self-respecting girls did not have casual sex. When attending fraternity parties, we learned to avoid awkward situations. When the band stops playing, go home. When a drunk guy invites you upstairs, go home. When your head is spinning from that third drink, go home.
Do I blame the victims? Absolutely not. Forced sexual intercourse is a crime. A drunk - or unconscious - woman cannot give consent. A sexual predator - whether a townie creep or a preppie team captain - should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. No means no. There cannot - must not - be any wiggle room here.
But today's culture, instead of telling young women - and men - "Do not," screams, "Why not?" Why not have sex with that hot guy from your history class? Why not join the boys in that drinking game? Why not do whatever feels good, just like the guys? A troubling 90 percent of college women who allege being raped know their attackers.
There is a dangerous disconnect between sexual equality in the campus classroom and sexual confusion in the campus bedroom. Women have come a long way since "Men Only Beyond This Point." They have moved beyond that point by raising their voices in public spaces: in the classroom, the college senate, and the career planning office. But young women must also raise their voices to declare what they do and do not want in private spaces: in the dormitory, the frat house, and the off-campus apartment.
No man should think that a woman means yes when she says no. That she has the unequivocal right to say no - regardless of the sexual revolution, the morning-after pill, or society's derisive attitude toward virginity - is a truth that both men and women ignore at their own peril.
Instead, let them cut through the confusion of popular culture by shouting one word: No. They can do this for themselves, without men, or college administrators, or the federal government.