The federal report on rape on college campuses, and rape in general, is beginning to get traction from the president of the United States on down, and that is a good thing.
But rape is not new. It is an ancient crime, more ancient than any present civilization, and in the past it was dealt with far more harshly than we deal with it now. The harshness was primarily to deter the rapist from committing the crime in the first place, but also to provide justice for the victim.
A rapist could be fined the equivalent of three years’ wages; if he couldn’t pay it, he could be sold into slavery. Most of the fine, or the results of the slave sale, would be paid over to the victim. In some societies, rape was considered a capital crime; the victim or her family would be given the opportunity to kill the rapist. English law in the 14th century gave victims of rape the right to castrate and/or blind their attackers.
Oddly, one form of rape “control” was for some societies to institutionalize prostitution to protect wives, daughters and sisters. Of course, prostitution was another form of victimization.
It isn’t surprising that incidents of rape seem to have increased in number on college campuses. Many colleges encouraged sexual misbehavior be establishing coed dormitories. What was the purpose of that? Who benefitted? Certainly not the women students.
The film and broadcast industries portray sexual flagrancy as part of the plot lines of many movies and television shows, and violence against women is right up there with conspicious sexuality. And the Internet is in there with them. The biggest single segment of online diversion — and commerce — is pornography. Women and children are particularly victimized on thousands of pornographic Web sites.
Popular magazines are filled with stories about glamorous, unmarried celebrities having babies by irresponsible men who have little interest in being fathers. Birth control products and sex toys are advertised on television. The biggest reason for abortion is after-the-fact birth control.
This brave new world of sexual libertarianism which we have brought upon ourselves has proven to be sad, dangerous and revolting. It is good that the President is among those to remind us of how far we have slid.