Principles of literary criticism are seldom visibly applicable to widely discussed current events, but the current discussion of “rape culture” at the University of Virginia obligates me to make one of my rare descents into the politico-cultural maelstrom.
A single instance of rape is one too many, but is there an epidemic of campus rape? Is there a “rape culture” in many of our colleges and universities? Is campus sexual assault as common as Joe Biden, among many others, claims? I have to say I doubt it. To be sure, my doubt is based not in statistical study but in mere personal experience. I was for more than a decade the faculty master of an undergraduate residential college within Princeton University. My principal job was to foster a wholesome symbiosis of students’ residential and classroom experiences. I saw or became aware of a lot of undergraduate life up close. On the whole I enjoyed those years immensely, but there were some seriously unpleasant episodes—including a probable rape.