Nathan Harden - Fix Editor

Nude photos of female students were on display at one of our nation’s most prestigious colleges.

“Photographs of women laughing, gazing dreamily into the distance, hugging friends or teammates, holding up soccer balls, or, in one photo, biting into a greasy piece of pizza…”

The above description pertains to a recent exhibition at Bowdoin College’s Lamarche Gallery. The newly curated exhibit of photographs, entitled, “Celebrating Women, Celebrating Bodies,” was on display for several weeks in April.

A previous version of “Celebrating Bodies” was exhibited on the campus in 2012.

According to the Bowdoin Orient, a student publication, the “Celebrating Bodies” display featured “an exhibition of nude photos designed to celebrate the diversity of women on campus and their bodies.”

A source with knowledge of the exhibit told The College Fix that the images showed breasts and vaginas, although done “more artfully” than porno style.

Speaking of 2012’s exhibit, project director Laura Armstrong said the nude photographs were supposed to help women counter “self-critical internal and external dialogues.”

Armstrong, along with two fellow students, photographed roughly 100 women for the exhibit.

Bowdoin student Julia Mead wrote about her experience posing with a group of friends this year: “Ten of us went into a side room, stripped down to our underwear, stood side-by-side, laughed nervously, sweated under the bright lights, and click click click. We put our bras back on and then the rest of our clothes.” 

Ten Percent Posed Nude

Bowdoin is a very small college, with about 1800 total students. Currently, only 890 females attend the school. If 100 Bowdoin women were photographed, that means more than ten percent of the women who attend the college agreed to pose nude.

For this year’s exhibit, participation remained strong. About 50 Bowdoin women chose to participate, according to organizers of the 2014 “Celebrating Bodies” exhibition.

In some cases, props were included. “People brought a lot of props: pots, pans, someone brought their mountain climbing belt, someone brought a longboard,” said event leader Janki Kaneria, who posed nude herself in 2012.

Maura Allen, a student who posed in 2012, and again this year, told the Bowdoin Orient that she was “one of the more bashful people that I knew,” in middle school and high school. Her decision to pose nude was a way to show how she “had really changed a lot since then.”

A number of the photos featured of female athletic teams stripped down and photographed as a group.

The only rule was that students had to agree to show their heads in the photographs, and not just their bodies.

U.S. News ranks Bowdoin College as the 4th best liberal arts college in the nation. And the college boasts an acceptance rate of only 15%.

For those young women who will one day be engaged in high-powered careers in business and politics, the potential for these images to reemerge and cause embarrassment or scandal did not deter them.

At least one member of the Bowdoin faculty advised students as they planned and executed the project, according to Armstrong, 2012′s “Bodies” projectdirector. In a gallery statement she writes:

michael-kolster-bowdoin.new

Before the shoot, I had the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with photography Professor Michael Kolster in which he probed me to think more deeply about why we chose the medium of photography, why nudes, and why only women… I chose to focus this exhibit specifically on women as a result of my work at the Women’s Resource Center. It is a shoot that celebrates women in solidarity with one another…

Professor Michale Kolster, who teaches photography classes and works one-on-one with students for independent studies in the “visual arts,” is on leave for the Fall 2014, semester, according to his faculty profile page.

The Women’s Resource Center at Bowdoin, which Armstrong says inspired her to do the “Celebrating Bodies” project, is a campus organization that “builds awareness of gender issues,” according to the group’s website. The Women’s Center also hosts other female-themed art projects, including a production of the “Vagina Monologues” and an even called “V-Day,” which seems to be a short for “Vagina-Day.”

It’s All About Empowerment

“We really want to reiterate the fact that these are real women. It’s not just a body—these are the women behind the pictures. This is their story of empowerment,” Kaneria told The Orient.

On the comment feed below the school newspaper’s story on the exhibit, the reaction of the public was mixed. One commenter who went by the name, “Fan of Naked Co-eds,” had this to say: “Nothing wrong with a little nudity. Who doesn’t like youthful boobies? Lay off and let ‘em celebrate their youth.”

Meanwhile, another commenter, “Gooseontheloose” had this to say: “I doubt any employer when reviewing their Facebook pages would find this extracurricular activity of any value other than to use it as a reason to reject the applicant.”

Another dubbed “Holden” suggested the college could turn this into a fundraising venture: “Perhaps Bowdoin should create a student calendar with the sexiest 12 photos and let the Alumni Association sell them online…or create a website for the girls to video chat for a few dollars per minute.”

In an age in which cell phone cameras are everywhere, the potential for an unauthorized person to record and distribute these nude images online, either now or in the future, seems not to have caused students, faculty, or administrators much worry.

Total cost to attend Bowdoin College, including tuition, room and board, is $59,568 annually. As they sign checks of that size, surely there are very few fathers and mothers who realize they are paying to keep the lights on in a college gallery where nude images of their daughters are on display.

**Bowdoin College spokesman Scott Hood and Women’s Resource Center director Melissa Quinby refused to respond to The College Fix’s requests for comment on this story.**

Nathan Harden is editor emeritus of The College Fix and author of SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Follow Nathan on Facebook /  Twitter:@NathanHarden

(Image: MichaelPorter.Flickr)

 

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If you aren’t familiar with Christina Hoff Sommers, aka “The Factual Feminist,” then you ought to remedy the situation immediately. Sommers is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and a long-time conservative activist  on gender-related civil rights issues. Her new “Factual Feminist” video blog series features short, entertaining, and fact-filled commentary.

Despite the use of the dreaded  “f-word” in her video blog title, Sommers’s views are quite the opposite of what you expect from a feminist of the standard, liberal variety.

Take her video on the harmful effects of gender quotas in college sports under Title IX. She exposes the harmful effects Title IX has had on male students, as universities cut men’s sports in order to try to keep the balance of male and female athletes equal.

The common sense reason for lower female participation in competitive sports is that women simply aren’t as interested, Sommers argues. Sommers tears apart the politically correct assertions of the feminist left, and takes a stand for true equal rights for both women and men.

Check out her video below:

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden

 

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CBS News reports that Lance Cpl. Brandon Garabrant, 19, has perished in the line of service in Afghanistan.

Garabrant was at the center of controversy last year when  ConVal Regional High School denied his request that he be allowed to wear his military uniform to his graduation ceremony.

Garabrant had completed Marine boot camp prior to his high school graduation. At the time, school officials said if Garabrant were allowed to wear his uniform, it would disrupt the “unity” of the class.

Truly, that was the best excuse they could come up with. That was enough of an excuse, in their eyes, to deny him the honor that was rightly his.

If there were to be any “unity” at that graduation ceremony, it ought to have been centered around the mutual appreciation for the service of Garabrant and veterans like him. The fact that high school leaders couldn’t understand that shows how little esteem your average “sophisticated” New England liberal educator has for our armed service men and women

If those high school administrators didn’t look callous and petty before, they sure do now.

Full story here.

 

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden

(Image: SalutingTheFlag/Youtube Screenshot)

 

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The Starbucks corporation has announced that it will begin offering discounted tuition benefits to employees working at least 20 hours per week through a partnership with the online degree program at Arizona State University.

The Associated Press reports that ASU will offer qualifying Starbucks employees a discount off the normal tuition price. Though a combination of federal grants the AP estimates that the average out-of-pocket will be about $1000 per year.

This story is significant because it provides evidence of a major U.S. corporation acknowledging the cost benefits of online education. In a sense, by taking such a visible step to partner with Arizona State’s online program, Starbucks is helping to put a stamp of legitimacy on online education.

Hosted, as it is, by a brick and mortar institution like Arizona State, this kind of program is an huge win for online education. And a move like the one Starbucks is taking is likely to be watched closely by other large companies that have tuition benefit programs. The likely result will be that more and more companies will steer their employees, through such programs, into online programs.

In the wake of ever-rising tuition costs at traditional residential colleges, the economic advantages of online education for middle-to-low income Americans is impossible to ignore. As I have been saying for a while now, online education offers a tremendous benefit for the poor and lower-middle class. Starbucks’s latest moves shows that it also offers an advantage to companies that want to offer educational benefits to their employees.

Look for more partnerships like this between online degree programs and major corporations to emerge in the near future.

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden

 

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Peter Wood of the National Association of Scholars reports some surprising new statistics on sexual assault in an essay published today. He starts by framing the current debate over whether there is, in fact,  a “rape culture’ on our nation’s college campuses as some allege:

How frequent are sexual assaults on campus? President Obama recently cited the estimate that one in five women enrolled in college suffer sexual assault by the time they graduate. The Bureau of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, based on reported crimes, put the rate at 1 in 40. Reported crimes inevitably fall short of the actual incidence, but how much short?

The 1-in-5 statistic has prompted a lot of well-argued skepticism, and the figure indeed has a dubious pedigree. It is derived from opinion surveys in which those asking the questions took license to interpret some answers as implying that sexual assaults had occurred even if the respondents didn’t say so. To say the least, there is room for doubt about how good an estimate 1-in-5 really is…

Wood then highlights the research of sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas, who despite being quite unpopular among the progressive left, has some statistics that seem to back up, to a great extent, the “1 in 5″ claim that we’ve grown accustomed to hearing so often from feminists in the realm of higher ed.

Regnerus has been working on a new, very large survey project, “Relationships in America.” It is a nationally-representative study of 15,738 American adults, and it is just a few months old. Regnerus plans to use the data for a book he is working on about young adult sexual behavior. The book is a few years away and his data is unpublished at this point but, at my request, he pulled out of his data the respondents’ answers to a key question, “Have you ever been physically forced to have any type of sexual activity against your will?”

The question doesn’t specify age or circumstance, but it tracks pretty closely with the issue of the hour. To get closer to the question of sexual harassment in college in the recent past, Regnerus focused the data on the 711 women in the study who have a four-year college degree and who are 33 or younger. In this group, 16.5 percent of the women (just about one in six) said yes.

Of course, some of those who said yes could be reporting a post-college sexual assault. To check that, Regnerus cut the sample to 156 women who had at least a four-year degree and were no older than 25. When he did this, the percentage who reported assault ticked up slightly to 18 percent.

Regnerus then went back and checked the data from his earlier study (the one that caused the ruckus over parents in same-sex relationships). He had asked the same question then and in the cohort of 116 women who had a four-year college degree and were no older than 25, he found 19 percent who said they been physically forced to have sexual activity against their will.

In both studies, the data do not allow us to distinguish between assaults that happened in college and assaults that happened at home, in high school, or elsewhere.

These statistics are not bent around anyone’s effort to prove a point. They are available by happy accident. In their light, President Obama’s figures appear to be a slight exaggeration, but close enough…

Click here to read Peter Wood’s full essay at NAS.org.

Much as I attempted to do on this blog last week, Wood tries to step outside the all-or-nothing approach to the argument over the so-called “rape culture” on American college campuses. Radical feminists, we suspect, are too eager to exaggerate the frequency of sexual assault for their own political purposes. Heather Mac Donald and George Will have both pointed out some of the extremes of the left on this issue. But Wood, like myself, seems to think that such exaggerations, where they may exist, shouldn’t cause us to turn a blind eye to the very real and far too common problem of sexual assault on campus.

Most of all, Wood is correct to point out that conservatives ought to be focusing on the real source of the problem, which is the lack of “character development and moral self-governance.” Feminists go about decrying “rape culture” and portraying men as predators and women as victims. Conservatives shouldn’t respond by saying this is a made-up problem. Instead, they ought to expose the elements of college culture that make sexual assault more likely–including the rampant abuse of alcohol, the dominant trend of loveless, relationshipless sex known as the hook up culture, the cultural mainstreaming of hardcore pornography–all problems, mind you, that the radical progressives have no interest in addressing or even acknowledging.

If Regnerus’s numbers are accurate, the truth is we do have a major problem with rape on college campuses. And if that is the case, both liberals and conservatives alike owe it to America’s daughters to face the problem honestly, without denial or exaggeration, and with the willingness to place proper blame on the moral corruption that has ensnared both young men and young women, and which, over the last two decades in particular, has radically altered and debased the sexual culture of which we are all a part.

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden

(Image: Kijkwijzer.WMC)

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The topic of rape on college campuses is all over the media recently. There are two opposing views out there at the moment, generally speaking. The first view is that rape isn’t as big of a problem as it is sometimes made out to be, instead statistics are inflated and confused by the ambiguities of “drunk sex” and the sex-with–near-strangers norm of the college hookup culture, and, in some cases, hyped, up by politically-motivated feminists who show little concern for the due process rights of young men who may be falsely accused. The second view is that there is an epidemic of rape on campus and that victims are often denied justice, criminals walk away free, while an indifferent society ends up blaming the victims.

Both of these views, opposite though they may be, have an element of truth in them. As someone who has written quite a bit about sexual assault on campus and about the college sexual culture  in general, I often find myself caught in the middle between these two sides, which too often seem to take an all-or-nothing approach to the argument. Feminists, for example, are almost never willing to admit something as simple as the fact that when two people get drunk, consent can become a much more murky question by the time the two wake up the next morning. Conservatives, on the other hand, sometimes sound as if they believe rape almost never happens on campus.

The truth of the matter, I believe, lies between these two extremes. Rape is startlingly common on college campuses and rapists do get away with their crimes far too often. But on-campus rape is made more prevalent by the rampant abuse of inhibition-lowering alcohol, and by the fact that the modern hookup culture has radically transformed sexual expectations among casual acquaintances–two factors that do a lot to muddy the lines of sexual consent. Anyone who points this out is at risk of being castigated for “blaming the victim.”

I think both sides of this debate could benefit from thinking more deeply about the other side. For the rabid feminists out there, I recommend a thoughtful reading of Heather Mac Donald’s recent essay exposing some of the fallacies of the feminist side:

The campus rape movement highlights the current condition of radical feminism, from its self-indulgent bathos to its embrace of ever more vulnerable female victimhood. But the movement is an even more important barometer of academia itself. In a delicious historical irony, the baby boomers who dismantled the university’s intellectual architecture in favor of unbridled sex and protest have now bureaucratized both. While women’s studies professors bang pots and blow whistles at antirape rallies, in the dorm next door, freshman counselors and deans pass out tips for better orgasms and the use of sex toys. The academic bureaucracy is roomy enough to sponsor both the dour antimale feminism of the college rape movement and the promiscuous hookup culture of student life. The only thing that doesn’t fit into the university’s new commitments is serious scholarly purpose.

The campus rape industry’s central tenet is that one-quarter of all college girls will be raped or be the targets of attempted rape by the end of their college years (completed rapes outnumbering attempted rapes by a ratio of about three to two). The girls’ assailants are not terrifying strangers grabbing them in dark alleys but the guys sitting next to them in class or at the cafeteria…

If the one-in-four statistic is correct—it is sometimes modified to “one-in-five to one-in-four”—campus rape represents a crime wave of unprecedented proportions. No crime, much less one as serious as rape, has a victimization rate remotely approaching 20 or 25 percent, even over many years. The 2006 violent crime rate in Detroit, one of the most violent cities in America, was 2,400 murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants—a rate of 2.4 percent. The one-in-four statistic would mean that every year, millions of young women graduate who have suffered the most terrifying assault, short of murder, that a woman can experience. Such a crime wave would require nothing less than a state of emergency—Take Back the Night rallies and 24-hour hotlines would hardly be adequate to counter this tsunami of sexual violence. Admissions policies letting in tens of thousands of vicious criminals would require a complete revision, perhaps banning boys entirely. The nation’s nearly 10 million female undergrads would need to take the most stringent safety precautions. Certainly, they would have to alter their sexual behavior radically to avoid falling prey to the rape epidemic.

None of this crisis response occurs, of course—because the crisis doesn’t exist. During the 1980s, feminist researchers committed to the rape-culture theory had discovered that asking women directly if they had been raped yielded disappointing results—very few women said that they had been. SoMs. commissioned University of Arizona public health professor Mary Koss to develop a different way of measuring the prevalence of rape. Rather than asking female students about rape per se, Koss asked them if they had experienced actions that she then classified as rape. Koss’s method produced the 25 percent rate, which Ms. then published…

I recommend that everyone read Mac Donald’s article in full over at City Journal.

For skeptics, who may be tempted to dismiss all talk of a college “rape culture” as nonsense–just another example of identity politics-loving feminists seeking power with an onslaught of victimhood rhetoric–I would ask you to take your blinders off and look at the reality of rape on campus today. It is a problem, perhaps even an epidemic (although Mac Donald would surely disagree with that term). And an essay in NY Mag by Amanda Ruggeri, entitled “I Was Raped, and I Stayed Silent,” offers a poignant example:

The first part of the evening was clear. I had started the night by meeting a friend, whom I’ll call T., her boyfriend, and his friend in their college’s rec room; we’d each had a single beer and played a couple of games of pool. We left for a good friend’s get-together, where I drank a margarita (not very strong). An hour or so later, we headed to another party, in a neo-Gothic building overlooking the freshman quad. It was February 2005, the snow on the courtyard was two feet deep, and our breath puffed out in curls. We didn’t know anyone at the party, but at Yale, that never seemed to matter; everyone was safe, and everyone was welcoming. When we walked in, the rooms were already crowded with people laughing, talking, dancing. A guy offered my friend and me shots. We assumed he was the host. For both of us, it was the third drink of the night.

From there, my memory runs like a strobe light: blackness, with the occasional moment lit up. Dancing. Making out with T. on a flight of stairs. Falling down them. (I had the bruises and cuts for two weeks; the scars took five years to fade.) And then, suddenly, I remember nothing — except for a single moment, lit up like the pop of a flashbulb…

Read Ruggeri’s full essay here. She and I overlapped for a short time at Yale. Although I don’t recall ever having met her, her story mirrors every other rape story I’ve ever heard from my college days–the alleged perpetrator is a casual acquaintance, not a stranger, not a boyfriend. Alcohol was involved. In this case, she suspects, she was drugged. Oftentimes though, copious alcohol consumption is enough to set up precisely the same scenario.  And, finally, there’s the fact that she didn’t go to the police and only went to some designated campus adviser. That’s also typical, in my experience.

I think it is important for anyone who steps out to criticize (often with good reason) the exaggerations and extremes of the feminist crusade against “rape culture” to realize that stories like Ruggeris are very common on a typical Friday night on American college campuses. Sure it’s just anecdotal evidence. But I’ve heard too many of these stories to believe this is a rare scenario. And while it is fair to criticize the feminist movement for it’s part in destroying the sexual morals that once helped protect women from precisely the kinds of situations that increase their odds of being raped, it isn’t necessary or right to pretend that these rapes aren’t happening.

Just imagine if Ruggeri was your daughter or sister or mother. And then understand that what she says happened to hear is happening to far too many young women. You don’t have to buy into the feminist hyperbole about “rape culture” to realize there is an element of truth to what feminists are saying, even if feminists are as much a part of the problem as anyone. If there is a “rape culture” feminists have quite a bit to help create it by demonizing the institution of marriage among the young, praising the alcohol-fueld hookup culture for its ability help prevent young women from having their careers derailed by love, and by making the casting off of sexual restraint as a chief goal of women’s liberation.

In the end, none of the valid criticisms of feminism out there should keep us from recognizing that the modern campus sexual culture, the “hookup” culture, in other words, is a kind of “rape culture” at least in the sense the the ingredients that make rape more likely (coupling of casual acquaintances, extreme prevalence of inhibition-lowering alcohol abuse) are fundamental to modern sexual culture on campus in a way they weren’t two decades ago. But this so-called “rape culture” isn’t the product of rampant misogyny in our culture, as the feminist movement would have you believe. Instead, it is the natural consequence of our society’s rejection of sexual restraint in favor of an anything-goes-so-long-as-it-is-consensual moral system. We shouldn’t be surprised that the “consensual” part of that system gets thrown out so easily now that the norms of sexual behavior have been so lowered that sex between near strangers is seen as a likely possibility on a typical alcohol-drenched college campus. Or we shouldn’t be surprised, at least, that the lines of consent get blurry somewhere between the first drink, the fifth drink, another few drinks, the make-out session in the near-stranger’s dorm room, and the eventual blackout.

That’s the reality of the modern campus hookup culture.

Little did feminists realize, when they destroyed the moral restraints that they believed were restricting women, that they would also destroy the moral restraints that helped protect women. “Rape culture,” if you want to use that term, is a natural consequence of sexual liberation’s culminating triumph–the college hookup culture. That doesn’t make rapists any less responsible for their crimes, it just means that their crimes are much easier to carry out and get away with now.

Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

Follow Nathan on Twitter @NathanHarden

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