These college women are either interacting only with other women or Ms. Crittenden is implying men are not making any choices when it comes to sex and that they shouldn't be expected to do so. Since rape is a serious problem on college campuses, the further implication -- through omission -- is that being raped is the woman's choice.
Unfortunately, the young women described in "Unprotected" have fallen victim to one of the few personal troubles that our caring professions refuse to treat or even acknowledge: They have been made miserable by their "sexual choices." And on that subject, few modern doctors dare express a word of judgment.
Thus the danger of sexually transmitted diseases is too often overlooked in the lifestyle choices of the young women at the unnamed college where the author works.
Ms. Crittenden is quick to decide that all of this is the result of bad decisions by women based on modern psychology, but as someone who had all those symptoms of psychic distress except self-mutilation and who didn't know why I felt as I did, I know this psychic distress is neither irrational nor self-inflicted. For years certain memories were just too painful to think about and I mistakenly believed I had put what happened to me firmly in the past.
The author meets patients who cannot sleep, who mutilate themselves, who exhibit every symptom of psychic distress. Often they don't even know why they feel the way they do. As these girls see it, they are acting like sensible, responsible adults: They practice "safe sex" and limit their partners to a mere two or three per year.
They are following the best advice that modern psychology can offer. They are enjoying their sexual freedom, experimenting, discovering themselves. They can't understand what might be wrong. And yet something is wrong. As the author observes, surveys have found that "sexually active teenage girls were more than three times as likely to be depressed, and nearly three times as likely to have had a suicide attempt, than girls who were not sexually active."
Too often a girl or woman is described as sexually active even when she was raped or sexually abused. As in my own case after rape, I drank alcohol to numb the pain and then was seen as someone men could freely exploit. Then I had people like Ms. Crittenden scolding me for for my sexual choices while letting those who raped or used me off the hook.
That rape and sexual abuse is so outside of Ms. Crittenden's thought process speaks volumes about her lack of understanding about the topic of her op-ed piece.
Near the end of this piece Ms. Crittenden finally addresses the sexual behavior of a man. Only he's gay.
So Ms. Crittenden makes her point crystal clear by omitting straight men from her op-ed piece. Sexual responsibility is for everybody but heterosexual men and boys.
From the beginning to the end of her op-ed piece Ms. Crittenden caters to the male dominated audience of the Wall Street Journal. "Hey, men whatever you do with or to women is her responsibility. You will not be held responsible for your sexual choices."
Update (12/20): Dr. Anonymous has been revealed to be Miriam Grossman, M.D., a psychiatrist working at UCLA.
Here's a statement she made in a National Review article:
Depending on the study, 40-80 percent of students "hook-up," and by graduation, the average number of these nearly anonymous encounters is ten. Yet we wonder why so many young people suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-abuse.To me it is significant that she makes no mention of rape, sexual abuse or any other events or conditions that could cause young people to suffer.
On Alas, one commenter saw no evidence that either this physician or the op-ed author consider rape to be a sexual choice on the part of the victim.
And I answered with the following:
That's the impact when they don't consider rape at all in their analysis.
[Crittenden:] …the young women described in "Unprotected" have fallen victim to one of the few personal troubles that our caring professions refuse to treat or even acknowledge: They have been made miserable by their "sexual choices."Effect = young women’s emotional pain.
Cause = young women’s "sexual choices."
It isn't that the doctor and Crittenden say rape is a sexual choice, it's that these women ignore rape or sexual abuse as possible causes for young women's emotional pain. Once they do that they treat rape survivors as if their choices are the root of their distress. As a teenager who was treated in exactly this way, I know that this belief has a multiplying effect on the existing emotional pain.
It was bad enough trying to cope with being raped, but then I had to deal with the professionals I attempted to reach out to for help who "knew" that my "choice" to not stay a virgin was what caused my distress. Once they heard enough to impose their vision onto my experiences, they stopped listening and started informing me of their truths.
It was no wonder I began to think I was crazy.
Just to clarify my point, I don’t think all of these young women were raped since there are many reasons for psychic distress. However, this blame it all on a woman’s sexual choices is especially harmful to rape and sexual abuse survivors. Many rapists and abusers have already projected responsibility for their actions onto their victims so this type of conclusion is harder for rape victims to shrug off as bullshit.
Technorati tags: rape crime politics sexual violence sexual assault feminism