The Revelation

How the War on Sexual Predators is Changing the Meaning of Sex

Dae Robinson, Overall Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






An explosion of sexual assault allegations has surfaced these past months, raising new questions and concerns on how to handle and react to such crimes. Twenty-three and counting well-known men have all lost their jobs due to sexual assault accusations. Media and Hollywood offenders have been joined by famous academic men and well-known politicians who are also facing allegations. Although these men are not suffering the same quick and extreme consequences the offenders in the media business are, sexual assault is becoming an increasing issue across the nation in all fields. The difference in the recent prosecution of sexual assault allegations and the introduction of new policies to handle sexual violence is changing the definition of sexual assault, and the meaning of consensual and nonconsensual sex in America.   

Although this recent condemnation of sexual assault offenders could be a positive turning point in America, it also carries a multitude of difficulties as “the frenzied sequence of accusations and punishments is focused on sex,” according to The New Yorker writer Masha Gessen. This focus on sex comes in the last three decades due to a modernizing society. 

“American society has apparently accepted more open expression of different kinds of sexuality, it has also invented new ways and reasons to police sex,” Gessen said. 

Gessen’s claim is proved by simply flipping through news channels on television. Americans are finally embracing a larger variety of sexual identities, working these unique orientations into the legal system, society, and politics. However, modern times have also brought a war on sex.

 “The sex-offender registry extends punishment indefinitely, and civil commitment, which amounts to preventive custody,” Gessen said. 

Because of these strict ramifications, there are five thousand people confined “involuntarily and indefinitely” due to “sexually violent predator acts,” according to Gessen. These offenders have no jail sentence or jail time but are confined out of the worry of what they may do someday. This preventive prosecution raises several constitutional problems. Although sex criminals are arguably the lowest of the low, America is a democracy and the locking up of offenders solely to prevent what they might do, scarily resembles an ordering of a dictatorship.

Sex is also “policed outside the normal mechanisms of law enforcement” on college campuses across the nation. Affirmative consent became prominent at many colleges despite its initial ridicule. Affirmative consent “requires explicit verbal affirmation of the desire to take every sexual step,” according to Gessen. Colleges’ implementation of affirmative consent was unrealistic. In a time of passion, a couple is not going to pause every minute to verbally confirm consent with their partner. These rules have shaped sex into a meaningless act that is almost expected to turn violent. 

“The affirmative-consent shift the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused,” Gessen said. “It eliminates the presumption of innocence. The policing of sex seems to assume that it’s better to have ten times less sex than to risk having a nonconsensual sexual experience.”

Both effects change the definition and meaning of sex. This new mindset is negatively changing sex because it “blur[s] the boundaries between rape, nonviolent sexual coercion, and bad, fumbling, drunken sex,” essentially “criminaliz[ing] bad sex and trivaliz[ing] rape,” Gessen said. This is extremely harmful for both sufferers of bad sex and victims of rape as it unjustly mixes the two together. 

I feel like the recent war on sex has made many people paranoid to have consensual sex that they’ve had throughout their lives for fear of getting incriminated,” Senior Sam Roffwarg said. “I feel like sex has gone from a passionate experience to a worrisome experience.”

Colleges and the entertainment industry’s regulation of sexual assault reflects America’s fight against sex itself. Although the condemnation and removal of sexual predators on campuses and in Hollywood is inarguably beneficial, such negative sex culture is causing boundaries to fade. Because sexual assault has remained quiet for so long, there are some who are running with this newfound power. The war on sexual assault is morphing into a boy who cried wolf situation, as so many women are making allegations, some true, some false, that in time, many Americans will grow tired of such questionable accusations and this era of sexual condemnation will eventually fade.

In order to avoid a disinterest in such a serious topic, America must remember the importance of the distinction between rape and coercion. It is extremely important to make sure these boundaries are not blurred any further. The 21st century sex panic is negatively generalized with the recent outburst of sexual allegations across a variety of industries. Although offenders are the source, the growing issue in America’s sexual assault epidemic is the risk it takes on our nation’s damaging “perception of sex, and to this culture, as it grows ever more divided,” according to Gessen. We as a nation need to learn from these recent sex allegations that while we need to take all allegations seriously, we need not demonize the act itself.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




The student news site of St. Andrew's Episcopal School
How the War on Sexual Predators is Changing the Meaning of Sex