Students Challenge Speaker's Views

While undergraduates at Harvard may feel less inclined to preach a feminist party line than did Katie A. Roiphe '90, students interviewed yesterday still disagreed with the controversial writer on several issues.

Roiphe, who spoke at the Institute of Politics yesterday, said she felt pressured to hide her criticism of a college poster stating that one in four college women had been the victim of rape or attempted rape.

Roiphe's book The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism on Campus challenges such "mechanisms of intellectual taboo" which silence those who disagree with mainstream feminist views, Roiphe said in her speech.

The statistic about college women, which Roiphe often refers to in her talks, comes from a survey of American college women and is often published by Take Back The Night groups.

Roiphe pointed out in her speech that the survey considers affirmative answers to the question. "Have you had sex when you didn't want to when a man gave you drugs or alcohol?" as rape.

Only four of 19 undergraduates interviewed yesterday said they found that particular statistic realistic.

"How do you define rape? One in four seems too high," said Daniel R. Wendzke '98.

"It doesn't seem realistic," Nancy L. Wu '95 said. "I've never known anyone who's been raped."

Nevertheless, undergraduates and members of the audience said they disagreed with Roiphe's other views.

Rebecca H. Ewing '95, a member of the peer relations Outreach, said of Roiphe: "She has some good points, but she pushes her points too far."

In particular, Roiphe's assertion that "women should take responsibility for their actions" could provoke women to feel guilty about being raped.

"I think that rape's still a problem to be addressed," said Amy S. Gwiazda '96

Kiley S.C. Walsh, a Kennedy School student, agreed.

"Roiphe is perpetuating women's fears," Walsh said. "The problem as I see it is that we need more women to come out about rape."

And a member of a hot line support group for victims of sexual violence went so far as to say that women who were raped were more hesitant to talk about it because Roiphe's book seemed to "validate rape."

Roiphe's definition of rape as "a use of physical force or threat of physical force in a sexual encounter" was generally not accepted by under-graduates.

"I think you can be raped without flat-out fearing for your life," Ewing said. "There is a level of fear often involved when a man is not letting no be an answer and keeps pushing."

But some students agreed with certain elements of Roiphe's philosophy.

Rebecca M. Boggs 95, president of Students for Equality Feminism, said after the speech: "Things have changed. I don't feel like I'm being silenced by other feminists. Feminists are talking about where feminism should go."