Trump Recording Narrows Divide on Sexual Assault

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tags: gender, sexual assault, Trump



The lewd and aggressive comments by Mr. Trump, the Manhattan tycoon turned Republican presidential nominee, revealed a generational divide in the way many Americans understand sexual assault and consent. But, remarkably, the widespread outrage and outpouring it unleashed, with millions of women speaking out about their own experiences — appear to have narrowed that gap.

“This is a moment of transition,” said Estelle B. Freedman, a Stanford University historian who studies the evolution of laws and norms surrounding sexual assault.

“We are having a national conversation about new rules,” she added. “We are nationally trying to rethink issues of sexuality, consent, autonomy, relationships.”...

Dr. Freedman sees this moment as the culmination of decades of change.

Until the mid-20th century, her research shows, sexual assault and rape were viewed primarily as crimes against the honor of women’s husbands and fathers, not themselves. As women gained new rights to control their own property and legal decisions, sexual assault began to be considered a matter of consent, not honor.

But there was little agreement about what consent meant, Dr. Freedman said. Many people believed consent could be implied or presumed by the way a woman dressed, for instance, or even her decision to accept a job with a male boss.

By the 1990s, feminist advocacy had begun to push the idea of “no means no.” Antioch College in 1991 adopted a code of conduct requiring students to affirmatively opt in to sexual activity starting with a kiss.

While such affirmative-consent rules were lampooned on “Saturday Night Live” as political correctness run amok, they have become increasingly mainstream. States including New York and California require colleges and universities to adopt them.






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