From the Editor

“I’ve done no harm to you”

Sexual trespass is the violation that perpetrators don’t think is a violation.

At a mixer, you can fix ’er something strong to drink.
Then invite her to your room before she starts to think.
Your inventions and intentions something less than nice—
Just a spot of gin or two is sure to break the ice.
Oh, the race is on. The chase is on.
They’re bursting like peas into a pod.
Fair virginity makes a fervent plea
To justify the ways of man to God.
(Oh what a bod!)

Let’s be clear. This is a poem about date rape. It is a guide to date rape. The writer knows women don’t always want sex, and that a woman who “starts to think” might say no. His advice: give her alcohol and more alcohol, and move fast.

I’m not going to name the Yale ’60s graduate who wrote the poem; he’s dead and can’t speak for himself. (The poem came to us via a classmate.) But it’s striking that, after he died, a female colleague remembered him as someone who had always tried to do the right thing—“a gentleman,” even “noble.” So the man who once wrote light comic poetry about date rape may have been, in other ways, a very good man.

All of which reflects the terrible normalcy of sexual misconduct. Thieves and vandals know they’re doing harm, but sexual trespass is the violation that perpetrators don’t think is a violation. In 2004, we published an article by Emily Bazelon ’93, ’00JD, on Yale’s sexual misconduct policies. She interviewed an undergraduate woman who had been pinned down by an acquaintance who then masturbated on her. After the act, he sent his victim an e-mail: “I don’t know what your deal is with being so upset. I’ve done no harm to you.”

Because “I’m doing no harm” is the attitude, sexual misconduct is common. Yale recently published the results of a survey taken by more than half of all students at the university. (The report is available at In a letter to the campus community, President Peter Salovey ’86PhD called the results “extremely disturbing.” One of the most troubling statistics: of the 61.8 percent of senior undergraduate women who took the survey, 46.5 percent had experienced, at some point in their time at Yale, sex or sexual touching that they did not want.

In his letter, Salovey promised to “redouble” Yale’s efforts “to change behavior.” Yale and other campuses around the country have already made major improvements in their sexual misconduct policies since our 2004 article, thanks to the demands of Title IX (see “The Toughest Issue on Any Campus,” July/August). The survey itself, conducted at Yale and 26 other institutions by a firm retained by the Association of American Universities, is an effort to collect data that can inform policy. Other efforts center on educating students as to what sexual consent looks like and why it’s essential.

Is sexual misconduct a behavior that can be changed? Educational institutions have become laboratories for a major social experiment: the attempt to call off “the chase.” No one thinks it can be ended altogether. But if the experiment succeeds, more would-be perpetrators will decide to let their targets “start to think.” The first step is to start thinking themselves.

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