Thursday, August 28, 2014


Two days ago, the former president of The George Washington University, Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, spoke about sexual assault during an episode of the Diane Rehm show that focused on “The Role of Fraternities and Sororities Today.” In the process, Trachtenberg demonstrated a fundamental lack of decency with respect to an issue of personal safety that affects women on college campuses across the country. His remarks included:

“Without making the victims responsible for what happens, one of the groups that have to be trained not to drink in excess are women. They need to be in a position to punch the guys in the nose if they misbehave. And so part of the problem is you have men who take advantage of women who drink too much and there are women who drink too much. And we need to educate our daughters and our children in that regard.” (Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, August 26, 2014)

Blood And Gutstein would like to make a few observations about this line of thinking.

(1) Trachtenberg eventually contradicts himself by, in fact, blaming the victims for what happens to them.

(2) He says “one of the groups”, in his example, but how many “groups” (in the context of sexual assault) does he think there are?

(3) By saying that women need to be “trained”, does he think they’re animals at obedience school?

(4) Does Trachtenberg believe that a simple “punch in the nose” will free a woman from an attacker who is, in all likelihood, much bigger than her?

(5) The former president refers to guys who “misbehave” as if rape were just a little bit of poor behavior.

(6) Trachtenberg further refers to “daughters and children”, again seeming to be confused about basic groupings of people.

(7) Trachtenberg apparently continues to teach at GWU, so perhaps the University should adopt these statements of his, and convert them to fliers that would appear on campus bulletin boards, in freshman orientation packets, and as part of required syllabus statements in every GWU course.

(8) The former president was the sitting president during one of the darkest days on the GWU campus, when this blogger’s friend and his girlfriend were murdered. A sexual assault was part of that crime. Trachtenberg should remember something like that, before he speaks on this matter ever again.

Owing to point #8, Blood And Gutstein takes a particular interest in this topic, and vows to stand against the kind of irresponsible, hurtful worldview espoused by a public figure like Stephen Joel Trachtenberg. As an educator, and as a former leader of educators, he seems particularly under-educated on the issue of sexual assault on campus. He leads Blood And Gutstein to think that, of the “groups” who require training, it may be people like Mr. Trachtenberg who require it the most.


Tom Raworth said...

Rather "this line of not-thinking".best, tom


Hi, Tom.

Right -- I mean, it's hard to imagine that T-berg's remarks took any thinking at all. It's a sad world, often, owing to a moment like this one.

Best wishes to you, Sir.


Heather Fuller said...

JT freely speaks to the vast stupefaction of women across the land. May said stupefaction never be confused w/ apathy. Awe is a powerful gatherer.


Objections were certainly raised across the land, by bloggers and columnists with more blogpower than your humble blogger but still I wanted to offer my two cents. I think that JT's commentary played well, actually, to the Frat crowd, and it's almost as if he were a paid lobbyist to represent their viewpoints. His commentary in the end smacked of privilege and "intense disconnection" from the lives of women.