Feminist rape activists have dominated the public discourse on rape for the past thirty years. More and more, rape, as defined by law or in college handbooks, has become a game of "gotcha!" with the intention of branding a male (usually a young man or boy) as a rapist for doing what most people would think is not rape. Common sense is sacrificed for robotic adherence to harsh, bright-line rules.
A boy who is engaging in consensual sex delays withdrawing for five to ten seconds (by the girl's own admission) and he's a rapist, convicted of a felony that will forever brand him as a the most serious criminal aside from murderer.
A college couple engages in sex after drinking: he, and he alone, is a rapist, because the one drink she had interfered with her ability to consent with 100 percent crystal clarity, and only the male is deemed to be responsible for sexual transgressions.
A young couple has had sex dozens of times without words being spoken: he's a rapist if he proceeds in the same manner they've repeatedly done it in the past if she decides to complain about it because she does not give enthusiastic verbal assent. Even though he didn't use force; even though she never said "don't"; and even though she's been perfectly happy with this kind of sex many, many previous times.
Gotcha! He's a rapist! He goes to prison for many years, or is expelled from college after a hearing in a decidedly anti-male kangaroo court. War has been declared on an entire gender, and persons of goodwill stand by and allow it. Why? One reason is because America has a long, painful tradition of overreacting to rape, so this form of overreaction seems par for the course.
The Martinsville Seven: seven lives were the price for one rape
On Friday morning, February 2, 1951, four young black men, none of them old enough to legally buy a drink, were put to death for the gang rape of a white housewife. The following Monday, three more black men were executed for the same rape. Today, the "Martinsville Seven" are largely forgotten, but their case was significant. The men were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by all-white, all-male juries. Before the youngest was executed, he said: "God knows I didn't touch that woman, and I'll see ya'll on the other side." It was the biggest mass execution for rape in American history. The case was rife with racial tension as activists protested because only black men received the death penalty in Virgina for rape.
Indeed, between 1930 and the early 1970s, 405 black men were executed in Southern states for rape. While it is impossible to say what percentage of the convictions that led to these executions were based on actual guilt, it is fair to say that it was very difficult, perhaps nearly impossible, for black men to get a fair trial for the alleged rape of a white woman in the old South.
While activists in the Martinsville Seven case protested the unfairness of executing only black men for rape, no one thought to protest the inherent and blatant injustice of taking the life of a male of any color for the rape of a female.
Rape historically punished more severely than the crime deserves
Throughout history, rape has often elicited a visceral reaction of outrage exceeding the actual harm inflicted by the crime. Whether by "legal" sentences (executions or excessively lengthy prison terms), or illegal lynchings and other vigilante "justice," men traditionally have often sought to punish rapists in a manner that is, by any rational measure, not proportional to the actual crime. Meting out excessive punishments for rape also means that the innocent are often punished severely for crimes they didn't commit.
Given its pervasive law and order attitudes, America has a long and shameful history of rape hysteria, predating the feminist revolution. President Theodore Roosevelt's December 3, 1906 State of the Union address spent an inordinate amount of time discussing a problem peculiar to black men: lynchings for allegedly committing rape that too often took the lives of innocent men. In that speech, Roosevelt declared without equivocation (and without explanation) that rape is a crime "even worse than murder" that deserves the death penalty.
The death penalty for rape finally outlawed
Until the U.S. Supreme Court's 1977 decision in Coker v. Georgia, 433 U. S. 584 (1977), states were permitted to punish the rape of adult women with the death penalty. It is interesting that outlawing the death penalty for the rape of women coincided with the height of the feminist revolution.
After Coker, the death penalty was still permitted for the rape of children. Six states still punished the rape of a child with the death penalty at the time it was ruled unconstitutional less than two years ago in Kennedy v. Louisiana, 2008 U.S. LEXIS 5262 (June 25, 2008). In that case, Justice Kennedy (no relation to the convicted man), writing for the majority, explained that the practice imposing the death penalty for child rape violated "evolving standards of decency," the yardstick the court uses to decide whether a punishment is cruel and unusual. overreacting
Importantly, in Kennedy, the court expressly noted that one of the bases for its holding that the death penalty is unconstitutional for child rape was the risk of false claims. The Court explained: "The problem of unreliable, induced, and even imagined child testimony means there is a 'special risk of wrongful execution' in some child rape cases. . . . . This undermines, at least to some degree, the meaningful contribution of the death penalty to legitimate goals of punishment. Studies conclude that children are highly susceptible to suggestive questioning techniques like repetition, guided imagery, and selective reinforcement."
A significant footnote to the Kennedy case, which underscores the Court's concern about false claims, is that the victim in that particular case made a false accusation before the real rapist was arrested. Specifically, after the victim was raped by her stepfather, the victim and her stepfather both claimed that the girl was raped by two neighborhood boys. "She told the psychologist that she had been playing in the garage when a boy came over and asked her about Girl Scout cookies she was selling; and that the boy 'pulled [her by the legs to] the backyard,'. . . where he placed his hand over her mouth, 'pulled down [her] shorts,' . . . ." This, of course, turned out to be a false accusation. What might have happened if that boy had been put to death for a rape he didn't commit?
Feminism capitalizes on America's overreaction to rape
During the oral argument of the Kennedy case, Justice Ginsburg noted that imposing the death penalty in rape cases stems from a tradition "when a woman was regarded as as good as dead once she was raped; and the crime was thought to be an offense against her husband or her father as much as it was to her." Treating rape as akin to murder, and thus warranting the death penalty, did "no kindness to women" she noted. See oral argument transcript at pages 23-24.
The "legal" executions of men for rape, and the illegal lynchings for rape that President Theodore Roosevelt decried, were carried out almost exclusively by men. Indeed, as we relate on this site, the killings, beatings, and other physical atrocities perpetrated against men falsely accused of rape are almost always carried out by men. This, of course, does not excuse the false accuser, who is almost always female, of her responsibility for the harm, but it does belie modern feminist assertions that men don't take rape with sufficient seriousness. If anything, men have time and time again overreacted to rape out of a deeply ingrained sense of chivalry.
Modern feminism, unfortunately, has turned overreaction to rape into an art form. Too many devotees of this strange cult do not want to punish actual rapists so much as to wage war on an entire gender by turning rape into a symbol of oppression of all women. Modern feminism has transformed rape into a "gotcha" crime by engorging its definition to include garden variety sexual conduct. Among other innovations, through feminism's advocacy, the requirements of force, resistance, and corroboration were eliminated. And who suffers because of this? Innocent men and boys who never committed rape, but who are easily charged because the garden variety sexual conduct they engaged in is turned into "rape" by virtue of a simple accusation.
Modern feminism, with its twisted and misandric take on rape, dominates the public discourse on the subject precisely because its punitive attitudes toward "rapists" are acceptable to chivalrous men, who haven't paid much attention to the details of feminism's war on rape. If they did, perhaps they would realize that modern feminism doesn't much care if innocent men and boys are snagged along with the guilty, and that even chivalrous men are at risk of being falsely accused.