Friday, June 18, 2010

Rape Culture 101 -- The Little Brother of War

by Connie Chastain*

Language is a funny thing. "Duke Lacrosse" has come to symbolize false accusation, specifically false accusations of sexual wrongdoing by males.

The game of lacrosse, as played by native Indian tribes in America at the time of European settlement, was called "little brother of war."

Ah, symbolism. If an untrue accusation of rape could be likened to war, could not a false accusation of sexual harassment be called the little brother of war? Or maybe, the little sister of war would be more accurate.

Last year, I began a search for statistics on false accusations of sexual harassment for a novel I was writing. My interest in writing about this subject grew from my distaste for feminism, which dates back to my earliest acquaintance with the second-wave era when I was in high school.

You don't have to be a feminist to falsely accuse a man of sexual wrongdoing but feminists have seemingly turned it into a combination art form, scientific discipline and political statement. And by now, the West is so permeated with feminist ideology, even women who do not consciously ascribe to feminist thought can be deeply influenced by it.

A false accusation of sexual harassment, while not as serious as a false accusation of rape, nevertheless finds its origins in the same mentality -- a hatred of men, a desire to evilize male sexuality, or men in toto, and/or an overwhelming sense of get-evenism.

Perhaps the seed for my eventual writing on the subject was planted by the lurid spectacle of the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill sexual harassment case on my TV screen right in my living room. Although I had no trouble believing Thomas's character witnesses declarations that he was a decent man and innocent of the accusation, my reaction to Hill -- visceral distrust and disbelief -- made a far greater impression on me.

Or perhaps my interest grew because the subject was shoved in our faces in the pages of women's magazines, news reports and women's films. In any case, because I wasn't raised to see men as the evil creatures feminism implies they are, my approach to claims of sexual harassment was skepticism--of innocent until proven guilty.

Certainly there are men who would sexually harass women but most don't, just as most men don't rape. But simply making a declarative statement to that effect would not help with my writing project. I wanted statistics.

My online search took me to the website of the federal government's EEOC -- the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where I found this amazing table:

http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/sexual_harassment.cfm

The statistic that caught my attention immediately was the "Percent of Charges Filed by Males" which was 16% in 2009, the highest of any year back to 1997. That means that that 84% or more are filed by women. No surprise there, really.

The second attention-getter was the resolution type titled "No Reasonable Cause." In 2005, almost half the cases filed with the EEOC, 49.5%, were resolved as having no reasonable cause, and in other years hovered nearby. The website's Definition of Terms page says this means, "EEOC's determination of no reasonable cause to believe that discrimination occurred based upon evidence obtained in investigation. The charging party may exercise the right to bring private court action."

Look at that again. No reasonable cause to believe the discrimination -- i.e., the sexual harassment -- occurred, based on evidence obtained in investigation.

Even if all the claims brought by men were resolved as no reasonable cause, that would mean over a third of the cases resolved for the same reason were brought by women.

And yes, this determination is not evidence of a false accusation; it is possible that sexual harassment could have occurred even though no evidence could be obtained for it. But I find it very interesting that these statistics for the little brother of war so closely parallel those of false rape accusations.

*Connie is a regular contributor to FRS. Her principal blog is http://conniechastain.blogspot.com/