Tuesday, December 28, 2010

There is no 'rape culture.' Period.

Did the title get your attention?

Don't get the wrong idea. Rape is a serious problem. One rape is one rape too many. The headline was to get your attention.

I don't like the phrase "rape culture" because I think it overly simplifies a complicated issue. That doesn't mean I think rape is not a serious issue, or that "false rape claims" are more serious.

This blog does not tolerate any effort to trivialize sexual assault. Our focus is on the men, women, and boys who have been wrongly accused of sexual assault -- whether falsely or otherwise -- because too often their victimization is trivialized, and some of our laws and policies have made it too easy to punish innocent people for offenses they didn't commit. One can, and should, be concerned about both the wrongly accused and victims of sexual assault without trivializing the victimization of either. It is not "either/or."

Society must strive to punish the perpetrators of heinous sex offenses while insuring that the innocent aren't punished with them. Why is this such a controversial subject?

The fact is, the entire discussion is terribly divisive. A disturbing meme is to insist that rape is "normalized" among "men" in general. Snarky anti-rape campaigns directed at "men" in general (e.g., posters that "remind men" not to rape etc.) have sprouted up. Writer Jessica Valenti is one of the purveyors of the maleness-is-broken crowd, once wrote: "Rape is part of our culture. It's normalized to the point where men who are otherwise decent guys will rape and not even think that it's wrong. And that's what terrifies me."

Valenti's assertion, and the meme that tells boys they belong to a seriously flawed gender, ultimately fail because: (1) they don't get at the real problem, and (2) they don't ring true to most people. The vast majority of guys are decent, and contrary to Valenti's assertion, "otherwise decent guys" don't so easily forget their decency and do such a vile thing. Strong visceral reactions of anger and rage to rape claims, and sometimes tragic overreactions, including vigilante beatings and killings, to mere accusations of rape, are far more characteristic of masculinity than is the urge to rape or to excuse rape.

According to the National Institute of Justice, only 2.5 percent of men reported to being perpetrators of a completed or attempted sexual assault since entering college.

It turns out this is correct: "The vast majority of the offenses are being committed by a relatively small group of men . . . .." They are sociopaths who use alcohol and who like to rape.  See here.

Rape is not "normalized." Sarcastically reminding college men not to rape accomplishes nothing.Posters and mandatory orientation classes are misdirected and don't get at the real problem: sexual predators who use both alcohol and unsuspecting women to accomplish their vile plans. Any program wishing to significantly reduce sexual assault must focus on them.

The approach taken by the Jessica Valentis of the world hinders the effort to stop rape because it keeps us from focusing on the real problem. The men who don't rape -- that is, the vast majority of men -- should be thought of as allies in the effort to stop rape, not potential suspects in need of education. Insisting that we live in a "rape culture" has it backwards. We live in a culture that loathes rape but doesn't address it correctly. The vast majority of men and boys who don't rape need to be engaged as allies and telling them that they perpetuate a culture of rape is flat-out silly.