Oliver Bateman, a columnist for the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania college paper The Pitt News, has written a satirical Valentine's Day piece that purported to be a guide to romance for guys. Read it for yourself to see if you agree that there was nothing remotely offensive about it, to anyone. Among other things, Mr. Bateman wrote the following:
"Now that you’ve got her laughing, it’s time to schedule the date. Few meals are as sensual as a big pizza dinner, so take her to one of those local pizzerias and buy a couple of $5 pies. If you’re both over 21 years old, try to find one that either sells beer or lets you drink it — nothing loosens up a girl quite like a case or two of Yuengling Original Black & Tan."
Pretty lighthearted, right? Not so fast. A member of the Campus Women’s Organization named Robin Lane wasn't just offended, she was apoplectic. Don't rely on me, read it for yourself.
Among Lane's various hysterical, overblown-to-the-point-of-dishonest indictments of this innocuous bit of fluff is the following breathtaking apotheosis:
"We can only imagine what Bateman means by suggesting that men buy women lots of beer to 'loosen [them] up.' Between 25 percent and 50 percent of female college students experience sexual assault, and 50 percent of these assaults involve alcohol consumption, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse. Forget 'seducing the sweetie,' why not just call the article 'date rape for the modern Joe'?"
Lane asserts that Mr. Bateman's column is "extremely offensive and harmful to our community. Sexist humor promotes discrimination, hostility and rape."
Lane's opinion is so preposterous that it is unworthy of any serious rebuttal, but it is well to highlight two aspects of it, if only for comic relief on a cold Saturday afternoon in January.
First: The most obvious inanity: that up to 50 percent of female college students experience sexual assault. This, of course, would make our college campuses more dangerous places than the Tadmor Prison in Syria, where the bloodthirsty guards butcher inmates with axes for the fun of it.
We have repeatedly disposed of similar assertions on this blog and won't repeat ourselves in this post. Among many other writers, Heather MacDonald ably demonstrated the absurdity of the sexual grievance industry's claim that one-in-four college women will be raped or the targets of attempted rape: "If the one-in-four statistic is correct—it is sometimes modified to 'one-in-five to one-in-four'—campus rape represents a crime wave of unprecedented proportions. No crime, much less one as serious as rape, has a victimization rate remotely approaching 20 or 25 percent, even over many years. The 2006 violent crime rate in Detroit, one of the most violent cities in America, was 2,400 murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants—a rate of 2.4 percent. The one-in-four statistic would mean that every year, millions of young women graduate who have suffered the most terrifying assault, short of murder, that a woman can experience. Such a crime wave would require nothing less than a state of emergency—Take Back the Night rallies and 24-hour hotlines would hardly be adequate to counter this tsunami of sexual violence. Admissions policies letting in tens of thousands of vicious criminals would require a complete revision, perhaps banning boys entirely. The nation’s nearly 10 million female undergrads would need to take the most stringent safety precautions. Certainly, they would have to alter their sexual behavior radically to avoid falling prey to the rape epidemic."
Second: Robin Lane's attempt to tie Mr. Bateman's harmless discussion about beer on a date to date rape -- a leap that is not supported by any logic taught at the University of Pittsburgh -- does nothing more than play into the worst man-hating stereotypes about feminists. Unfortunately, and ironically, it also manages to trivialize the very thing she is supposedly advocating against, rape. Sadly, I doubt that many feminists will take Robin Lane to task for her histrionics. They should, because it is opinions such as Robin Lane's that engender disrepute of her movement and that preclude any hope of productive dialogue with people like her.
Today, a Pitt alumni named Erik Hinton utterly destroyed Robin Lane's letter with a logic and an eloquence that deserves to be repeated here:
Oliver Bateman’s Valentine’s Day piece: What began as an allegation of bad taste has become — according to one student’s Facebook wall — a campaign to “twist the knife” to ruin Bateman’s career. This furor is about a column that allegedly encourages sexual assault. How so? Bateman caricatures college dating life: wooing a girl with a pizza, two cases of beer, a goatee and a scalp massage. No sex occurs, no sex is intimated, no sex is advised. “Date rape” is an absurd conclusion.
You see, this is how real damage happens. These are the social and rhetorical strategies that marginalize, that shut people up: equivocation, name-calling, vicious backchannels. When “let’s start a conversation” becomes “let’s distort and destroy,” possible progress ends. Dialogue stops. Witch hunts begin. And no, these people are not radical outliers. Though Campus Women’s Organization has stepped back and is encouraging allies not to personally insult Oliver, its original letter was an ad hominem attack: “We wonder if Bateman has taken the time to get to know any women as individuals.”
What’s worse, these straw-men battles undercut legitimate causes. Advocacy groups stop looking forward and content themselves with ritualistic passion plays. Finding big targets on which to pin “sexist” or “oppressor” is a tired tradition. The most recent CWO publication on the matter is a lengthy, patronizing essay on how “real” progressives admit their wrongs. No one is talking about issues, just the social theater surrounding them. We need true dialogue, debate, education. Not grandstanding and moralizing.
School of Arts & Sciences Alumnus
Former Pitt News Managing Editor