Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Another Rape Urban Myth: What Fuels These?

The horror flick Candyman (1992) had an intriguing premise: what if a frightening urban legend could literally take on a life of its own by the sheer psychic weight of widespread belief in it?

If you saw the film, you will recall that a couple of plucky female grad students, studying modern urban folklore, set out to study the origins of, with the goal of ultimately debunking, one such particularly nasty legend: that of the murderous, hook-handed Candyman, believed to terrorize a crime-ridden Chicago housing project.

But because the grad students are threatening Candyman's very survival by casting doubt on him, he assumes corporeal form and appears to one of them. "I am the writing on the wall," he explains. "The whisper in the classroom. Without these things, I am nothing." Because of her lack of faith in him, he decides he needs to fuel the legend, so he devises a gruesome death for her. "Your death," he tells her, "will be a tale to frighten children, to make lovers cling closer in their rapture. Come with me and be immortal."

North Dakota Rape Myth

Is the premise of Candyman so outlandish? We've seen time and time again on this site that rape urban legends often take on a life of their own. In one North Dakota town, there's an urban legend circulating that tells women they shouldn`t go to the local Walmart after 8 pm because men are using chloroform to knock them out and rape them. A similar legend says that gangs of oil riggers are harassing women outside Walmart.

Police say it's a lie. “No reports have been received by the police department that anybody was chloroformed or assaulted while at Walmart," said Sergeant Dave Wilkie of the Dickinson Police Department.  See here: http://www.kfyrtv.com/News_Stories.asp?news=50989

Date Rape Drug Myth

The most prominent of the rape urban myths we've reported on involved the date rape drug hysteria that was all the rage a couple of years ago. It was so strong that people even believed a viral e-mail that claimed men were passing a powerful date rape drug to women merely by handing them their business cards. The drug supposedly incapacitated women just by touching it. Of course, the email was a hoax, an urban myth.

A study published in the British Journal of Criminology a couple of years ago found that three-quarters of students surveyed identified drink spiking as an important rape risk – more than alcohol.  More than half said they knew someone whose drink had been spiked.  And it was all a lie. Hokum. Despite popular beliefs, there is no evidence that rape victims are commonly drugged with such substances, researchers say. None. Yet it is doubtful that the purveyors of misandry in the sexual grievance industry will ever remove this hoax from their rape "facts" catalog, along with the two percent canard, and the one-in-four lie. One of the authors of the study referenced above explained: “Young women appear to be displacing their anxieties about the consequences of consuming what is in the bottle on to rumors of what could be put there by someone else . . . .”

What Fuels Rape Myths?

Rape is a particularly fertile subject for urban legends because there are few prospects scarier than being dragged into a dark alley and raped by someone more powerful than you, or having someone incapacitate you with the intention of ejaculating inside you, possibly impregnating you. The fact that such incidents are relatively rare (although, of course, one rape is one too many), especially outside the inner city, hasn't lessened the fear of the possibility. 

Rape urban legends are fueled by several things. For one thing, a culture of misandry has erupted on our national landscape in the past 30 years that makes it socially acceptable for women to be irrationally fearful of men and boys but of no other class of citizens. Law and order types, like Bob Dole and his Fed.R.Evid. 413, are largely responsible for this.

Sometimes rape fears are purposefully fomented by what is aptly called the sexual grievance industry. Some members of that industry teach our daughters that rape has become "normalized" in society's traditional notions of masculinity -- a concept that would be terribly insulting if it weren't so patently absurd. Rape is too common, to be sure, but blind outrage over rape, and a desire to protect women at all costs, are traits far more closely associated with masculinity than is a propensity to commit the crime of rape.  The vast majority of people understand this, but the sexual grievance industry keeps beating the tom-tom, seemingly in an effort to insult our collective intelligence.

Sometimes, the misinformation machine is blatant. In Britain, for example, the Stern Review last year debunked feminist claims that rape is not taken seriously and took issue with the government's long-standing use of the 6% attrition rate for alleged rape (the number of convictions as a percentage of number of reported crimes) as opposed to the 58% conviction rate (the number of convictions secured against the number of persons brought to trial for that given offence) that the government uses for all other crimes – murder, assault, robbery, and so on. The chasm between the rate that the government should have been using versus the one it was using -- 58% versus 6% -- represents a politicized dishonesty of Biblical proportions.

Importantly, the Stern Review noted that use of the attrition rate instead of the conviction rate "may well have discouraged some victims from reporting" their rapes. Read that again if it didn't sink in. Despite the Stern Review's well-publicized report, the prominent UK rape activist group, Women Against Rape, continues to wrongly state that "the conviction rate for rape is 5.7%."

Finally, an honest assessment about such rape urban myths also has to include this: they are largely fueled by the reports of real-life, and often frightening, rapes splashed across the news. If we want to reduce rape and rape fear mongering, and if we want to make false rape claims less plausible, we need to attack the root causes of rape itself.

Unfortunately, that's easier said than done. One thing is for certain: it won't be done by forcing college boys to attend rape indoctrination shame-fests that instruct them to subvert their imaginary socialized urges to harm women. Preaching to innocent young men never prevented a single rape. Yet, the persons who control the public discourse about rape are intent on channeling scarce resources to places where they are needed least: college campuses. The fact is, rarely do rapists resemble Ted Bundy or the clean-cut college boy home on Christmas break. 

The vast majority of rape offenders come from lower socioeconomic classes and are under-educated, under-employed, and under-skilled. See, among many others, Thornhill and Palmer, A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion; Batten, Sexual Strategies: How Females Choose Their Mates. In Against our Wills, Susan Brownmiller demonstrated that disadvantaged blacks comprise a greatly disproportionate percentage of rapists.

Why is that?  There is an unmistakable correlation between the absence of fathers from inner city homes and the prevalence of every social pathology that affects inner city kids, including rape. It turns out that when it comes to rape, "masculinity" isn't the problem at all; the problem is the absence of masculine role models. Some woefully misguided Great Society programs played a big part in removing fathers from inner city homes, but that's beyond the scope of this post.  The point is, if we want to reduce rape, we need to tackle, at long last, our great national shame: the social pathologies of the inner city. But neither political party seems to have much interest in doing that. A cynic might suggest the reason for this is that the one party is content to keep the inner city as cistern of dependence because it buys that party votes; and the other party is no less culpable as some of its members don't give a damn and see no political advantage to it in even addressing the problem. The truth is probably a tad less cynical: the problems of the inner city are so daunting, nobody knows what to do.