Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Washington Post writer defends impossibly elastic definition of sexual assault

Lauren R. Taylor of the Washington Post defends the sexual violence study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that, in the words of Christina Hoff Sommers, "suggests that rates of sexual violence in the United States are comparable to those in the war-stricken Congo."  How does the new study arrive at the conclusion that sexual violence is rampant? By "careless advocacy research," Ms. Sommers explains, and "by defining sexual violence in impossibly elastic ways and then letting the surveyors, rather than subjects, determine what counted as an assault."

Well, impossibly elastic is just fine by Lauren R. Taylor, thank you very much! Read her defense of this singularly sloppy study here. She writes: "If you asked 10 friends whether they have ever been raped, you likely wouldn’t get many yeses. If you asked whether they’ve ever had sex against their will or had been coerced into sex, or had unwanted sexual contact, the number would probably be much higher."

I am sure Lauren R.Taylor is correct. But, then again, it's fairly easy to get a higher number when you expand the definition of "rape" to include all manner of things that never have been, are not now, and never should be included.

Sex while inebriated?  Does Lauren R.Taylor understand the distinction between impairment and incapacitation?  Even Brett Sokolow, the reigning czar of the sexual grievance industry, appreciates that distinction.

Wait. That's not even the worst part of that study. As Ms. Sommers explains: "Participants [in the new study] were asked if they had ever had sex because someone pressured them by 'telling you lies, making promises about the future they knew were untrue?' All affirmative answers were counted as 'sexual violence.' Anyone who consented to sex because a suitor wore her or him down by 'repeatedly asking' or 'showing they were unhappy' was similarly classified as a victim of violence."

That's the kind of sexual coercion Paul Elam and I recently wrote about on his Web site. Nagging and telling tall tales for sex are not, and should not be, punishable offenses. A sex act cannot be sexual misconduct if the “victim” has reasonable alternatives to engaging in the act but chooses not to exercise them. We invite Lauren R.Taylor to read the article Paul and I wrote and then try to refute it. She can't, I assure you.

Then, Lauren R.Taylor lobs one of the more astounding assertions concocted by the sexual grievance industry in recent memory: "The questions [in the study] are vague and broad because the reality of sexual violence is vague and broad."

I am speechless. The statement is as inane as it is dangerous. The sine qua non of sexual violence is the absence of consent. Either there is consent or there isn't, and there's nothing vague or broad about that. While some manifested assertions of assent are so tainted by impropriety that our law does not consider them legally operative (an example is a promise obtained by duress), nagging for sex isn't among them.

But, you see, in Lauren R.Taylor's world, sexual assault isn't a crime that needs to be defined with sufficient due process specificity to put the persons who might be accused of it on notice of the conduct it proscribes.  It is a '70s mood ring, a free floating clearinghouse to redress any sexual encounter deemed unsatisfactory at the caprice and whim of a self-anointed victim.

It is rape-in-the-air, and innocent men had better beware.