Friday, September 5, 2014

It's orientation season at college -- and time to blame "men" for rape

It's orientation season at college campuses all over the country, and some schools are still happy to blame "men" as a class for sexual assault.

Middle Tennessee State University has launched a sexual assault program "that targets potential attackers." You can guess what that means. "The June Anderson Center for Women and Nontraditional Students will sponsor training focused on engaging men in the discussion about preventing sexual assault." They have also put up posters around campus aimed at men. "The 'Better Man' posters call attention to the importance of consent and self-control."

Why is training necessary to target men? Because there was a recent report of a sexual assault (although "details" about it are "scarce").

"There is a common denominator in sexual assault cases that has nothing to do with the victims, [said Kim Reynolds, an advocate, counselor and community educator for the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program in Murfreesboro] . . .  — an offender. That is why she supports educating men, who are most often charged with sexual crimes, about their role in changing the culture surrounding sexual attacks. 'It's imperative,' Reynolds said. 'It's the only way that we're going to slow down the violence... We spend so much time telling our victims how not to get raped, and we don't spend enough time telling potential perpetrators not to rape people.'"

"We can't change things by... blaming our victims," Reynolds said.

So they plan to change things by blaming "men."

The university also offers Rape Aggression Defense classes by certified trainers that are available free of charge -- for female, but not male, students, faculty, staff and members of the community.

Over at the University of Colorado Boulder, students watch a YouTube video of a young male. He tells viewers, the girl on the couch behind him is passed out. The young man says: “Guess what I’m going to do to her?” This is how Colorado Public Radio describes the video: "The viewer feels dread at what’s about to happen next – but the man tucks the woman in with a blanket, sets a glass of water next to her and says to the camera: 'Real men treat women with respect.' That elicits applause from the students who are watching." See it for yourself:

The University of Rochester puts on a skit for freshman called "Red Light, Green Light." It depicts "a group of students partying with alcohol, the skit leads to a dorm room where a male student is making advances on a female student who has been drinking." It is intended to show how far the male is permitted to go.

At Montana Tech and Highlands College, the school staged a realistic mock trial of a date rape case. The program was "intended to heighten awareness of the issues and resources surrounding sexual assault," but the outcome heightened awareness about something more interesting: the dangers of assuming every rape accusation was an actual rape. The verdict of the students: not guilty. Perhaps this is an indication of why, in colleges across America, students are no longer permitted to sit on date rape tribunals.

There are two overriding problems with most of these efforts:

(1) The sociopaths who commit most of the rapes are immune from these sort of educational efforts according to Dr. David Lisak. Telling "men" as a class not to rape is a product of gender warrior get-evenism, not a serious effort to reduce rape.

(2) For the vast majority of college men (who, incidentally, are not sociopaths), these efforts are grossly unfair and likely a huge turn-off because they deal in that same old gender stereotypes that relegate college men to the role of perpetrator and college women to the role of victim. We now know this model is overly simplistic to the point of dishonesty. Everyone knows that most alleged campus rape occurs when the female was drinking. What is rarely mentioned is that the male is usually drinking, too. No less an authority than Brett Sokolow has explained that in many cases of mutually drunk sex, the male is unfairly targeted for sexual assault. That's not my opinion, that's the opinion of the person who has done more to advance rape victims' rights on campus than anyone alive.

So, why, in these murky situations, do women cry rape while men don't?  Men are conditioned to believe that they "want" sex even if they don't, and women are conditioned to believe just the opposite. Amanda Hess has explained that given women's adherence to their expected gender role when it comes to sex, it is "inevitable," among other things, that a woman who "had desired the sex all along . . . must defend her femininity by saying that she had been coerced into sex." Amanda Marcotte has explained that "the idea that it's shameful to just have sex because you want to" is "the reason that you have false rape accusations in the first place." This also explains the regret asymmetry that divides men and women and that is at the root of so many unsatisfying sexual hook-ups in college (these encounters include but are not limited to rape and false rape claims).

There needs to be a serious discussion about sexual assault free of old gender stereotypes that simply don't hold up. The idea that sending our daughters to college is akin to letting the lambs loose among the wolves is both puerile and wrong. It turns out that our daughters, and our sons, are typically a little bit wolf and a little bit lamb, but mostly just awkward kids trying to be adults. Let's help them grow up without saddling them with the baggage of unfair gender assumptions.