Friday, June 26, 2015

Is there a college "rape culture," or are too many college women mistaking consent for sexual assault?

The notion that there exists a college "rape culture" has become ingrained in the academy, and it is used to justify policy after policy eroding the due process rights of college men. Is there a college "rape culture"?

RAINN, the nation's leading anti-rape organization, famously debunked the "rape culture" meme last year in a letter to the White House: "Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime." RAINN decried the "inclination to focus on particular . . . traits that are common in many millions of law-abiding Americans (e.g., 'masculinity'), rather than on the subpopulation at fault: those who choose to commit rape."

We thought that RAINN's reasonable approach would go a long way toward stopping the "rape culture" canard, but we were wrong.

A new Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation survey also suggests there's a "rape culture," but like all such surveys, it treats every accusation of rape as a fact without bothering to consider the other side of the story, much less subject the claims to scrutiny or test them against competing claims of innocence. It is irrefutable that when rape claims are subjected to such scrutiny, the majority cannot be fairly labeled as "rape."

But this new survey contains a disturbing statistic that has been entirely overlooked in the news about it--a statistic revealing that almost half of all college women mistake consent for rape. According to the survey, a full 44 percent of college women think that when a woman gives a guy a "nod in agreement," that isn't enough for consent. Only 51 percent--the barest of majorities--think "a nod in agreement" indicates consent. When so many women are mistaking consent for sexual assault, we should not be concluding there's a college "rape culture," we should be insisting that college women be taught things that grade school children ought to know.

Another study showed that "rape" can be cut in half, mainly by teaching women to resist psychological "coercion" and say "no." The implication is both stunning and disturbing because it suggests that college women are being "raped" at epidemic levels even though they have reasonable alternatives to avoid engaging in the sex act but choose not to exercise them. It also suggests that a lot of college men are considered "rapists" not for forcing themselves on women but for doing nothing more than asking for sex in ways that are politically incorrect or overbearing, and that a lot of women are "victims" because they choose to go along with the guys' entreaties.  In a culture where the roles of pursuer and hard-to-get have been fairly divided along gender lines for eons, when you suddenly make traditional masculine behavior a punishable offense, is there any wonder there's a "rape culture" and a "rape epidemic" on campus? Of course, this is "rape" only in some extremist gender ideologue's world. Unfortunately, extremist gender ideologues dictate the public discourse, and make public policy, on campus.

It is well to note that the two most celebrated rape accusations in the past year were made by "Jackie" in the infamous Rolling Stone article, and Emma Sulkowicz.  Given the substantial competing evidence suggesting (1) that no sex act even occurred in "Jackie's" case, and (2) that the accused is innocent in Sulkowicz's case, in a sane world, neither case would be held out as evidence of "rape culture." But ours is not a sane world when it comes to "rape" on campus.

So is there a college "rape culture"?

In John Ford's elegiac lament to the passing of the old west, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, beloved, long-time U.S. Senator Ransom Stoddard (Jimmy Stewart) returns to his home town in the West and confesses to the town's newspaper editor that his legendary reputation--in fact his entire career--was built on a lie. Until then, everyone believed that in his youth, Stoddard had shot and killed a notorious gunslinger named Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). Now, at long last, Stoddard is coming clean, telling the world that Valance was really shot by a tough-as-nails rancher played by none other than John Wayne.

The newspaper editor hears Senator Stoddard's entire story, and he believes every word of it, but he's not interested in publishing any of it.

"You're not going to use the story?" the Senator asks incredulously.

The editor famously replies: "No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

The college "rape culture" canard has become "fact" -- even though it doesn't really exist.