Thursday, September 6, 2012

Part III: The University of Montana's mandatory video series teaches that rape is normalized

University of Montana streaker
On the video tutorial that all University of Montana students are required to watch, the students are taught about "America’s rape-prone culture.” One of the videos says:

“Many scholars warn of a rape-prone culture where prevalent attitudes, norms, and behaviors, excuse, minimize and even encourage sexual violence" (Video Four – Myths & Facts)

With the sweeping stroke of a broad brush, such attitudes demonize young men and reduce them to caricature.  Jessica Valenti, a once-prominent gender blogger and one of the purveyors of the maleness-is-broken crowd, has written: "Rape is part of our culture. It's normalized to the point where men who are otherwise decent guys will rape and not even think that it's wrong. And that's what terrifies me."

The attitude that rapists are just regular guys going to school doesn't ring true to the vast majority of just regular guys going to school. "Otherwise decent guys" don't so easily forget their decency. In contrast to the "even-decent-guys-rape" meme, feminist gadfly Amanda Marcotte recently wrote about the influential Lisak/Miller study that chronicled the typical rapist: he is not the otherwise decent guy next door, or just a regular guy going to school. He is a narcissistic man who enjoys forcing himself on women, a deviant whose attitudes are not "normalized" but are those of a social outlier. See here. Rapists on campus, as it turns out -- and which everyone other than the zealots already knew -- comprise only a small percentage of the male population, see here, and they account for 9 out of every 10 rapes. See here

Ms. Marcotte writes: "Far from being ordinary men who get out of control from lust, the roughly five percent of men interviewed who are rapists are men who seek out opportunities to rape women. . . . they pride themselves on their methods of identifying victims and separating them from potential help. They also eagerly explained how they avoided facing consequences, mainly by attacking drunk women. Rapists, it turns out, are acutely aware that if the victim was drinking, she’s much more unlikely to report it, and even if she does, the police are unlikely to do anything about it. As added protection against getting caught, most rapists attacked acquaintances, probably because they know that they can claim innocence, saying they thought she had consented." See here.

And Dr. Lisak connects the dots: de minimis sexual assault education, like the mandatory videos at the University of Montana, aren't going to stop these men. "These are clearly not individuals who are simply in need of a little extra education about proper communication with the opposite sex," he says. "These are predators."  See here.

Rape is not "normalized." Telling college men not to rape accomplishes nothing, if Dr. Lisak is to be believed, because the vast majority of men simply would never commit this vile act, and the few who would are predators unaffected by such teaching methods. Yet at the University of Montana, every student is forced to watch videos warning women to be wary of anyone with a penis. This effort is misdirected and doesn't get at the real problem: sexual predators who use both alcohol and unsuspecting women to accomplish their vile plans. Any program wishing to significantly reduce sexual assault must focus on them.

The videos contain much information that is helpful, but too much of it is misleading, and some of it unjustly demonizes one gender and unnecessarily alarms another. It is especially troubling that more students, and more parents who are paying for their children to attend the university, are not better schooled in these issues. They would understand how far from the mainstream certain aspects of these videos really are.