The Sexist

“The Campus Rape Myth”: Rape Isn’t Real, Therefore College Students Shouldn’t Have Sex

Confession time, readers: My brain has been cloudy for the better part of this week, thanks to a mystery illness I dredged up at the Washington City Paper Tweet-up. Dang you, Tweet-up, for making me ill, and forcing me to invoke "Tweet-up" as if it were a real word!

But today, my brain officially exploded, courtesy of a piece entitled "The Campus Rape Myth." It's not just a clever title!

Yesterday, notveryraven, of Twitter, alerted me to this year-old investigative piece by Heather Mac Donald into why there is no rape problem on college campuses. You may remember Mac Donald from books like The Immigration Solution (points for ominousness!) and Are Cops Racist? How the War Against the Police Harms Black Americans (Alternate title: Cops Aren't Racist! Problem Solved).

Mac Donald's argument about why rape actually never happens to college students goes a little something like this:

(a) Once upon a time, in the 1980s, feminists were losing their edge. So they tried to convince everyone in the world that 25 percent of college women are raped by commissioning all these "studies":

During the 1980s, feminist researchers committed to the rape-culture theory had discovered that asking women directly if they had been raped yielded disappointing results—very few women said that they had been. So Ms. commissioned University of Arizona public health professor Mary Koss to develop a different way of measuring the prevalence of rape. Rather than asking female students about rape per se, Koss asked them if they had experienced actions that she then classified as rape. Koss’s method produced the 25 percent rate, which Ms. then published.Koss’s study had serious flaws. Her survey instrument was highly ambiguous, as University of California at Berkeley social-welfare professor Neil Gilbert has pointed out. But the most powerful refutation of Koss’s research came from her own subjects: 73 percent of the women whom she characterized as rape victims said that they hadn’t been raped. Further—though it is inconceivable that a raped woman would voluntarily have sex again with the fiend who attacked her—42 percent of Koss’s supposed victims had intercourse again with their alleged assailants.

(b) Because most women don't feel comfortable calling their experiences "rape," or reporting them as "rape," or labeling men who have sex with them without their consent as "rapists," or preventing those "rapists" from "raping" them repeatedly, feminists are obligated to just shut up and ignore "rape" as well. IT IS IN THEIR FEMINIST CODE: "In short, believing in the campus rape epidemic depends on ignoring women’s own interpretations of their experiences—supposedly the most grievous sin in the feminist political code."

(c) CAMPUS RAPE PROBLEM SOLVED! We found the person at fault for all campus "rapes": It is the victim, always, for pretending to be a "victim" of a "crime" that all the other girls are more comfortable just calling "sex." MOVE ALONG, NOTHING TO SEE HERE.

(d) But wait! Feminists are ruining everything, still! Did you know that the feminists actually created the "rapes" they claim to fight against, what with their insistence that grown women should be allowed to have "consensual sex" when they feel like it? It's true: "The colleges meekly complied and opened a Pandora’s box of boorish, sluttish behavior that gets cruder each year. Do the boys, riding the testosterone wave, act thuggishly toward the girls? You bet! Do the girls try to match their insensitivity? Indisputably." Silly feminists: Slutty girls can't say no to sex, ever. And have you ever tried to close a Pandora's box of sluttishness? It is just impossible to fit all the oversize stripper heels back in that little box, I am telling you.

(e) But these feminists do help one group of people: Women who haven't been "raped." According to Mac Donald, those few college women who are actually willing to call their rapists "rapist" are . . . liars, probably! Here's a handy tip to help deny that college rape happens: whenever a college woman says she was raped, just assume that she was "filmed giving oral sex to seven men [and] cried rape when her boyfriend found out," and wash your hands of the matter.

(f) THEREFORE, it is proven that abstinence is the only way to protect college girls from all the rapes that don't actually happen on college campuses:

Some student rebels are going one step further: organizing in favor of sexual restraint. Such newly created campus groups as the Love and Fidelity Network and the True Love Revolution advocate an alternative to the rampant regret sex of the hookup scene: wait until marriage. Their message would do more to return a modicum of manners to campus male—and female—behavior than endless harangues about the rape culture ever could.

(g) KABLOOOOOOEY! My brain, it is exploded. But . . . could this have been Heather Mac Donald's plan all along? To craft an argument against rape that is so mind-numbingly stupid that it would EXPLODE THE BRAINS of every feminist who read it? Well played, Mac Donald. Well played.

  • http://www.misandryreview.com/ John Dias

    Point "g" made me laugh out loud.

  • jules

    whoa. date rape doesn't exist. good to know.

  • Richard

    http://www.awolau.org/2009/11/18/the-eagle-sex-perimentation-and-how-progressives-missed-the-boat/

    I feel like my article is rather responsive and definitely takes part of the perspective that you are criticizing. I think the problem with MacDonald (as evidenced by our divergence in my article) is not her understanding of the size and response to rape on campus, but rather her sense of cause and solutions. (I will likely have to emphasize and detail this more later)

    "Because most women don’t feel comfortable calling their experiences “rape,” or reporting them as “rape,” or labeling men who have sex with them without their consent as “rapists,” or preventing those “rapists” from “raping” them repeatedly, feminists are obligated to just shut up and ignore “rape” as well."

    I think your point with your sarcasm takes it to an opposite extreme. The point of bringing up the disconnection in the Koss survey is that what constitutes consent is not absolutely clear. The point is that in some cases its unclear in some cases, not that there's not such thing as rape.

    How else could you explain this:
    "The most perplexing part of Koss’s survey is its finding that nearly 73 percent of the women who were raped did not believe what happened to them constituted rape or attempted rape at all. In another major study, the Department of Justice found that roughly 3.5 percent of college women experience sexual assault in a given year. This is dramatically higher than the rate of reported college sexual assaults — under 0.04 percent between 2005 and 2007. (AU’s numbers are congruent — about one reported sexual assault per 3000 female students.) These numbers suggest a non-report rate approaching 99 percent."

    I think the only legit argument MacDonald is making is that there really is a big disconnection when you parse the statistics.

    The 1 in 4 number is outrageously misleading for several reasons.
    1. It includes "attempted", which is usually not included in its citation.
    2. It includes any form of penetration, which means attempted fingering. Although its still attempted rape, its certainly not what most people think of when citing that statistics and is a huge piece of the 1 in 4.
    3. The statistic is based on having been experienced this by the time you got to college rather than in college.

    You have to wonder about feminist level of attention and rhetoric on specifically college rape when the reported rate is .04% (even given 20 years of woman led programs anti-rape programs on campus), which is phenomenally lower than 25%.

    I think the most damning point is by another scary conservative feminist Sommer's who points out that

    "Underreporting of sexual crimes is not confined to the campus, and wherever there is a high level of reported rape-say in poor urban communities where the funds for combatting rape are almost nonexistent-the level of underreported rape will be greater still. No matter how you look at it, women on campus do not face anywhere near the same risk of rape as women elsewhere. The fact that college women continue to get a disproportionate and ever-growing share of the very scarce public resources allocated for rape prevention and for aid to rape victims underscores how disproportionately powerful and self-preoccupied the campus feminists are despite all their vaunted concern for "women" writ large."

    This all being said, I am not saying that rape on campus is not real or a terrible problem. It is an evil that has to be squashed, but we need to have a real understanding of the size and proportion of the problem to really confront it.

  • Em

    The reason it's underreported is largely due to attitudes on many campuses about rape.

    I know at my alma mater, if you went to the health center and asked for a rape kit, they would then spend thirty minutes convincing you you weren't raped, you were being dramatic, and that you were really just a slut. Put most rape victims through that, and very few of them will actually report a rape. It takes a remarkable amount of perserverance.

    I would say the 1 in four number was largely accurate for my group of friends in college. However, only one person out of all the people I knew ever reported a rape. There needs to be a student-run survey, without all of this scientific, academic standpoint (the number is misleading because it includes fingering? sorry, horrifying rape is horrifying rape no matter what is used)--they'll tell you what's really up if you ask. But not if academics keep up hostile shit like this. If you can't be trusted not to add to the shame and stigma of rape, then no one's going to tell you anything. College rape-culture is a culture of silence.

  • http://toysoldier.wordpress.com Toysoldier

    My response to this is the same as it was last year: Feminists contend there is a "rape crisis" on college campuses and demand that colleges provide services for female (but not male) victims. Some colleges offer those services, yet the services apparently go unused. Mac Donald draws a fair conclusion that the “rape crisis” does not exist based on what occurs -- or does not, in this case -- on these campuses.

    However, the more telling conclusion is that apparently feminist efforts to address female rape do not work. Despite twenty years of feminists emphasizing female victimization on college campuses, women still are not coming forward. Colleges are doing everything feminists told them to do, from allowing feminists to run those services for female victims to holding forums, rallies and discussions about female rape to putting up prevalence statistics around campus about female victimization to offering women's studies courses to address female sexual assault. Yet apparently the “rape crisis” goes virtually unabated.

    That broader point is far more relevant. If we are to believe that women are still too afraid to come forward and use services created and largely run by feminists, maybe it is time for feminists to rethink their approach rather than laying into those who point out feminists' failure because, by feminists own admission, their efforts are not working.

  • Emily

    WOW @Toysoldier -- nice job! Blaming rape on feminists is pretty bold.

    "However, the more telling conclusion is that apparently feminist efforts to address female rape do not work. Despite twenty years of feminists emphasizing female victimization on college campuses, women still are not coming forward. "

    Feminist efforts to address female rape (last time I checked feminists were also against rape when done to men, or transpeople, but ok) have not ended rape because ONLY WHEN MEN STOP RAPING PEOPLE WILL RAPE END!

    Did I just blow your mind?

    Also, far from putting "feminists" in charge of the services and departments that address crime on campus, colleges often put disinterested assholes in charge of these departments, who are there to make sure the school doesn't get sued, make half-assed attempts at outreach, and keep rape stats very very low so parents still send their daughters and sons to their school. I promise you that many of these departments are not run in an effective compassionate manner precisely because it is not what school administrators think is in their best interests -- and many of these administrators are (no surprise) not sympathetic to the women's anti-rape movement.

    I agree on one point -- the approach needs to be rethought. But wait!

    Feminists are already doing just that! Those smart ladies :)

    Reaching out to men? Check. http://www.mencanstoprape.org/

    Promoting a new model of consent that affirms positive sexual situations? Check. http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/

    There is hope.

  • mdesus

    strongly agree with Richard here. Rape is a serious problem (if only that it is such a heinous crime), but the 25 percent number always bothered me. I am fairly positive that neither I, nor any of my close friends in college, ever raped a girl. I know that rapes happen, but there is a line that needs to be drawn between violent rape, so called date rape, (have had this conversation with Amanda, and I remain unconvinced that it exists as a separate occurrence from traditionally defined rape), and whatever else a researcher may decide to classify as rape. My reasoning for doubting date rape is so much of casual sex is done drunkenly by both parties. However, in many cases this is then put on the male as having committed date rape, and I believe takes away a womans responsibility therein. Rape is a massive problem (especially in situations that leave woman inherently more vulnerable such as war and abject poverty), but to say that 25 percent of all female college students will be raped at some point in their academic careers just rings false to me. Perhaps I am just unable to admit that such atrocities could be occurring in my social sphere without my knowledge, but perhaps, as so often happens with statistics, a faulty study run wild has led to mass hysteria concerning the risks of what is (well still far too common) a relatively rare occurrence.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist Amanda Hess

    female rape?

  • Richard

    "However, the more telling conclusion is that apparently feminist efforts to address female rape do not work. Despite twenty years of feminists emphasizing female victimization on college campuses, women still are not coming forward. "

    I think he just means rape against females.

    Also, I am not sure I agree with our conclusion here. I think it has worked pretty well, which is impart why the rates are so low. The point was that it was always dramatically lower than 25% to start, not that it hasn't gone down.

    "I would say the 1 in four number was largely accurate for my group of friends in college. However, only one person out of all the people I knew ever reported a rape. There needs to be a student-run survey, without all of this scientific, academic standpoint (the number is misleading because it includes fingering? sorry, horrifying rape is horrifying rape no matter what is used)–they’ll tell you what’s really up if you ask."

    On the fingering point, just to be clear I was making a distinction between ATTEMPTED fingering and completed intercourse.

    On the 1 in 4 statistic, I'd point again to my other two point criticizing it. Also, if as its pertained to be, 25% and the actual rate reported is .04%, that is assuming that only 1 in 625 rapes is reported. What I am contending is that instead of a report rate of 1 in 625, that the report rate is roughly 1 in 10. (Given the 3.5% rate determined by the DOJ.)

  • Richard

    Sorry calculator messed up. I am saying that instead of a report rate of 1 in 625 its 1 in 87.

  • http://toysoldier.wordpress.com Toysoldier

    Emily wrote: WOW @Toysoldier — nice job! Blaming rape on feminists is pretty bold.

    It would be if that is what I stated. Unfortunately for you it is not. What I stated is that despite twenty years of feminists emphasizing female victimization on college campuses, women still are not coming forward. Stating "feminist efforts to address female rape ... have not ended rape because ONLY WHEN MEN STOP RAPING PEOPLE WILL RAPE END!" (last time I checked women also rape people, but okay) has no bearing on why females who have already been raped will not use the services provided on college campuses.

    It is feminists who pushed for the services to be created and most of the services are run by feminists and follow the policies suggested by feminists. One must explain why, if the methods suggested by feminists are actually effective, female victims are not using the services despite the amount of awareness present on many campuses. To dismiss Mac Donald's observations as stupidity does not change that services are not being used, and blaming men for raping people (apparently no women commit rape) does not address the lack of usage either.

    The logical conclusion one must reach is that feminist efforts do not work since they apparently do not result in female victims reporting their rapes. That is, after all, the explicit purpose of those services. They are specifically there to provide support, yet no one is using them. It is highly unlikely that the reason lies with some other group. At some point one must acknowledge that one's approach is flawed, especially if, according to feminists, after twenty years the situation has not even slightly improved.

  • http://toysoldier.wordpress.com Toysoldier

    Richard wrote: Also, I am not sure I agree with our conclusion here. I think it has worked pretty well, which is impart why the rates are so low. The point was that it was always dramatically lower than 25% to start, not that it hasn’t gone down.

    I agree that the rate was already low to begin with, and to my knowledge the rate has generally gone down year by year. Being such, the argument that there is a "campus rape epidemic" is not a very good one. In order to believe in said epidemic one must believe that despite greater awareness about female victimization female victims are less likely to come forward now than they were in the past.

    I disagree with Mac Donald's conclusions about the existence of rape on campuses, but I also disagree with the "campus rape epidemic" theory, particularly given that Koss admitted her study included incidents beginning at age 14, meaning that a significant number of incidents that led to the 1 in 4 statistic occurred before the women entered college.

  • snobographer

    Percentage of reported rapes have increased in the last couple decades because feminism has encouraged women to speak out more about sexual assault. Still, reportage is abysmally low compared to the number of women who when asked if at some point a guy has "had sex with" them while they were unconscious or semi-conscious when they've said no have said, "why yes, that has happened to me!"
    Rape victims often deny these experiences as rape just like rapists do.
    "Was she drinking? Well then it's just regretted sex."
    "No means keep trying."
    "She put up a fight at first but I knew she wanted it."
    "Persistence pays off."
    etcetera

    We all live in the same fucked up world.

    Damn, I feel like I should have this shit printed up on wallet cards or something. Pass them out for easy reference. I'm sick of this stupid argument with people who think only the armed stranger in a dark alley scenario counts.

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  • Joe Schmoe

    I hate to break this to all of you, but likely the harm from alcohol on campuses with regard to this particular issue far outweigh any possible benefit. And don't give me this crap that if you lower the drinking age, students will be able to hold their booze better. In general, women will always get drunk faster than men for the same given quantity of alcohol.

    Since we have already (hopefully) have designated drivers, these people should also fulfill the role of designated guardians. Not only help a friend out who is about to become a victim, but prevent a friend from committing a crime. Rule of thumb: If either party is drunk, intervene.

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