Thursday, October 26, 2017

Dumb Means Dumb: Fighting Rape By Expanding Its Definition

“What dimwitted sort of feminism wants to shelter women from the richness of their own mistakes? . . . . Self-induced helplessness isn’t gender progress.”

-------Laura Kipness, Unwanted Advances – Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus

Now that the story of a Hollywood producer (Harvey Weinstein) using his position for sexual abuse of women has come to light (We at Legalienate were deeply shocked to learn that rich celebrities get sex on demand from Hollywood starlets. Who knew?), indignant calls to dispense with “rape culture” are once again the order of the day. Men are urged to “stand with” women and “always believe” the accuser in rape cases, because women rarely lie about rape, and the damage done to them in doubting their stories is far more serious than the lesser effects to men falsely accused. As activist and commentator Zerlina Maxwell put it in a 2014 Washington Post article, “We should believe as a matter of default what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist.” This comment was made in reference to a University of Virginia rape case that turned out to be based on a false accusation. Even after this was proven, Maxwell continued to insist that all accusations of rape be believed.

Of course, we’ve already tried believing - “as a matter of default” - women who claimed to have been raped, and it didn’t turn out too well. From the 1890s to the civil rights era thousands of black men falsely accused of rape were lynched in the South, and all black men feared being similarly treated. Surely it is a perverse sort of utilitarianism to suggest that the suffering of those men – tortured, mutilated, and burned - was relatively unimportant compared with that of actual rape victims when their stories are not believed. Who can make such judgments?

Unfortunately, this is hardly an isolated instance of dogmatic absurdity on this topic. At U.S. universities, definitions of rape have become ever more elastic over the years, shifting from forced penetration to lack of “affirmative consent,” a concept fraught with ambiguity. Furthermore, since college social life is saturated in alcohol, and alcohol is very often used precisely in order to eliminate the need to make a completely conscious decision about sex (assuming a fully conscious decision is possible about anything), we end up insisting that the most spontaneous of human activities justify itself on completely deliberate grounds. This peculiar outcome is in turn the product of an odd alliance of “social justice” crusaders and power-grabbing administrators ludicrously attempting to micromanage the sex lives of horny college students via careful bureaucratic control. Acts that are pleasurable only when spontaneous and uninhibited are now subject to long “affirmative consent” checklists that attempt to ban any behavior associated with an unpleasant outcome, even if the unpleasantness only becomes apparent retroactively.

In one famous case, (Emma Sulkowicz, the “mattress girl”) a Columbia student waited eight months to file a rape accusation against a fellow student she had had consensual sex with multiple times, while sending him dozens of explicitly sexual text messages, including "I wuv you so much," and  “f—k me in the butt,” even continuing friendly communication after the alleged rape occurred. Though begging to be sodomized would appear to be quite enthusiastic sexual consent, feminist activists insist to this day that Sulkowicz’s case was clearly one of rape.

Matters are now so out of hand that college students find themselves being urged to take a picture of their signed contracts granting "affirmative consent" to engage in sex (what a turn on!), in order to prove that the sex is free and voluntary for both parties. This has become necessary at least in part because of the many cases of retrospective regrets leading to assault and rape accusations well after the fact. These accusations are in turn guided by feminist ideology claiming that a gross power imbalance between men and women often disguises assault or rape as consensual intercourse even to those who least suspect this. Gender wage inequity alone can allegedly render women sexually helpless, so the theory goes, as men enjoy greater disposable incomes with which to make sex happen on their own terms. Even a friendly drink is often construed as though it were the equivalent of a forced injection of heroin, deliberately designed to incapacitate its victim.

Does any of this really make sense?  Suppose someone were to make similar claims about “voluntary” employment under capitalism, to wit:

I've been re-reading Das Kapital recently, and I now realize I've been economically raped by every employer I've ever had, going back decades, and I want to collect! I never truly gave voluntary consent to work for the wages they paid, because power relations were grossly unequal between us and outcomes hopelessly skewed by extractive "rape culture" instituted centuries ago by owners of capital who can only be described as sheer beasts. According to objective calculations by my lawyer I should long since have been made a billionaire. It's payday - retroactive!

This kind of “thinking” has unfortunately led to rampant sexual paranoia on U.S. campuses, with professors living in dread of inadvertent comments spiraling into career-ending disaster. Anything associated with sex – a joke, a risqué comment - is dangerous, and if one insists on outdated notions of inviolable constitutional protections against arbitrary punishment, this can only mean that one is an apologist for “rape culture”, in the same way that raising questions about the canonical Holocaust makes one a “Holocaust Denier.” Obviously, this is crippling to free intellectual inquiry, the supposed mission of universities, but emotions run so high on such topics that few people notice and even fewer care.

Furthermore, as with the canonical Holocaust, a “preponderance of evidence” cumulative proof rather than tight deductive logic is used to determine what the truth is. And just how is “preponderance” determined? By a quantity of detail in the accusation, though it’s not clear why a more detailed accusation has to be truer than a less detailed one. In other words, it’s a matter of how much mud can be thrown against the wall, not whether any of it sticks.

Ironically, the image of women given to us by many feminists in alleged justification of all this is the proverbial helpless damsel-in-distress incapable of defending herself, and utterly without obligation to do so. In fact, for this type of feminist, even to suggest that women take preventive action against predatory males is to make oneself part of the problem rather than the solution. After all, it is men who must learn to “not rape,” not women who need to learn self-defense.

Is there any reason we can’t do both? The fact that robbers ought to learn not to rob is not generally thought to be a justification for banks to leave their vaults unlocked at night. Obviously, women would be considerably better off if male predators routinely faced stern verbal challenges to their unwanted advances, followed by swift physical damage if these went unheeded, just as gay males have benefited from gay bashers getting beaten up by gay men they mistook for hapless victims. Word spreads, and gay bashing wannabes learn a bit of self-restraint.

In any case, educational efforts to make men strive for “affirmative consent” before having sex have failed to reduce the incidence of rape on campus, though they have made it easier to punish men, even when they are innocent. Innocent men (often teenagers) are railroaded out of university, their academic and vocational careers ruined before they start. But this allegedly doesn't matter, because we must only believe their accusers, even when they are lying. If this is feminism, feminism no longer has anything to do with justice.

But all is not lost. Like so many other tragic features of life in the money-mad U.S.A., anti-rape paraphernalia sells, and is now bringing forth what feminist Laura Kipnis calls the “sexual assault industrial complex,” replete with alarming but questionable assault statistics (to guarantee continued funding), assault prevention smart phone apps, online training classes, web-based platforms to navigate sexual assaults and the reports made about them. By now, every school in the country is required to conduct trainings and surveys, which virtually guarantees that Anti-Rape Culture Inc. will be a rapidly growing industry with high profit potential for years to come.


Laura Kipnis, “Unwanted Advances – Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus” (Harper Collins: 2017)

Ann Coulter, “To Say, ‘Stop Raping Me!’ In English, Press ‘1’ Now,” May 10, 2017

Batya Ungar-Sargon, “In 2014, the Campus Rape Debate Drowned Out More Important Feminist Issues,” The New Republic, December 30, 2014

Zerlina Maxwell, “No  Matter What Jackie Said, We Should Automatically Believe Rape Claims,” Washington Post, December 6, 2014

Emily Yoffe, "The Uncomfortable Truth About Campus Rape Policy,” The Atlantic, September 6, 2017

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