The challenges of talking about rape in a post-modern, post-rational age
I met up the other day with some friends whom I’ve known for years through our children. They are, without exception, decent, bright, extremely kind women. I think highly of them, even though they are Bernie supporters.
The conversation turned to the “rape culture” on American campuses. Although they were agreed that a woman who is proven to have falsely accused a man of rape should be punished, they differed from me in three significant areas: (1) They believe absolutely the CDC study saying 1 in 5 American women have been raped; (2) they think that, if a woman says she was raped, she should be believed absolutely; and (3) they think girls should not be given advice about how to protect themselves because, if they still get raped, having been armed against rape implies that any resulting rape was their fault. I’d like to spend a little time on each point.
1. The CDC study saying that 1/5 American women will be a victim of rape. The CDC study, which came out in 2011, stated that, in 2010 alone, 1.3 million American women were raped, while another 12.7 million women (as well as a few men) were the victims of sexual violence. This joined the long-standing contention that 1/4 women on college campuses will be raped.
My friends could not accept when I said those numbers had to be inflated because they make America worse than a Johannesburg slum. Thinking of college alone, if those numbers are real, it’s impossible to imagine that American parents would blithely send their daughters off to college.
As you all know, of course, none of those numbers are real. In addition to being the products of horrible statistical methodology, they conflate everything from criminal rape to a person’s feeling somewhat pressured into sex. (As for being pressured into sex, the reality is that, on America’s campuses, college women often feel pressured to have sex, not because a specific young man is doing the pressuring, but because of the ethos of the hook-up culture.) Here’s Christina Hoff Sommers explaining just how wrong the CDC study is:
And here’s Caroline Kitchens explaining the equally flawed methodology behind the scurrilous (against American young men) claims about campus rape culture:
I emailed the videos to my friends, emphasizing (politely of course) how the scary numbers arise because of small, non-randomized sampling and overly broad rape definitions, covering everything from criminal rape (as in, a police matter) to the creepy guy who presses up against you on a crowded streetcar (as happened to me once). I suggested that jumbling everything together in this way makes for headline grabbing stories but is counterproductive.
Overly broad definitions make it difficult, if not impossible, to come up with serious solutions to the wide range of complaints encompassed in the “studies.” At a societal level (or a criminal level, or an academic level), you simply cannot treat violent, penetrative stranger-rape in the same category as the guy who goes on a blind date and guilts a naive girl into having sex so he won’t have those mythical blue balls.
One of the women conceded that I might have a point. Another woman, however, said that it doesn’t matter if a study carelessly collects data or equally carelessly defines its terms. She’s certain that rape is so underreported that the published numbers are nevertheless accurate and should, therefore, be taken at face value. In other words, the notion of “fake but accurate,” which characterized the October 2004 effort to smear George W. Bush as a military dodger, has entered the popular culture.
For me, the discussion broke down right there. If she can rely on whatever imaginary data she wants in order to make her case, there’s nothing left to debate.
And think about this: Her mindset is a perfectly matched counterpoint to the recent insistence that gender is meaningless and governed by feelings, not facts. We are now told we must accept as true when a naked bearded guy with a full erection stands in a women’s college locker room and announces that he’s a woman and, moreover, that he’s not sporting an erection but is, instead, growing flowers. When truth is defined solely by an individual’s belief or expediency, we finally have arrived at the Leftists’ beloved world of deconstructionism, where nothing has meaning.
I hew to John Adams who, in his primitive white man way, once proclaimed that “Facts are stubborn things.” I’ll also put my money and my logic behind that evil white Democrat, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who had the temerity to say that “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”
2. The woman should always be believed. It seems that my friends never heard their Moms sagely pronounce that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Instead, they strongly believe that, because women used to be disbelieved when they accused men of raping them, the remedy is that they should always be believed, with the men automatically labeled as “rapists.”
As part of this labeling, they are unconcerned with “due process.” Indeed, they’re actually hostile to due process, with its implication that an accused is innocent until proven guilty. They also have no trouble with the university system staffing “rape tribunals” with people who assume that the man is guilty and who readily label any man brought before them as a rapist. The ladies were unimpressed when I told them about the Colorado State University — Pueblo story that George Will highlighted:
Grant Neal, a CSU Pueblo pre-med major and athlete, began a relationship with Jane Doe (as identified in Neal’s lawsuit), although she, as a student in the Athletic Training Program, was not supposed to fraternize with athletes. Jane Doe texted an invitation to Neal to come to her apartment. The following is from Neal’s complaint against CSU Pueblo:
As the intimacy progressed, knowing that they both wanted to engage in sexual intercourse, Jane Doe advised Plaintiff that she was not on birth control. Accordingly, Plaintiff asked if he should put on a condom. Jane Doe clearly and unequivocally responded ‘yes.’ . . . They proceeded to engage in consensual sexual intercourse, during which Jane Doe . . . demonstrated her enjoyment both verbally and non-verbally.
The next day, one of Jane Doe’s classmates, who neither witnessed nor was told of any assault, noticed a hickey on the woman’s neck. Assuming an assault must have happened, the classmate told school officials that an assault had occurred. Jane Doe told school officials the sex was consensual: “I’m fine and I wasn’t raped.” Neal’s lawsuit says she told an administrator: “Our stories are the same and he’s a good guy. He’s not a rapist, he’s not a criminal, it’s not even worth any of this hoopla!” Neal recorded on his cellphone Jane Doe saying that nothing improper had transpired, and soon the two again had intercourse.
Undeterred, CSU–Pueblo mixed hearsay evidence with multiple due-process violations, thereby ruining a young man’s present (he has been suspended from the school for as long as Jane Doe is there) and blighting his future (his prospects for admission to another school are bleak).
While they thought it was a shame that Neal got into this type of trouble, and thought the classmate was a noisome busybody, they considered that young man’s blighted life a reasonable price to pay for total acceptance of a woman’s right to be believed (except in the Neal case, when her claim that there was no rape was disbelieved, of course).
Again, that was a conversation stopper for me. I’ve always struggled with that post-modern concept saying that narrative, not truth, is what matters. But this is the point to which the Leftist assault on education and the media has brought us: There is no truth.
Incidentally, if this little discourse about the post-modernist assault on reason and truth strikes you as familiar, let me remind you why:
Last week’s New York Times Magazine feature on Ben Rhodes has garnered a somewhat odd reception. For those who have not been paying particular attention, David Samuels’s revelations about Rhodes’s influence, and the broader context that enables it, ought to be attention-arresting. Samuels himself hints as much:
[Rhodes’s] lack of conventional real-world experience of the kind that normally precedes responsibility for the fate of nations—like military or diplomatic service, or even a master’s degree in international relations, rather than creative writing—is still startling…. [S]ome large part of the recent history of America and its role in the world turns on the fact that the entirely familiar person sitting at the desk in front of me, who seems not unlike other weed-smokers I know who write Frederick Barthelme-type short stories, has achieved a “mind meld” with President Obama and used his skills to help execute a radical shift in American foreign policy.
[I]n Rhodes’s view there is no possibility anymore of establishing truth or using reason foremostly to discuss and debate foreign and national security policy in the United States. It’s all about narratives and using media technology to spread them. Beliefs about the subject are personal, and the personal and the political need not be kept apart because there is no higher or superior truth to the personal available. As Samuels puts it at the end of his essay, possibly without appreciating the larger implication of the remark, Rhodes “…is torn. As the President himself once asked, how are we supposed to weigh the tens of thousands who have died in Syria against the tens of thousands who have died in Congo? What power means is that the choice is yours, no matter who is telling the story.”
This smells a good deal like a postmodernist foreign policy disposition: Since truth either doesn’t exist or cannot be established through reasoned discourse, all that matters is who’s skillful enough to establish a hegemonic narrative and get away with it. Again, this did not start in the Obama Administration.
(Read the whole article here. It’s as impressive as the above excerpt.) The exact thinking that drives these women’s views about rape has informed our foreign policy since the days of Karl Rove (although Ben Rhodes gets the “A+” grade for bringing post-modernism to its political apex).
Back to the subject at hand, when it comes to accusations of sexual violence against our sons, it’s irrelevant whether these young men actually committed the acts alleged. Because they could have committed those acts and because other men do commit those acts, it’s now considered entirely appropriate that these boys be pilloried as examples. And if this reminds you of ISIS throwing allegedly “gay” men off of tall buildings to send a message to the people — especially the young people — gathered below with stones to finish off the work if the fall didn’t kill the victim . . . well, it reminds me too.
3. Girls should not be given advice about how to protect themselves. The women were adamant that girls should not have to change a single aspect of their behavior lest that be interpreted as “blaming the victim.” Men shouldn’t rape was the women’s view. I agree that men shouldn’t rape.
Nevertheless, I also believe that, falsified numbers notwithstanding, there are men out there who don’t care about the long-standing criminal prohibitions against rape. Just the way there are people out there who are unconstrained by laws against murder, robbery, assault, embezzlement, etc. In all those areas, we suggest as a society that the wise person takes steps to prevent becoming a victim of crime: Don’t walk through dangerous neighborhoods, don’t leave your house unlocked, don’t get into a shoving match with a mean drunk, don’t give your employees unfettered access to your firm’s bank accounts. But when it comes to the ladies, well, just don’t. . . .
Teach women self-defense? No, that places the onus of rape on the woman.
Tell our daughters not to get drunk, and most certainly not drunk to the point of unconsciousness? No, that places the onus of rape on the woman.
Tell our daughters not to go to dances in micro-minis and come-shtup-me shoes, and then twerk wildly before drunken young men? No, that places the onus of rape on the woman.
Young women should never be counseled about ways to avoid rape. Doing so implies blame and that’s unacceptable. It’s always the man’s fault, so women have no obligation or reason to change their behavior.
In one distinct area, I’m actually sympathetic to this argument against behavioral changes, and that’s regarding the rape epidemic in Europe. Across Europe, as police prove incapable of stopping the rising numbers of rapes by Muslim immigrants who view every unveiled woman as a “whore” who can be sadistically, criminally raped with impunity, politicians and police chiefs are telling women to dress modestly, perhaps veil themselves, and to stop going out.
In that context, the advice enrages me: Islam is a religion of conquest and rape is one of their forms of warfare. By raping European women and forcing them to adopt sharia norms of dress and behavior, the Muslims are conquering Europe and turning it into a Muslim enclave governed by Muslim law.
But that’s not what’s happening here in America. We aren’t — yet — at war with an alien culture that has settled in our midst and seeks to subordinate us to its control. Instead, we’re suggesting that decades-old American rules of conduct still have some practical virtue: Self-reliance (i.e. self-defense) is a useful way to avoid becoming a victim; getting drunk always puts a person (male or female) at a disadvantage; and if you dress and act exactly like your own culture’s version of a prostitute, there will be stupid, drunk, or evil men (and some women) who will engage in stupid, drunk, or evil acts against you.
Believe it or not, this was one point of the discussion where I was able to make some headway with the ladies. I suggested that doing such things as learning self-defense, moderating alcohol intake, and imposing some modesty in dress were all practical steps that are removed from judgment. A practical, non-judgmental statement would be along the lines of “Stay sober and stay safe.” It’s the kind of statement one makes before the fact. A judgmental statement, however, comes after the fact and is along the lines of “That stupid slut was so drunk she deserved to be raped.”
In other words, I was able to convince my friends that being judgmental after the fact is entirely separate from using proactive common sense. I hope their daughter’s benefit from that little bit of wisdom.
Anyway, I ended the whole interaction frustrated and very worried. Post-modernism is a concept that never made sense to me because I do believe in certain absolute truths, both factual and moral. However, I do believe in post-rationalism, and that is what I was seeing here.
The most disturbing thing of all was that this post-rationalism wasn’t coming from #TrigglyPuff, a young person who is almost (but not quite) more to be pitied than censured because she has been marinated her entire short life, both at home and in school, to see herself as a victim whose only defense is to attack others. Instead, I was hearing this from highly educated, fairly affluent, truly kind and decent middle-aged women . . . all of whom have sons and daughters! If the mothers of sons aren’t appalled by the war on boys, and if the mothers of daughters refuse to teach their girls common-sense protective behavior, we truly have reached a cultural end point.