Sunday, May 31, 2015

Radical Feminism and the 'Rape Culture' Lie

From Heather Wilhelm, at Commentary, "The ‘Rape Culture’ Lie":
In September Barack Obama launched the “It’s on Us” campaign, designed to fight what he called the “nightmare” of campus sexual assault. “An estimated one in five women has been sexually assaulted during her college years,” Obama announced, pausing for emphasis. “One in five.” America, the president went on to argue, suffers from a “quiet tolerance of sexual assault,” all too often blaming victims, making excuses, or looking the other way. To combat sexual violence, he said, we need a “fundamental shift in our culture.”

With these words, the president of the United States went all in on the idea that America’s academic institutions have been taken over by a “rape culture” —a culture that normalizes, trivializes, and quietly condones male sexual assault against women, blaming female victims while subtly celebrating male predators.

Once rather obscure and confined to sociology and women’s studies departments, the term “rape culture” has slowly invaded the national consciousness. According to Google search analytics, the topic generated almost no traffic in 2005 or before. After 2011, its popularity slowly began to rise—as we’ll later see, this is no accident—and then, beginning in 2013, it spiked, the graph forming a hockey stick that would make global-warming doomsayer Michael Mann proud.

The idea that one in five college women has or will be sexually assaulted is mind-boggling and horrifying. It’s also not true. As Slate’s Emily Yoffe pointed out in December, the statistic—together with two other dubious studies that, just for the heck of it, upped the ante to one in four—would “mean that young American college women are raped at a rate similar to women in Congo, where rape has been used as a weapon of war.”

Both the “one in five” and “one in four” sexual-assault numbers, it turns out, have been repeatedly and resoundingly discredited. The former statistic comes from the 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study, an online survey of students at two college campuses that reportedly compensated respondents and categorized actions such as “kissing” and “rubbing up against” someone as sexual assault. (Even the author of the study, Christopher Krebs, told Yoffe that “one in five” is not “a nationally representative statistic.”)

“One in four” has proved even more resilient, given that it first popped up in a 1988 Ms. Foundation study by an Ohio State professor named Mary Koss—a survey later dismantled by Christina Hoff Sommers in 1994 based on work originally conducted by the Berkeley social-welfare scholar Neil Gilbert. As Sommers wrote, “For Gilbert, the most serious indication that something was basically awry in the Ms./Koss study was that the majority of women she classified as having been raped did not believe they had been raped. Of those Koss counts as having been raped, only 27 percent thought they had been; 73 percent did not say that what happened to them was rape.”

A more recent “one in four” study, conducted by the Department of Justice in 2000 and subtly titled “The Sexual Victimization of College Women,” went even further afield. Its initial results were within the boundaries of reason; it estimated that 2.8 percent of college women had been victims of rape. After performing some serious statistical voodoo, however, the authors estimated that one in four women “might” be raped—but, they admitted, “these projections are suggestive.” Oh. Well, OK. Good thing we don’t have a national panic on our hands.

Well, cancel that last thought: Actually, we do.

This month, CNN Films, in partnership with the Weinstein Company, is slated to release The Hunting Ground, which the Sundance Film Festival has called “a piercing, monumental exposé of rape culture on campuses.” The film’s promotional poster, as the New York Times noted, “resembles an ad for a horror movie.”

This follows the release of yet another “study,” thrown into the pack in January. It declared—allow me to paraphrase—that men are soulless, earth-ravaging ogres. “Nearly one-third of college men admit they might rape a woman if they could get away with it,” Newsweek reported, breathless and giddy. As it turned out, this new survey, which was eagerly splashed across international media, had a sample size of 83, a participation number of 73, highly questionable survey methods, and was conducted solely using volunteers seeking extra credit at the University of North Dakota.

If your professional dream is to concoct a completely biased yet well-received and well-publicized study, congratulations: It’s apparently fairly easy. If you wish to soberly present facts and data, well, good luck. The latest Department of Justice hard data on sexual assault, released in December 2014, estimates that 0.61 percent of female college students are the victims of sexual assault. That’s 6.1 cases per 1,000 women. Curiously, these new numbers, which come from the Obama administration, aren’t making headlines at the Obama White House’s official website. In fact, in a special public service announcement broadcast during February’s Grammy awards, the president informed the nation that “nearly one in five women in America”—not just college students—”has been a victim of rape or attempted rape.”

Speaking of culture, what does it say about ours when such clearly preposterous statistics are so easily believed? More important, what does it mean that discredited and long-debunked rape “statistics” are repeated, over and over, all the way up to the bully pulpit of the highest political office in the country?

In fact, if the latest official statistics are accurate—the unfortunate yet not-so-dramatic 0.61 percent that many feminists seem intent on ignoring—then America seems to have the opposite of a “rape culture.” Rather than pushing actual rape under the rug and celebrating male predators, in other words, we’re inventing fictional rapes and throwing actual men under the bus.

“Rape culture,” in other words, is an idea that swings, cocky and unhinged, from media and campus chandeliers. It dodges logical bullets, performs backflips around statistical cannonballs, and waltzes right through ground-leveling factual nuclear bombs. Much like an Olympic diver, it’s an idea that easily slices, clean and quiet, into the crevices of supple brains.

And once it’s settled in, it’s hard to pry it out. Like a poorly stabbed and strong-limbed B-movie villain, it refuses to die. This is, in part, because it’s an idea with a long, storied provenance, dating back more than 40 years. It has been a central feature of American feminism for nearly as long: “Feminism,” as legal theorist Catherine MacKinnon wrote in a 1988 book, is “built on believing women’s accounts of sexual use and abuse by men.”

But the enduring power of the rape-culture concept comes from another source as well. It addresses, albeit in a scrambled and unjust fashion, a deep problem in contemporary American life—a huge cultural resistance to the fact that sex is a profoundly serious business.
Well, Heather Wilhelm is a rape apologist!

But keep reading, heh.