Rape Hysteria

Rape Hysteria

A recent post America’s long tradition of moral panics provoked some outrage because I included among the various examples the false statistic that 1 in 5 college women are the victims of sexual assault.

I assumed the statistic was false because it flies in the face of common sense that women attending Harvard or Columbia would be more likely to be sexually assaulted than someone living in, say, South Sudan, and because I had heard it said the study was based on a self-reporting survey preformed on two campuses.

What followed was an education in how statistics are fabricated.

First, I was asked to read a wider and more thorough report done by the Washington Post which matched the 1 in 5 claim. The WaPo however considered drunken hookups to be examples of sexual assault and those made up 60% of the reported incidents, with one young coed interviewed wondering aloud whether she and her partner were not guilty of sexually assaulting one another since both were drunk at the time of their encounter, which is of course stupid.

Then I was asked to read a report by the Center of Disease Control which claimed 1 in 6 women were victims of sexual assault. The CDC had polled 9000 women with a 30% response rate, which is probably about the same as most political polls. My reading of the digest showed no evidence of chicanery: the definitions of rape and attempted rape seemed clear. Perhaps I was wrong?

But then I scratched a little deeper to read the scripted questions, which I found from the following link, on a blog friendly to the findings of the CDC.


Here are two questions from the Sexual Violence section which conflate rape with things that are neither violent, nor illegal, nor even uncommon:

Sometimes sex happens when a person is unable to consent to it or stop it from happening because they were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out from alcohol, drugs, or medications. This can include times when they voluntarily consumed alcohol or drugs or they were given drugs or alcohol without their knowledge or consent. Please remember that even if someone uses alcohol or drugs, what happens to them is not their fault.

When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people have ever had…?

SV7 vaginal sex with you? By vaginal sex, we mean that {if female: a man or boy put his penis in your vagina} {if male: a woman or girl made you put your penis in her vagina}.

When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people have ever…?

SV8 {if male} made you perform anal sex, meaning they made you put your penis into their anus.
SV9 made you receive anal sex, meaning they put their penis into your anus?

When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people have ever…?

SV10 made you perform oral sex, meaning that they put their penis in your mouth or made you penetrate their vagina or anus with your mouth?
SV11 made you receive oral sex, meaning that they put their mouth on your {if male, fill: penis; if female, fill: vagina} or anus?”

The key to skewing statistics is to equate “drunk” with “unable to give consent”. One is able to give consent while drunk, ask anyone ever convicted of drunk driving. This line of questioning clearly conflates the rape of an unconscious woman with regrettable drunken sex.

The following line of questioning in the sexual violence section equates various levels of manipulation with sexual violence:

Sometimes unwanted sexual contact happens after a person is pressured in a nonphysical way.

How many people have you had vaginal, oral, or anal sex with after they pressured you by …

SV19 Doing things like telling you lies, making promises about the future they knew were untrue, threatening to end your relationship, or threatening to spread rumors about you?

SV20 Wearing you down by repeatedly asking for sex, or showing they were unhappy?

SV21 Using their influence or authority over you, for example, your boss or your teacher?

Manipulation is wrong, but the line of questioning conflates physical threats with “of course I’m single, baby.” A couple of the encounters listed above are illegal, the others are not. In most of the above cases the individual is free to say no without any fear of retribution.

If this is how the CDC got to it’s one in six statistic then I’m afraid they are full of crap.

Sin vs Crime

I hate having to make such things clear, but apparently because I resist trusting in bogus statistics being tossed about I am a rape apologist, or a serial groper, think manipulating people for sex is no big deal, or that I nurse secret grudges against women as a whole, as if lying for a non-existent cause is some kind of virtue.

In fact, I think fornication (along with manipulating, unwelcome groping, etc) is a sin: sex is ordered towards intimacy and procreation, both of which require a long-term commitment. Therefore I am completely unsurprised that people who engage in fornication often feel bad afterwards. I am not at all shocked that having fought and won the sexual revolution, the victors are uncomfortable with the fact that promiscuity is not all it was cracked up to be. (Though I hate to burst their bubble and point out that young people of this generation are less sexually active than the previous two generations, so they don’t have as much to worry about as they imagine.)

But just because something is a sin does not mean it should be a crime. Binge drinking is a sin. Smoking marijuana is a sin (probably, I’m on the fence about it), as is snorting cocaine. So too is habitually losing your temper, lying to your neighbor, skipping church, gluttony, blasphemy, smoking too much tobacco, and sodomy.

I don’t think any of the above should be illegal. The law, which is enforced through the threat of violence, does not serve an abstract ideal of personal purity but the common good. When the damage done to individuals or society by threat of violence is greater than the common good being served, the law should not interfere.

I don’t want to see homosexuals jailed for sodomy, or potheads for lighting up. I don’t even want to see them preached at or bullied, I want them left to their privacy not because I celebrate their choices but because I don’t want to live in a police state. If abortion is not a sin, then nothing is a sin, but I am not particularly enamored of Pro-life insistence that abortion be treated by the state as murder since Pro-lifers can’t easily define how many people we will be throwing into jail under their proposed laws.

Fornication is a sin; a very understandable one and easy as pie to fall into, and there are far worse sins that one can commit. Policing fornication seems not only impossible but also totalitarian and creepy.

But some totalitarian creeps are proposing we do just that.

The ultimate purpose behind redefining rape is to change the law and invite police and courts into private hook-ups. Expanding the definition of rape to include not just sex against a person’s will, but also ungentlemanly behavior or even the unenthusiastic consent of one party. A man who claims to be single when he is married is not just a liar and a cad, but a rapist. A man whose favorite come-on is a Bill Clinton style grope is not an ass but a rapist. A woman who pouts and complains to a man who will not have sex with her is an attempted rapist.

Current discussions of “affirmative consent laws” should be laughed out of statehouses and colleges, but instead they are taken seriously. If affirmative consent is necessary for every sexually charged act, something as simple as stroking a date’s hair without first obtaining verbal consent becomes a criminal act.

Why the push to redefine the law? To control private behavior and, if possible, private thought. To make false accusations easier, and to undermine due process. To instill fear in ordinary people.

Rape hysterics have been used in the past to achieve just that: there was a time in America when a black man accused of raping a white woman would be be murdered, lynched by a mob without trial on the basis of a mere accusation. Rape of course was just an excuse for the arbitrary exercise of power. It is so useful an excuse because the accusation arouses passions and hatreds, is difficult to disprove, and those who question an accusation of rape are accused of not trusting the word of a white woman (back then) or misogyny (today).

Sin and Virtue

Having eliminated old virtues like chastity, prudence and sobriety from the culture it seems we want the state to come in and clean up the resulting emotional mess. But it is impossible to ask the state to police fornication and expect anything resembling justice to come out of it.

Political Conservatives sometimes claim that the destruction of the culture was a conscious plot to eventually expand government authority; I think that is paranoid, but the two phenomena do go together.

Maybe the process of ever expanding state control of private space is inevitable, I think it was Aristotle who claimed that the multiplication of laws was a sign of a society in decline. I do not believe that virtues once lost in a society can be regained: a culture in decline will dig its own grave with startling persistence.

But individuals can still practice virtue. If you want to spare yourself and your children heartache, you can’t go wrong exercising chastity, prudence and sobriety, now can you.



One comment

  1. Apologies I’m not replying here but it seems pointless to leave my comment on your empty post.

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