Category Archives: Media Missteps

Paranoia Strikes Deep: Ross Douthat, College Rape & Blaming Anyone But Rapists

Paranoia strikes deep. So does male patriarchy.

Almost dreamily, Ross Douthat in yesterday’s New York Times bemoans a typical scene in American college life. Alcohol-fueled parties, he says, are a “twilit (or strobe-lit) scene in which many alleged sexual assaults take place.”

Fair enough, but he then goes on to say the party environment is “also a zone in which it is very hard for anyone — including the young women and young men involved — to figure out what distinguishes a real assault from a bad or gross or swiftly regretted consensual encounter.”

This, he then tells us, is why reasonable efforts, like the 2011 Department of Education’s “Dear Colleague” letter providing guidance to colleges on the adjudication of sexual assault claims within the campus disciplinary system, must be rolled back. The issue, he tells us, isn’t really about rapists, or a culture that continues to support rape, from a president who has bragged about committing sexual assault on down. No, according to Ross, it’s more one of abandoned morality and the nurturing of some new victim class. In short, it’s about “liberalism.”

Garbage.

Douthat is a talented writer who often takes reasonable and compelling stances on issues. But what he’s offering on this topic is nothing but a new twist on a very old and baseless argument. And I’m tired of hearing centuries old, male-inspired drivel being trotted out as cutting-edge, heretofore unconstructed wisdom.

Apparently emboldened by Emily Yoffe, a sometimes iconoclast rape apologist, Douthat has embraced a truly stupid ideology that utterly mischaracterizes the nature of sexual violence, and then foolishly enables predators, demonizes victims, and makes halting an ancient scourge that much more difficult.

Like millions of conservatives, Douthat is appalled by changing sexual norms, which he appears to view as a direct cause of both actual rape and his imagined false cries of rape after “swiftly regretted” sexual encounters. He laments the “libertine” but ultimately dystopian hell-scape of American college life where red-blooded young men are ruined by legions of vindictive, or just plain gullible, feminist-twisted, victims in waiting.

Never mind that this almost never happens. Never mind that women and men who emerge from situations where they’ve been clearly sexually assaulted– let alone from some half-remembered or even deeply regretted encounter– almost always blame themselves and tell no one. Never mind that rape is still dramatically under-reported, that there is almost never an incentive to report rape at all, let alone falsely, and that most women feel zero pressure to experience the brutal, humiliating and traumatizing experience of reporting sexual assault.

In fact, never mind reality or common experience at all. Because what Douthat and his ilk feel more threatened by (than the plague of immorality or runaway liberalism) are serious challenges to male-dominated culture. This isn’t to say Douthat or those like him are misogynists; most are not. But they are undeniably patriarchal. They are convinced, not only that unhealthy or immoral college behavior is toxic, but more broadly that women are better off and more in harmony with their God-ordained roles when they avoid giving in to lust or drunkenness. They believe attempts to unbind women from imposed states of chastity and sobriety is unhealthy; that relaxing societal constraints on them leads to the inevitable “confusion,” resentment and regret that fuels false or “misguided” reports of rape.

Again, garbage. Women have been raped in the company of men at college since they were allowed to join them. A generation ago, to the extent rape was discussed at all, blame was placed mostly on women themselves for invading a theretofore male-dominated space and upsetting the natural order of things. Now it’s hook-up culture and binge drinking? Please. Predatory and deviant men rape, period. They use whatever tools are in their midst, period. Sixty years ago, they used as an excuse the audacity of women, invading male enclaves and poisoning the developing, maturing male mind with temptation and folly.

Now– because it must be blamed on women somehow—we’ll blame it on a leftist, godless culture of sex and gratification, the same one that’s created dangerous false victims out of damsels in moral distress.

We will, in short, blame it on anything but rapists themselves.

 

Buzzfeed on Dr. Kim Fromme: Blackout, Rape, & Common Sense

Katie Baker’s Buzzfeed article from August 7th showcased Dr. Kim Fromme, a clinical psychologist at UT Austin. Fromme has become a sought-after defense expert on alcohol consumption and its relationship to consent in sexual assault cases. This also makes her a flashpoint in an ongoing culture war. Sometimes, this is inevitable, and even desirable. Things like DNA analysis and cross-racial identification studies have made crucial differences in criminal cases, and usually they were initiated by outsiders unafraid to challenge norms for the sake of justice.

But Fromme’s views- at least on the physical phenomenon of “blackout”- aren’t controversial to begin with. More importantly, though, the relevance of her expertise to the reality of sexual assault and how it should be responded to is grossly over-stated.

Fromme’s willingness to testify about blackouts is not an emerging, maverick stance. Blackouts are commonly understood, particularly by toxicologists, the hard-science experts who actually study the physiological effects of toxins on the body. They’re also understood by well-informed prosecutors who handle alcohol-facilitated sexual assault cases. Yes, blackouts can interrupt memory formation, and they occur most often with rapid consumption of alcohol over a short period of time. Yes, women seem more susceptible than men, in general. Yes, a person in a blackout state might appear lucid and make decisions that appear to be informed, but not remember those decisions later. This is established science, period.

Without a doubt, this science does sometimes create a problem for a prosecutor seeking to prove that a predatory person sexually touched or penetrated a victim too intoxicated to give meaningful consent. There are situations where a person consents to sex and then doesn’t remember doing so. So it follows that, albeit very rarely, the person may believe she or he was sexually assaulted, and report the contact as rape. There isn’t a “silver bullet” answer to a claim that the alleged victim consented during a blackout and honestly doesn’t remember it. And frankly, there shouldn’t be. If the defense can establish that a blackout caused unremembered consent, then so be it. Whether the defense should or will succeed is a complicated trial question; there are aspects of the actual, physical phenomenon of blackout that can be understood and argued. The claim of “she [or he] just doesn’t remember consenting” can often be refuted depending on the circumstances and evidence.

But what’s far more important is the hard reality that the vast majority of women and men who regain consciousness after any sexual encounter do not assume, let alone assert, they were raped to begin with.

This is the most troubling aspect of Fromme’s mini-celebrity in the context of sexual assault. Fromme herself is problematic in that she appears to be yet another “expert” who (at least in part) blames alcohol consumption and “risky behavior” for rape instead of rapists themselves. She shouldn’t be demonized (at all), and certainly not for believing that binge drinking can increase the risk of sexual assault. Without a doubt, predators use alcohol to destabilize and disempower victims. Alcohol as a weapon needs to be reckoned with. Still, controlling alcohol use is not the answer to addressing predatory behavior, which is behind sexual assault.

But even worse is assuming that any use of alcohol by anyone in a sexual situation either 1) negates consent altogether or 2) gives rise to claims of rape in any more than a tiny percentage of cases. Drunk people have and will continue to have sex, largely because alcohol lowers inhibitions and allows them to act on impulse and desire. This might be unhealthy or immoral depending one’s point of view, but it’s not criminal.

But again- almost no one is claiming it is.

In fact, the opposite continues to be true: The great majority of women and men who are clearly sexually assaulted- in any context- blame themselves and tell no one, least of all law enforcement. This is especially true where drinking is concerned, since voluntary alcohol consumption fuels guilt and self-blame on the part of the victim (as an aside, this is exactly what Fromme’s “risky behavior” focus drives home). So the idea that blackouts are creating a flood of mistaken victims, willing to cry rape at the slightest fuzzy memory, thereby regularly threatening the freedom of the wrongly accused, is utter nonsense.

Blackouts are a fact, and a rare but occasional issue in sexual assault cases. Mistaken cries of rape- however imagined by men’s rights groups or media sources- are rarer still.

David Brooks, Please Don’t Assume What I “Get” on Gun Control as a Progressive

iStock_000011104157_ExtraSmallIn his latest column, focusing on various afflictions plaguing the American working class, David Brooks had this to say about gun control:

“It’s a culture [the American working class] that celebrates people who are willing to fight to defend their honor. This is something that progressives never get about gun control. They see a debate about mass murder, but for many people guns are about a family’s ability to stand up for itself in a dangerous world.”

I am a progressive, depending on how one defines the term. I also grew up largely as a part of, and certainly surrounded by, the American working class.

I can say with confidence there is nothing I don’t “get” where the enthusiasm for owning firearms is concerned, despite Brooks’ blunt and stereotypical accusation. Like many people who lean left as I do politically, I absolutely understand, and in most cases honor, the desire of individuals to protect themselves and their families. I would not seek to prevent Americans from owning firearms within common sense limitations, the details of which are beyond the scope of this piece.

But please, David, don’t tell me I simply “don’t get” what guns are to the working class or anyone else. I do. What I also “get” is that, unfortunately, far too many of them (along with people in other demographic groups, like Donald Trump) are not plain-spoken, responsible men and women wanting to protect their families. Instead, they are gun fetishists who believe- with adolescent naivety and emotion-driven fantasy- that guns are shields and not swords. With inattention to facts and utter blindness to human experience, they nevertheless assert that that arming everyone, everywhere, is the answer to preventing the kind gun violence that, in fact, stems from the proliferation of those very same guns.

Dan and Brock Turner, and the Lie of Alcohol, Promiscuity and Victim Blaming

A portion of Dan Turner’s letter to his son Brock’s sentencing judge was released last week after Turner, 20, was sentenced for three felony counts of sexual assault. He received three years probation and only six months in jail, a risibly light punishment. Turner was actually caught in the act of sexually penetrating the victim; two graduate students came upon him while he was top of her, clearly unresponsive. Police officers arriving on the scene found her similarly helpless. Unlike most non-stranger sexual assaults, particularly ones involving young people and alcohol, Turner’s guilt was demonstrated with relative ease. He committed a horrific crime, period. He truncated and permanently altered the life of another human being, period.

A father can be forgiven for begging leniency from a court of law when his son has committed a terrible crime. Dan Turner should not be excoriated simply for the effort of attempting to put his son’s entire life in context, or for bemoaning what he thinks the effects of incarceration might have on him. His message, though, now public, must be exposed for what it is: A dangerous diversion of blame for what his son did.

Turner’s obvious gaffe. describing his son’s crimes as “20 minutes of action,” was probably no more than a terrible choice of words. I doubt Turner meant “action” in the now antiquated sense of “getting some action” or anything similar. I’ve seen social media posts that highlight this phrase as evidence of the man’s callousness or worse, but I don’t think that bears out.

What is of greater concern, and what must be debunked to the wider world, is his attempt to shift the blame for this crime from his son to what he describes as “the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity.” And beyond this, his belief that Brock should pay society back by educating other college students in an effort to “break the cycle of binge drinking and its unfortunate consequences.”

This is as patently absurd as it is insulting and dangerous. Brock Turner, whatever else he’s capable of or has achieved, committed a predatory act of sexual violence on January 18, 2015. Not knowing the details of the case, I can’t say for sure if he identified his victim earlier in the evening and took manipulative steps to isolate her, or if he formed his intent upon realizing he had control of her in an unresponsive state. Either way, his actions were predatory. His actions were volitional. He made a choice. That choice has devastated the life of a young woman who- with effort and support- will recover fully, but who will never, ever look at her life the same way again.

So let’s be crystal clear: It is both incorrect and dangerously misleading to claim that the very separate issues of “alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity” somehow combine to draw otherwise non-sexually violent men into a vortex of rape they cannot be held completely responsible for. Both excessive alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity can be objectively unhealthy.

But neither of these things have anything to do with sexual violence, other than to provide the attacker with three weapons:

  1. A pathway to rape through the weakening of the reflexes, protective judgment and instincts of the victim and others who might protect her (or him).
  1. A brilliant cover for the tracks of the attacker’s actions, due to the compromised memory, credibility and even moral stature of the victim and the relevant witnesses.
  1. A perfect excuse in allowing alcohol, a substance that unleashes desire rather than creating it, to nevertheless take the blame for the attacker’s choices, and to provide a convenient way to blame the victim as well, complicit for having “gotten herself raped” because of drinking.

I don’t know what Brock Turner plans on doing when he’s completed his tiny stint behind bars. I certainly hope it does not entail speaking to a single college student anywhere about “breaking the cycle of binge drinking and its unfortunate consequences.”

Brock Turner has no right to lecture anyone on anything, let alone something as specious as some sort of cautionary tale to young men about becoming “victims” of alcohol, as if it somehow conspired from a bottle to compel him to disrobe and penetrate a young woman on the cold ground outside of a frat house.

Turner is guilty. Turner and no one and nothing else- certainly not the woman he attacked. Until that fully sinks in, the best anyone can hope for it that Turner keeps quiet.

 

Cathy Young Wants Feminists to Describe Rape As “Ugly Sexual Encounters.” Don’t Let Her.

It might be irony, the way it’s commonly portrayed. Or it might just be rank hypocrisy. Whatever it is, Cathy Young, in her May 20, 2015, post embodies it.

The caption under the istock photo the Washington Post chose to accompany this vacuous and alarmist piece was the following: “We need to stop prosecuting bad behavior as rape.”

Really? As if a non-stranger rape prosecution tidal wave has formed, blocking all other efforts to seek justice at the courthouse?

No, that’s not happening, but thankfully we have Cathy Young showing us the way to avoid such abominations, what with her two anecdotes about regretted sexual encounters and literally nothing else. What’s funny, though, is that Cathy herself admits fully that she 1) didn’t view the negative sexual encounters she describes as a crime, and 2) she didn’t report them as such.

Welcome, Cathy, to reality. That’s what pretty much all women and men do, and by the way? It’s what the vast majority of victims do when the “encounters” actually are, objectively and by any statutory definition, rape. And this wasn’t just when you were young, Cathy. It’s still true now. And it probably will be for a very long time.

I’m sure Cathy would point out though, that what prompted her breathless piece was the idea that legions of women like her, armed now with 2015-era “feminist” notions of victimhood, are poised to suddenly push open the floodgates of litigation to incorrectly and unjustly imprison men who simply used “seductiveness” to turn a “no” into a “yes.” Ms. Young would have us believe that a few reasonable initiatives regarding consent, and a renewed movement against an age-old scourge have somehow eviscerated fair judgment in the average person and created a monster of inaccurate reports and false victims.

Garbage.

In fact, rapists now, just as rapists when Cathy Young was in her teens or twenties, rely on myths, shame, and fear in order to keep their victims silenced. In terms of what Ms. Young has brought to the issue, this means being 1) silently obedient to Cathy Young’s interpretation of their experiences, and 2) repentantly observant of the Washington Post’s clever istock choice of an obviously whoring slut searching for her pumps under a man’s bed.

The message? If you believe you’ve been raped, you’re probably wrong, and you probably did something to either bring it on or otherwise allow for it to happen.

So blame feminism. Blame the “liberal media.” Blame yourselves, certainly.

Just never blame the rapist. In Cathy Young’s world, there are far fewer of them than there are hysterical and litigious versions of you.