It’s Only a Myth if You Believe That Those Sluts Were Asking For It

Because if women don’t call it rape then it’s just not.

This op/ed is one of the most ridiculous I’ve read in a long, long time (and that’s pretty impressive). Heather MacDonald argues that high rates of sexual assault on campus don’t exist because women don’t always define their experiences as rape; she then goes on to say that women who say they were raped are lying sluts who exaggerate the truth and were probably asking for it. Compare:

A 2006 survey of sorority women at the University of Virginia, for example, found that only 23% of the subjects whom the survey characterized as rape victims felt that they had been raped — a result that the university’s director of sexual and domestic violence services calls “discouraging.” Equally damning was a 2000 campus rape study conducted under the aegis of the Department of Justice. Sixty-five percent of those whom the researchers called “completed rape” victims and three-quarters of “attempted rape” victims said that they did not think that their experiences were “serious enough to report.”

Believing in the campus rape epidemic, it turns out, requires ignoring women’s own interpretations of their experiences.

With:

So what reality does lie behind the rape hype? I believe that it’s the booze-fueled hookup culture of one-night, or sometimes just partial-night, stands. Students in the ’60s demanded that college administrators stop setting rules for fraternization. The colleges meekly complied and opened a Pandora’s box of boorish, promiscuous behavior that gets cruder each year.


In all these drunken couplings, there may be some deplorable instances of forced and truly non-consensual sex. But most campus “rape” cases exist in the gray area of seeming cooperation and tacit consent, which is why they are almost never prosecuted criminally.

“Ninety-nine percent of all college rape cases would be thrown out of court in a twinkling,” observes University of Pennsylvania history professor Alan Kors.

Many students hold on to the view that women usually have the power to determine whether a campus social event ends with intercourse. A female Rutgers student expressed a common sentiment in a university sexual-assault survey: “When we go out to parties and I see girls and the way they dress and the way they act … and just the way they are, under the influence and um, then they like accuse them of like, ‘Oh yeah, my boyfriend did this to me’ or whatever, I honestly always think it’s their fault.”


So as long as women aren’t defining their experiences as rape — a conclusion she draws based on the fact that many women decided not to report the incidents — it isn’t rape. Unless the woman says it is rape, and then it definitely wasn’t rape, it was her fault for how she dressed and acted.

At least MacDonald is consistent with her universal rule of “The slut asked for it, and she’s probably lying anyway.”

What she isn’t so good on is logical reasoning — although she’s excellent at twisting statistics to suit her purposes. She argues that the campus rape crisis is a myth because the “one in four” statistic put forth by activists must be overblown. Why? Well:

It is a central claim of these organizations that between a fifth and a quarter of all college women will be raped or will be the targets of attempted rape by the end of their college years. Harvard’s Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response uses the 20% to 25% statistic. Websites at New York University, Syracuse University, Penn State and the University of Virginia, among many other places, use the figures as well.

And who will be the assailants of these women? Not terrifying strangers who will grab them in dark alleys, but the guys sitting next to them in class or at the cafeteria.

If the one-in-four statistic is correct, campus rape represents a crime wave of unprecedented proportions. No felony, much less one as serious as rape, has a victimization rate remotely approaching 20% or 25%, even over many years. The 2006 violent crime rate in Detroit, one of the most violent cities in the U.S., was 2,400 murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants — a rate of 2.4%.

Such a crime wave — in which millions of young women would graduate having suffered the most terrifying assault, short of murder, that a woman can experience — would require nothing less than a state of emergency. Admissions policies, which if the numbers are true are allowing in tens of thousands of vicious criminals, would require a complete revision, perhaps banning male students entirely. The nation’s nearly 10 million female undergraduates would need to take the most stringent safety precautions.

None of this crisis response occurs, of course — because the crisis doesn’t exist.

So MacDonald is basically saying that the argument “this particular community is victimized at an astounding rate” can’t possibly be true because, when you compare the victimization stats for the particular community with the stats for the general population, the community in question appears to be victimized at an astounding rate (and more on that disputed one-in-four statistic here). As another example, this would be like someone saying, “In the mid-nineties, one in three black men between the ages of 20 and 29 were in prison,” and my responding, “Well, that’s impossible, because only 1 in 37 adults are incarcerated, and if the incarceration rate for black men were that high, we’d have a national crisis on our hands.”

In other words, comparing the rates of victimization for a particular crime in a particular subset of the population to the victimization of the general population, and then using the huge disparity as evidence that specific victimization doesn’t exist, is ridiculous. The huge disparity is the whole point. Further, the one-in-four statistic is about sexual assault and attempted rape, reported and unreported. The crime stats that MacDonald examines are reported crimes; and it’s no big secret that a huge number of sexual assault survivors never report what happened to them. And why would they, when they know that a whole lot of people think like Heather MacDonald?

Then she goes into a bizarre attack on sex-positive sexual health education:

And even as the campus rape industry decries alleged male predation, a parallel campus sex bureaucracy sends the message that students should have recreational sex at every opportunity.

New York University offers workshops on orgasms and “Sex Toys for Safer Sex” (“an evening with rubber, silicone and vibrating toys”) in residence halls and various student clubs. Brown University’s Student Services helps students answer the compelling question: “How can I bring sex toys into my relationship?” Princeton University’s “Safer Sex Jeopardy” game for freshmen lists six types of vibrators and eight kinds of penile toys.

I will admit that I was one of those slutty, slutty co-eds who actually gave “Sex Toys for Safer Sex” workshops, and facilitated other sexual health events that would certainly send MacDonald into a tizzy. Yes, we brought a whole bag of sex toys into residence halls, and we talked about them. We talked about masturbation. We talked about sex. Mostly, we talked about safer sex practices, and how using sex toys could make sex fun and interesting, and could significantly decrease your risk of STI infection. That’s the whole “safer sex” part of the workshop name. The idea behind that workshop, and others, is that talking about sex demystifies it; if you have the sexual self-confidence to suggest using a vibrator with your partner (or, hell, to walk into a sex shop and just buy a vibrator for yourself), you’re going to feel more empowered to negotiate condom use, to go on birth control, to say no when you mean no, and to say yes when you mean yes. And if we can send the message that safer sex can be better sex; that it’s sexy to plan and take the necessary steps to keep yourself healthy; that safer sex isn’t a drag or an inconvenience, but something that can be worked in as pleasurable; and that the best sex is enjoyable and good for you, all the better.

But at heart, that’s the problem for MacDonald and other apologists for rape culture: If women have the ability to fully and freely say “yes,” and if we established a model of enthusiastic consent instead of just “no means no,” it would be a lot harder for men to get away with rape. It would be a lot harder to argue that there’s “gray area.” It would be a lot harder to push the idea that “date rape” is less serious than “real” rape, that women who are assaulted by acquaintances were probably teases, that what is now called “date rape” used to just be called “seduction.”

At first glance, it seems strange that MacDonald would simultaneously attack what she thinks is a hyped campus rape crisis and sex education on campuses. But it’s quite deliberate, and very telling. Anti-rape activism and sex-positive sexual health education are two sides to the same coin: They both challenge the dominant narrative that women’s bodies aren’t our own; they insist that sex is about consent and enjoyment, not violence and harm; and they attack a power structure that sees women as victims and men as predators. Anti-rape activists and sex-positive educators insist that men are not animals. Instead, men are rational human beings fully capable of listening to their partners and understanding that sex isn’t about pushing someone to do something they don’t want to; plenty of men are able to grasp the idea that sex should be entered into joyfully and enthusiastically by both partners, and that an absence of “no” isn’t enough — “yes” should be the baseline requirement. And women are not empty vessels to be fucked or not-fucked; we’re sexual actors who should absolutely have the ability to say “yes” when we want it, just like men, and should feel safe saying “no” — even if we’ve been drinking, even if we’ve slept with you before, even if we’re wearing tight jeans, even if we’re naked in bed with you. Finally, men need to feel empowered to say “no” also. As much as it’s assumed that women always have to be the brakes, it’s also assumed that men never refuse sex; and when women don’t know how to say “yes” and men don’t know how to say “no,” you’ve got an ugly scenario on your hands.

That’s what anti-rape activists, feminists, and sex-positive educators seek to fix. It’s conservatives like MacDonald who pine for a time when women kept their legs shut until men forced them open — and were then humiliated and scorned if they dared stand up for themselves.

The psychology of female rape apologists isn’t that hard to figure out. If you can tell yourself that rape survivors asked for it — that they dressed a certain way, flirted too much, drank too much, just changed their minds, or flat-out made it up — you feel safe. You don’t do those things, and so you aren’t at risk.

I’m sympathetic to the need for psychological self-protection. But not when it’s to the detriment of other women. MacDonald works for the conservative Manhattan Institute, and her view isn’t simply a personal one: It’s the standard right-wing misogynist line. And it’s part of a much broader assault on women’s rights and basic bodily autonomy.



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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Crime, Feminism, Gender, Sexual Assault and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to It’s Only a Myth if You Believe That Those Sluts Were Asking For It

  1. Pingback: Feministe » A bit more on that “one in four” statistic

  2. Kellie Bean says:

    Thanks for this post. I just published a book media anti-feminism with a chapter on the date rape debate of the late 1990’s (discussing Roiphe, Paglia, et al) and its continuing influence on discussions of rape. At least one reviewer complained that my argument was outdated, as if the issue of rape on campus were decided and no longer a problem for women. The LA Times piece you discuss demonstrates how entrenched anti-feminist voices are in the mainstream and how far they will go to sacrifice women’s safety to conservative politics.

    Again, thanks for the post and for your astute commentary.

    Kellie

  3. rskp says:

    Why do you quote MacDonald as using the word “slut” when she doesn’t? No need for hyperboles or distortions to make your points.

  4. Jill says:

    Why do you quote MacDonald as using the word “slut” when she doesn’t? No need for hyperboles or distortions to make your points.

    Where did I quote her as using the word slut?

  5. zuzu says:

    I’d say that’s a record for the literalist trolls showing up, but I’ve seen them pop up on the first comment.

    A lot of women don’t report being raped and don’t even admit to themselves that what happened was rape in large part because of attitudes like MacDonald’s. And because of this, the behavior of the rapists is unchecked.

    She seems contemptuous of the idea that those nice apple-cheeked boys in the next row could possibly be the same thing as the rapist in the bushes.

  6. Alice says:

    As a former sorority woman, I can tell you that the university I attended (private non-religiously affiliated uni in a fairly liberal metropolitan area) went out of its way to downplay anything that could have been considered sexual assault. They discouraged women from pressing charges instead convincing traumatized women that mediation was going to be better for everyone involved. Mediated incidents didn’t show up on the crime statistics for the year. So, in the four years I was an undergrad there were no sexual assaults on the campus. How’s that for messed up statistics.

  7. meggygurl says:

    As one of those “sluts” who was part of my schools sexual assault task force, I can assure you the 1 in 4 stat is pretty damn close. And the mentality I saw on college campuses! Dear god! Sometimes I would leave a class after doing my bit and want to CRY! Educated men and women thinking that rape was FUNNY. FUNNY! It was a joke to them.

  8. annejumps says:

    I’ve read a number of great responses to this godforsaken “piece” and this one might just be the best.

  9. bunny214 says:

    i wish more young women knew the definition of rape. they might actually report the damn things once and awhile..instead of feeling strangely violated the next day.. @_@

  10. meggygurl says:

    i wish more young women knew the definition of rape. they might actually report the damn things once and awhile..instead of feeling strangely violated the next day

    Knowing the definition of rape wont’ make you report it. Sometimes, knowing as much as I do about rape… I might feel LESS LIKELY to report it. Cause I know the odds of it getting to court. I know how humiliating it will be. I know they will find a way to drag out every sexual thing I have ever done from my first kiss on. Because it would put my family through hell. Because most people, like the woman who wrote this, wouldn’t believe me.

    I agree that more women should know what rape is. But we also need to take a look at the legal definitions we HAVE of rape. Cause in the state I grew up in? It was penile penetration of a vagina. Nothing else.

  11. Lorelei says:

    this reminds me of katie roiphe’s crap. infact, roiphe should probably call this plagiarism, seeing that macdonald just barely managed to not include the weird ‘I HAVE MORE THAN FOUR GIRL FRIENDS AT SCHOOL AND NONE OF *THEM* WERE RAPED!’ justification.

    i have 10 college-aged girl friends and 8 of them were raped. so what the fuck is *that* supposed to mean?

    also: even if the hyperbole of college sex ed groups encouraging recreational sex whenever possible were true, i don’t see what it proves. they’d be encouraging consensual, fun sex whenever possible, not encouraging men to rape women. wtf?

  12. exholt says:

    I will admit that I was one of those slutty, slutty co-eds who actually gave “Sex Toys for Safer Sex” workshops, among others that would certainly send MacDonald into a tizzy.

    Though my campus in general was very open to workshops such as “Sex Toys for Safer Sex”, most of the residents (Large numbers of international students from Asia.) in my dorm weren’t too thrilled and saw that as another manifestation of “American/Western excessive obsession about sex”. When I attended out of curiosity, I found I was one of only three residents…including the RA in attendance. Ironically, one of the two persons in attendance happened to be a staunch religious conservative who was against this, but attended anyways…though she did show her stern disapproval throughout.

    As for rape awareness, not only did my college give an admittedly perfunctory workshop on rape and consent, my dorm reinforced them by having mandatory workshops about orientalism and exoticism in the context of romantic relationships. One was for every resident…and the other was specifically for non-Asian/Asian-Americans who were strongly put on notice that anyone who manifests any exoticising or orientalizing behaviors will be expelled posthaste from the dorm.* Not too surprisingly, a lot of non-Asian/Asian-Americans had a lot of issues with this, especially White dudes who were hoping to enter the dorm to get themselves an “Asian girlfriend”.

    * From what I’ve heard from upper-class residents, this has been a serious problem for years.

  13. Jill says:

    I’ve read a number of great responses to this godforsaken “piece” and this one might just be the best.

    Aww, thanks! :-)

  14. Pingback: Amazing bloggers united to take down offensive, ignorant remarks

  15. Wisteria says:

    I am appalled that this piece of right-wing propaganda made it into the LA Times in the first place. The response,written by SAFER’s Nora Niedzielski-Eichner, does an excellent job at exposing how the tired rape denialism argument has been repackaged over and over again by the same set of “culture war”-fueling right-wing institutions and, specifically, MacDonald’s connections to these institutions.

    Not only is this denialism argument old and discredited, it is part of a larger effort by right-wing organizations such as the Manhattan Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the Independent Women’s Forum to delegitimize and combat feminist successes on campuses nationwide, particularly the rise of women’s/gender studies departments, rape crisis centers, and other anti-violence programming. This is a longstanding strategy bankrolled by the top right-wing foundations (Scaife, Olin and Bradley, among others) and implemented, in large part, through a great deal of media savvy and a suspect ability to place even the most discredited propaganda in the pages of respected news publications.

    Even the most minor of fact-checking endeavors would reveal MacDonald’s op-ed as not only dated, unoriginal and a complete rehash of numerous past efforts bankrolled by the same institutions, but also one that has been torn apart time and time again in a wide variety of forums. The Times owes its readers an explanation of how it is that think tanks such as the Manhattan Institute, with their old, discredited propaganda, have such access to their op-ed pages.

    Check out the united bloggers’ responses to this disgusting distortion.

  16. Dana says:

    I was an RA at my college a couple years ago and despite the high number of people I caught doing drugs, the college never reported them because it tended to “deal” with the offenders on its own. That way, our college wouldn’t look worse than it was.

    Does that mean there were less drug users at my college? No. Nor should a lack of reported rapes mean there are less rape victims.

    On a very personal note, I’ve been sexually assaulted (not to the extent of actually having intercourse, but further than I felt comfortable) and I didn’t report it. Why? Well, one, I was young, naive, unaware that it was something I could report, and I didn’t want to abuse relationships with other people connected to this person.

    But I think beyond that, I don’t want the label of “rape victim” or “sexual assault victim” slapped on my forehead. I don’t want to stand in court and recount my experience and repeat how I wasn’t wearing revealing clothing or acting alluring. I don’t want to have to prove my body has been violated.

    But that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

    Anyway, that’s all just to say, people like her who try to downplay sexual abuse and rape just because it hasn’t been “reported” should be taken out and beaten. Ugh.

  17. chad says:

    comparing the rates of victimization for a particular crime in a particular subset of the population to the victimization of the general population, and then using the huge disparity as evidence that specific victimization doesn’t exist, is ridiculous. The huge disparity is the whole point.

    I don’t think that she is using the disparity as evidence that the specific victimization does not exist. Rather, she is using the putative fact that people don’t react to the disparity as you would expect them to as evidence that nobody, including her political opponents, really believes that there is specific victimization. She’s then making the further inference that, if nobody really believes it, then it isn’t true.

    This argument is not very persuasive. But it is a little better than the one Jill was sticking her with.

  18. SarahMC says:

    Chad, WE are reacting to it!! Feminists! But people like her can just discount us as “feminazis” and pretend we don’t count.

  19. chad says:

    Right, SarahMC, that is why I said “putative fact” rather than fact.

  20. SarahMC says:

    Oh, sorry. I am just expressing my dismay and frustration and wronly directing it at you.

  21. Sarah J says:

    But at heart, that’s the problem for MacDonald and other apologists for rape culture: If women have the ability to fully and freely say “yes,” and if we established a model of enthusiastic consent instead of just “no means no,” it would be a lot harder for men to get away with rape. It would be a lot harder to argue that there’s “gray area.” It would be a lot harder to push the idea that “date rape” is less serious than “real” rape, that women who are assaulted by acquaintances were probably teases, that what is now called “date rape” used to just be called “seduction.”

    Very well put. I am constantly amazed at the idea that women being sexual encourages rape. My comfort with my own sexuality and its parameters has made me so much more willing to say no, fuck off, I won’t do that, don’t touch me, get the hell away from me, in no uncertain terms. I know what I like, and it ain’t you.

  22. Thomas, TSID says:

    I have a question.

    There are plenty of stories of universities using pressure and coercion to keep woment from reporting rapes. And it is conventional wisdom that universities do this, as a pattern, to prevent the creation of a statistic that they have to (under federal law) report. But …
    does anyone have a line on actual evidence that this is a policy? Is there a memo or piece of paper anywhere, or was there ever a meeting, when an administrator said, in substance, “it’s our policy to try to keep these rape victims from reporting because we don’t want to admit that there are rapes here”?

    (Those of you who know what I do, know why I ask.)

  23. Cara says:

    Is there a memo or piece of paper anywhere, or was there ever a meeting, when an administrator said, in substance, “it’s our policy to try to keep these rape victims from reporting because we don’t want to admit that there are rapes here”?

    I have yet to run across a school that stupid, but I find the anecdotal evidence to be more than enough. The closest I’ve seen is a case like this where the school admits that they won’t issue a public safety alert over a rape on campus if the victim knew her assailant. My best suggestion would be to contact the women who run the SAFER blog (Wisteria links to it above). If anyone has that kind of evidence, it would be them. But I still find it hard to believe that a school could actually be so arrogant and stupid as to put such a thing in writing.

    And I have no idea what you do, but now I am kind of curious.

  24. zuzu says:

    But …
    does anyone have a line on actual evidence that this is a policy? Is there a memo or piece of paper anywhere, or was there ever a meeting, when an administrator said, in substance, “it’s our policy to try to keep these rape victims from reporting because we don’t want to admit that there are rapes here”?

    It doesn’t always have to be a written policy. That just makes proving the existence of one easier.

  25. Jamie says:

    Frankly, I’m just sick of the idea that women ask for it, that all the blame is put on women, and even though I should know better, it sickens me a bit more that another woman is saying this.

    I know there is no such thing as a hive vagina, but… I just kinda thought, naively so, that there are some things that are universal, that we can all agree on, and that women “asking for it” in how they dress or whatever is a myth, and that when someone says no, they don’t mean yes.

    Ugh, gods, it’s just frustrating to read this kind of thing, but to analysis it and poke all the holes of it without cursing your head off? Jill, you’ve a damned more patience and intelligence than myself and many people I know to do that.

  26. Pingback: Question: What Do We Stand To Gain? « A Secret Chord

  27. Rika says:

    Actually, there have been several reported instances (three I think?) on my college campus this academic year of the rare, but stereotypical “stranger jumping out of the bushes” sexual assault (actually, in one case it was being pulled out of your car while stopped at a stop light – disturbing…). So it makes me wonder how many people must be getting “date raped” and it goes unreported.

  28. Olivia Goyenechea says:

    I still think it’s important to look at the definition of statutory rape and the intentions of the girls as well. In many places, it is considered rape if the man has sex with the woman after she’s only had one drink. By that standard, I’ve been raped hundreds of times! Yet that glass of wine didn’t make me black out so that the guy could take advantage of me — all it did was add to the rape statistic. even though I had every intention from the beginning of sleeping with him.

    When was the last time you were in college? A lot of girls nowadays really do go out to get trashed and hook up with guys. It’s a horrible psychological thing — that these girls think they have to party hard and get trashed in order to have sex. But there are MANY who do think that way and leave the dorm with every intention of hooking up. I’ve known many girls as well who follow this pattern, and once they’ve hooked up with the guy drunk, they’ll start hooking up with him regularly but sober, as if they need the alcohol to take that first step.

    I wouldn’t call that rape, but according to the law and according to those statistics, it is.

  29. Jill says:

    I wouldn’t call that rape, but according to the law and according to those statistics, it is.

    Uh, no. Get your facts straight first, then comment.

    You obviously don’t understand the law on rape, and you obviously haven’t read the study in question.

    I still think it’s important to look at the definition of statutory rape and the intentions of the girls as well.

    No one here is talking about statutory rape.

    In many places, it is considered rape if the man has sex with the woman after she’s only had one drink.

    Again, no. Can you name one place where having sex after a single drink is automatically rape?

  30. SarahMC says:

    As far as I know, there aren’t many women out there who have perfectly consentual sex after one drink and then in retrospect think, “Hey; I had a drink before we hooked up. That means it was rape! I’m calling the police!”
    To even bring this up is disingenuous.

  31. Astraea says:

    In several states that mention alcohol, they require more than just the consumption of alcohol. Alcohol (or drugs) have to be used for the purpose of reducing the ability to consent. Not exactly easy to prove in court.

  32. Marissa says:

    So, I have a random thought. Do you think it would be a positive idea for us to push for a change in the law so that universities did not have to report the number of rapes? I am guessing off hand the numbers of rapes are all about the same, the same meaning astronomical, and then maybe just maybe there would be a little less hounding of rape victims by universities.

    This is a pretty fucked up question to be posing and its rather sad I think it has come to the point where this kind of compromise might make it just A SMIDGEN easier for rape victims.

  33. Daisy says:

    Very well put. I am constantly amazed at the idea that women being sexual encourages rape.

    Sarah, me too… especially since I grew up with the opposite stereotype: if we’d all just put out more, men wouldn’t have to rape.

    The rape apologists just keep changing the rules of the game to fit their, um, “facts.”

  34. Olivia Goyenechea says:

    Jill — Many universities all over the country have a policy about drinking with regards to this. A quick google search (I can’t think of the right terms to search for), yield at least this result: http://media.www.vermontcynic.com/media/storage/paper308/news/2006/09/26/Opinion/One-Drink.Rape-2308786.shtml

    But maybe we can bring this down to sexual assault rather than rape. She had one drink? It can be called sexual assault under university policies, and the guy can be charged with that. OK, I had one drink, and while I’m not going to go call the police and yell RAPE! or SEXUAL ASSAULT! that’s how it will be classified statistically regardless because it fell under that descriptor.

  35. EG says:

    that’s how it will be classified statistically regardless because it fell under that descriptor.

    No, it won’t. It wouldn’t show up on any statistics unless someone reports it as rape.

  36. abyss2hope says:

    The rhetorical device of dismissing actions which met the legal standard for sexual assault but which the woman didn’t label as rape reminds me of the men who call women who report rape liars because they hope those women weren’t raped. In this twisted worldview anyone who believed a woman’s report before a conviction becomes pro-rape because they hope this woman was raped.

    This idea that MacDonald puts forth that she respects those women who self-identify as rape survivors can be disproven by her own words. In the original article published in the City Journal, MacDonald makes the claim that “the rate of false reports is at least 9 percent and probably closer to 50 percent.”

    That is in no way respectful of those who self-identify as having experienced rape. Her “respect” for those who identify themselves as rape victims or rape survivors predictably comes and goes in lock step with her efforts to reduce the number of those who are counted as “real” rape victims.

  37. graduatecheese says:

    Olivia, Did you even read your “one drink” article or just the headline.

    The article itself reads that UVM’s policy is

    “A person who is rendered temporarily or permanently incapable of making decisions for any reason or is otherwise unable to give clear consent. This may be caused by, but is not limited to, administration or use of alcohol or other drugs.

    That doesn’t sound like “one drink” to me.

  38. Millie says:

    This is such a fantastic response to MacDonald’s article; thank you for writing it!

    My university has never had any workshops aimed at promoting sexual health/confidence in the young women on campus, but three of my friends and I are currently in the process of organising some in the under-grad residences at our school. (Four of us, and one of us was raped on campus the first time she got drunk on campus her first year, before school had even started.) I was wondering if anyone who had done similar things with university students before had any advice for us? We’ve taught sex-ed to middle and (younger) high schoolers before, but this is out first time talking about sex with older students.

  39. Dana says:

    Millie — I’m graduating from college this year and I still feel uninformed about rape. Besides RA training, I have never discussed rape with any of my teachers, other RAs, security or dorm staff.

    I couldn’t even define sexual assault until last year. Despite “just say no” conversations, I never really knew how to back out of an uncomfortable situation. I’m socially awkward and not very well spoken, so it has been especially hard.

    What I think would be helpful is a comprehensive, at least bi-annual or per semester chat with all the residents of a campus, both male and female, with time for each to be in gendered groups. I’d promote more frequent sessions (people need reinforcement) but I can’t guarantee attendence. At least at my college, students are pretty flaky when it comes to attending important things.

    I think it’s important to stage mock situations and give both the male and female gender-related cues on how to back out of situations of all kinds — especially with those involving family members and friends.
    Definitions and explanations of what constitutes rape and what is sexual assault and so on should be clearly talked about. No one should have to wonder “Was I raped? Was I sexually assaulted?” For the men in the group, let them know exactly what’s acceptable and what’s not. Inform them of the consequences of their actions. Also, let them know that men get raped too and it’s not okay either.
    There should be discussions of supporting people who say they’ve been sexually assaulted and supporting friends who may be in uncomfortable situations (How/When to Leave the Party 101). There’s nothing worse than feeling like no one believes what happened, or that it’s your fault.
    Inform students what will happen after the rape — who to tell, what going to the police department will be like, what will happen in court, and so on. Enforce that it may be scary, but by doing so, they are helping to stop that person from assaulting another victim.
    For loners like myself, someone who is always available to talk to is ESSENTIAL. Whether that’s a counselor, a security guard, an RA, or someone who they can trust to look out for them and care for them when they’re in a scary situation, or maybe one where they’re just not sure about.
    Lastly, sex should be shown in a positive light — when both people say yes.

    (Also, sorry if this wasn’t what you were asking for, but I just started thinking off the top of my head what would have helped me and what I want more information about.)

  40. Thomas, TSID says:

    Olivia, there is no law or university policy anywhere that vitiates consent, wihtout more, based on a single drink.

    You can’t cite one, because there isn’t one.

    Why are you basing your argument on something that does not exist?

  41. MsFeasance says:

    I’m a law student at a southern university, and the day we went over rape in my criminal law class, I was appalled. I’d gone through the case we were going over (609 A.2d 1338) with a fine-toothed comb, picking out all the times that the victim said “No,” and meant no. The court felt that, because the victim didn’t protest loudly enough, and because she had voluntarily come into the room of her rapist (because he was an acquaintance), EVEN THOUGH SHE SAID NO MORE THAN 13 TIMES, the girl was asking for it because “she had a reputation for promiscuity.”
    What. The. Hell.

    Then, to top it off, my highly respected female crim law professor, who had spent the entire period telling us that “saying no isn’t enough” said that she ROUTINELY talks girls out of pressing rape charges who might have been drunk at the time of their assaults. I was devastated.

  42. SKM says:

    I think it’s important to stage mock situations and give both the male and female gender-related cues on how to back out of situations of all kinds — especially with those involving family members and friends

    I was a sexual assault peer educator at Brown U. a few years afterthe Rock Library Rape List controversy, and acting out scenarios was a big part of our education program, along with spelling out state laws and informing students of the penalties for sexual assault. There was an emphasis on men’s understanding, men’s behavior, and affirmative consent. Also, students gave sexual pleasure seminars to emphasize *good sex* which by definition is consensual. Yes, there was still a big rape problem, but at least we were trying to address the behavior of rape, not just telling women to “stay out of risky situations”.

    Maybe that was one brief bright moment brought on by men’s realization that they did NOT want to end up on that rape list. Yes, women were shamed for protesting, but it had an effect. Perhaps Brown has returned to a blame-the-woman model; I don’t know. Anyone out there remember this differently, or anyone out there at Brown now?

  43. meggygurl says:

    Millie-

    I was part of my university’s sexual assault prevention group, and I learned some key things that can help you talk to 18-22 year olds about sex and rape.

    The first thing you need to do is start off by getting everyone relaxed about talking about sex. Lecturing them does not work. we use to start with a ice-breaker. We handed out “sex related words” like orgasm, vagina, penis, HIV, rape, etc. Then each person had to make a sentence with that word. It works better in smaller groups, I think we had about 20 words in total. One of the presenters always went first to break the tension. Like “I really enjoy masturbating!” Because if you can’t say the words, you can’t have an honest talk about sex.

    We spent some time defining rape, and looking at situations and deciding what rape really was. We also “created a rapist.” We had the audience tell us things like race, age, place, etc of both the rapist and the victim. And then we told them that the person they just created was not what a rapist/victim always looked like. It looked like their mother/sister/brother. We emphasized the fact that men could be raped.

    I was with the group for 4 years and learned a lot. I wish I could go back sometimes and help fix a few things that we did that I now see were outdated and not as useful as we thought at the time. But alas… what are you going to do. We were a small group.

    Also, there is a due that tours the country talking about sex and rape. They were amazing! And god I don’t remember what their thing was called! Ahhh! They came to our school 2 or 3 times, and they were freaking brilliant!

  44. Lorelei says:

    OLIVIA.

    you didn’t read the Mary Koss survey, did you? because this is the basis of the 1 in 4 attempted and completed rapes statistics.

    the survey went by the Ohio state rape law in 1980. it went a little something like this:

    “vaginal intercourse between male and female, and anal intercourse, fellatio, and cunnilingus between persons regardless of sex. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete vaginal or anal intercourse. . . No person shall engage in sexual conduct with another person. . .when any of the following apply: (1) the offender purposely compels the other person to submit by force or threat offeree, (2) for the purpose of preventing resistance the offender substantially impairs the other person’s judgment or control by administering any drug or intoxicant to the other person.”

    ‘substantially impaired,’ you can imagine, would need more than one drink, unless you’re a foot tall.

    the statistic comes from THAT description of rape. not by anyone else’s. not from a university. not from any other state. this is it.

  45. exholt says:

    Maybe that was one brief bright moment brought on by men’s realization that they did NOT want to end up on that rape list.

    Would someone be willing to explain how this form of protest is any different from spreading negative rumors about people?

    I ask because one of the reasons why some members of my family emigrated to this country was to escape a society where any accusation of being “Counter-Revolutionary”…..including those anonymously rendered to the local Party/Red Guard boss would get one loudly yelled at, beaten, locked up, and in too many cases…killed without any chance/forum to dispute said accusations.

  46. SKM says:

    Just to clarify, The “protesting” I was referring to in my comment was public, verbal protesting and demonstration (see the article I linked to; it mentions a student “yelling” at a dean). I remember standing in the brown bookstore reading Paglia (I think it was Vamps and Tramps) holding up Brown students as bad examples–screaming, red-faced feminazis, in contrast to the genteel, tea-drinking female students she met at Oxford. That’s the shaming I meant. I did not mean that the “rape list” was initiated as a form of protest; rather, I think it arose as a way for women to warn each other, since the administration paid little mind to sexual assault charges. A movement to improve sexual assault policy was already in swing before the list went up. Interestingly, though, it was only when *male* students began to complain (about the existence of the list) that the administration took action.

    I realize this does not answer exholt’s question; it’s just meant to clarify my original post :)

  47. Pingback: Feminism Friday: two posts from Jill at Feministe on rape myths vs statistics « Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog

  48. mythago says:

    I know they will find a way to drag out every sexual thing I have ever done from my first kiss on.

    Most states have rape-shield laws that strictly limit the she’s-a-slut defense. I’m not saying going through the legal process is a walk in the park, but survivors should not be afraid to report rape because they think the rapist’s attorney will get to ask them how often they masturbate.

    On college crime statistics, there’s a reason that there are laws (called “Clery” disclosures) requiring colleges to report details of campus crimes, and it’s not because colleges are forthcoming about this data. I’ve read materials aimed at trial lawyers who represent crime victims in civil suits. They’re very blunt about the fact that colleges are about the least safe place for young women in the US.

  49. Hector B. says:

    If women have the ability to fully and freely say “yes,” and if we established a model of enthusiastic consent instead of just “no means no,” it would be a lot harder for men to get away with rape. It would be a lot harder to argue that there’s “gray area.” It would be a lot harder to push the idea that “date rape” is less serious than “real” rape, that women who are assaulted by acquaintances were probably teases, that what is now called “date rape” used to just be called “seduction.”

    My old school’s paper did an article on this for Valentine’s Day, showing that “the absence of a ‘no’ is not the same as the presence of a ‘yes.'” Here are descriptions (the paper changed the names) of two sexual assaults committed by guys who didn’t. These were both violations of the university’s Sexual Conduct Code, and were reported to the university administration. (The article did not report the outcomes.)

    A long night at a local bar led to a scary situation for senior M S, who got more than she bargained for when she decided to stay the night at a male friend’s fraternity house in August.

    She remembers falling asleep in his bed and then waking suddenly as he joined her. He fondled her breasts and forced her hand on his genitals. When he tried to push her head below the sheets, she fled. She said she confronted her friend about the incident later, and he labeled it a “misunderstanding.”

    Eighteen-year-old T R remembers she had been doing homework in her dorm room on a Sunday night when she got a text message from a male friend. He said he wanted to hang out, so she got in her car and drove to his off-campus house.

    She recalls sitting down on his couch to watch the movie he had promised, and the startling realization that the movie was the last thing on his mind. He reached over and fondled her breasts over her shirt, and she said, “Stop.” Instead, he unzipped his pants to expose himself and climbed on top of her. She pushed him off and ran out the door.

  50. Hector B. says:

    I mean “two guys who didn’t receive a ‘yes'”. My editing failure.

  51. exholt says:

    I realize this does not answer exholt’s question; it’s just meant to clarify my original post :)

    SKM,

    Thank you for your clarification. Public protests to raise awareness and hold unresponsive university administrators are a public service.

    That bathroom list did creep me out as some of the anonymous accusations I remembered from the accounts of my Great-Aunt and her daughters along with reading from Cultural Revolution accounts were in the form of publicly posted lists of “Counter-Revolutionary” names by unknown accusers…though there is the difference that this was done with the full approval of the local party/Red Guard bosses.

    I admit I am a bit sensitive about things like anonymous accusation lists due to the same crap being perpetrated on my family during the Cultural Revolution along with its Orwellian overtones.

  52. SKM says:

    Exholt, I am with you that anonymous accusations are dangerous. I think there’s a difference, though, between deliberate smears by a group in power for the purpose of controlling a group out of power and actions taken by a disempowered group to defend itself when regular channels fail.

    Also, since there is the tendency to suspect rape survivors of lying, it is unlikely that an anonymous accusation would suddenly be taken more seriously than a formal one, and the formal ones weren’t being taken seriously (recall in the article I linked, the student who was told by Dean Inman that her rape was “a case of bad chemistry”). Men on The List did not face any investigations or disciplinary consequences, as anonymous accusations are not actionable.

    As for informal social consequences of accusations by The List–say, denial of admittance to a fraternity or sports team due to a bad reputation–I heard of no such cases. As I said before, if anyone out there who was there knows more, I’d be interested to hear.

    When I said that men did not want to end up on that list, I did not mean that it was intended as a scare tactic; rather, I think some men realized that they could actually break state law without knowing or thinking about it–at least that’s what some said in our peer education sessions–and it woke them up to the fact that the actions of a few rapists have consequences for the entire community.

  53. exholt says:

    SKM,

    I’ve never agreed with victim-blaming as that effectively leaves the perpetrator off the hook and is a way for the rest of society to abandon its responsibilities to help the victim(s) and to hold the perpetrator accountable. Then again, it is often easier to victim-blame as the hard work/thinking required is often regarded as “too much of a hassle”. Is this accurate or is there more to it?

  54. exholt says:

    Oops. Need to add the (s) after perpetrator. My apologies.

  55. SKM says:

    Then again, it is often easier to victim-blame as the hard work/thinking required is often regarded as “too much of a hassle”. Is this accurate or is there more to it?

    I think it’s more. As some others here have said, if one blames the victims, one can feel safer –just don’t do that dumb stuff the victim did and you won’t get assaulted (so the unconscious reasoning goes).

    I don’t think my comments had anything to do with victim-blaming though; if I implied any, my apologies (pretty sure I didn’t)…

  56. exholt says:

    SKM,

    I wasn’t implying your comments had anything to do with victim blaming. My apologies for the misunderstanding. Was just thinking out loud about what I felt and wondered about in general….especially when I’ve encountered people who felt victims in general were blameworthy, no matter how the situation was out of their control or random-“else why would they be victims?”

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  58. Here is a question for all of you.

    How do you define rape? What needs to be present, or not present, for rape to be valid charge?

  59. John says:

    Rape, even if you are married is defined as, if you tell them No, EVEN ONCE. Even if it’s a faint whisper of a breath. If you say NO they need to back off immedietly. It’s YOUR body, and whether you have sex or not is YOUR choice. Even if in an hour you decide “Screw it lets do it.” It’s still rape.

    My girlfriend was raped a couple months ago, her ex boyfriend snuck into her house when her parents were gone and forced himself on her, at first she told him no, and tried to push him off. When she felt him penetrate her, she froze up, she shut down and in her mind kept repeating “I can’t believe this is happening to me.”

    She didn’t report it for three months because she was friends with his girlfriend and didn’t want to lose that friendship by sending him to jail. During those three months he raped her SIX MORE TIMES. Not only that but after he was done he would tell her that if she told ANYONE he would just tell the court she’s pissed at his girlfriend because she is jealous and wants to get back at her. Not only that but he would also kill her and her family.

    Also, if you’re under the influence of alcohol it’s rape. Period. End of story consentual or not.

    Victims of rape need to know it’s not their fault. They’re not “Asking for it.” Rape isn’t about sex, it’s about control. Rapists get a rush knowing that they’re the dominant ones, the like the feeling of power they get from forcefully taking away someone’s personal security. It’s guys like that who make me ashamed to be male.

    I know this is a long post but I was raped and I have a very strong opinion on this issue. About the whole “I don’t wanna lose a friend” BS. When my friend was still a virgin at 18, he raped his girlfriend forcefully, she told me about it and said she was teasing him and just asking for it. She was crying the whole time. I told her I was going to turn him in, MY BEST FRIEND. When she brought up the fact he was my best friend I told her if he did it once with one girl he might do it again with another girl and one friend is worth the protection of many many more women. Friend or not a criminal is a criminal.

    NO MEANS NO

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  61. Kacie says:

    Also, if you’re under the influence of alcohol it’s rape. Period. End of story consentual or not.

    John–

    Just to clarify…if my boyfriend and I get drunk together, and have sex, that we both want to have (consensual) are we raping each other? Have I been raped?

    That’s not to say a boyfriend can’t rape you. I have been raped in a past relationship.
    I’m just a little confused and want clarification. That seems like a blanket statement and can’t really be applied.

  62. Rael says:

    In case anyone’s interested in reading the full text of (one of) the study in question
    rather than someone else’s excerpted quotes from it, I have posted one here:

    http://www.outersect.net/KossOrosPaper

    It’s not a difficult read – takes 10-15 minutes.

    It’s a valid & worthwhile study, but it does not point to an epidemic of
    sexual violence on college & university campuses, as so many have claimed it does.

    This misunderstanding is probably encouraged by the (intentionally?) misleading title of the study:

    Hidden Rape: A Survey of the Incidence of Sexual Aggression and Victimization on a University Campus

    .

    The survey takes place at the university …
    but the acts of sexual aggression/victimization surveyed for do not necessarily.

    The questions asked are not:
    Have you experienced (sexual aggression/victimization) since you have been at the university.

    The questions are: have you experienced (sexual aggression/victimization) ever in your life …

    The statistics will include college women who have been incested by their own families,
    women who have experienced victimization in grade school, middle school, & high school.

    So you really can’t blame it all, or even mostly, on the college boys.
    Perhaps it would be convenient if you could – they’re now adults & must be
    legally responsible for their own actions, and they are not family members
    of the victims… but that’s just not the way it really is.

    Most of these college boys have no idea where all the anger is coming from
    – and it just alienates them & turns them off. It’s not pleasant being in a
    room full of angry people even when the anger is not directed at you.

    The mystery over “why women don’t call it rape when they are raped …”
    is solved by a little reading of the statistics in the survey.

    Basically, this doesn’t happen very much – the vast majority of women who
    were raped will say they were raped (which is consistent with my personal experience.)

    About 1 in 4 women have experienced rape or attempted rape by the time they get to college
    most of them experience attempted rape, not completed rape.

    Women who have only experienced attempted rape will not call themselves rape victims.
    Simple, yes?
    Similarly, people who have experienced attempted murder don’t consider themselves murder victims.

  63. Nia says:

    madrocketscientist, rape is unwanted sex. But to define rape we need to clearly establish these two things:

    1- What is unwanted – some countries’ laws say that unwated means coerced, obtained by force. Feminists say that it means not explicitly consented to. You can use stealing as an analogy: Does it count as stealing if there was no violence involved? Even if you didn’t know that the stolen object was yours and you didn’t suffer at all from its loss?

    2- What is sex. Is it penetration in bodily orifices? is it any sort of bodily contact you wouldn’t do in front of your grandmother?

    To most feminists, the first question is answered easily. The second question is never easily answered.

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