VLOGGING – Campus Rape Exaggerated?

This is the 3rd episode of Sex-Positive Gamer, where we play popular videogames whilst answering your shagging questions. Now your male friends have no excuses for not knowing their sex education (unless they were too busy with Planned Parenthood volunteering or something). Our adviser is occasional Feministe contributor Echo Zen.

After a stupidly long hiatus (entirely the fault of our editor being AWOL, because of a new job), we’re back with a new episode – and this time it’s a topic from the headlines. Now that campus rape in the U.S. is finally getting the attention it deserves from media and federal investigators, the usual pro-rape lobbyists are stepping up their efforts to stop the oh-so-ghastly spectre of rape prevention, claiming that campus rape is way overblown by feminist propaganda


Welcome to the third episode of Sex-Positive Gamer.

Today your favourite sex educators are playing Portal 2, whilst answering your questions.

So, whilst we were teleporting our way through life’s problems…

…we actually got a question on a topic involving violence.

The question was whether President Obama is making too big a deal out of campus rape.

Here’s the email we got.

“Hey, you’re into politics, right?”

“You may remember some time ago, the White House released a major report on college rape.”

“The report claims rape is pretty common.”

“But I also see websites attacking the report as biased, fraudulent pap.”

“I figure they just hate Obama, but has anyone found good reason to question the report?”

Okay, in April 2014, the White House issued a report on new efforts to combat campus rape.

Notably, the report claims 1 in 5 college women experiences assault in university.

Now, those aren’t random numbers.

The Centers for Disease Control reported virtually the same numbers, in its own study on sexual violence.

The numbers in the White House report are from that study.

These numbers aren’t new to violence researchers either.

The report simply reaffirms what’s already common knowledge amongst researchers.

However, not everyone agrees.

When the report came out, conservatives condemned the White House…

…for allegedly making too big a deal out of campus rape.

In question is the White House’s claim, that 1 in 5 college women experiences assault.

Since these numbers are backed by the CDC’s own study, it’s become a target for conservative attack.

Notably the American Enterprise Institute, a prominent lobbying group in Washington…

…claims that study is “fraudulent”, and also “these numbers were fudged” by the CDC.

Other conservative websites also claim the CDC study is “ridiculous”, “bizarre and wholly false”.

So, is that CDC study fraudulent?

The main argument from conservatives is that, whereas other studies ask people if they’ve been raped…

…the CDC asks people if they’ve experienced forcible sex, AKA rape without using the word “rape”.

To conservatives, rape doesn’t count unless a person officially calls it rape.

However, this is bollocks, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

After AEI claimed fraud by the CDC, the NSVRC issued a response…

…pointing out why the CDC’s method is actually more accurate, not less.

Crucially, the CDC’s method avoids asking rape victims to label themselves as rape victims…

…since many victims, for numerous reasons, would rather not identify as having being raped.

Studies on violence are more accurate when asking about behaviour to see if rape occurred…

…rather than forcing victims to call themselves victims.

Studies by the National Institute of Justice and National Institute of Mental Health…

…also find 1 in 5 college women experiences assault, so clearly the CDC’s numbers aren’t flukes.

Conservatives aren’t always wrong when it comes to facts, but in this case…

…the critics are factually challenged.

Well, we’re hoping you got your answer, because we’re almost out of footage from today’s puzzle.

If you have other questions, post a comment on Feministe or message our Tumblr.

Also let us know if you want us to play other feminist games besides Portal.

Till next time…


Behind the scenes, we’re planning 4 more episodes by October, which will conclude this season of vlogging. (After that, we’re taking a break to work on a gun violence project, but that’s another story.) In the interest of wrapping up this season ASAP, we’ve already locked down topics for the next and final 4 episodes…

– Girl gamer visibility
– Rape culture in gaming
– Female videogame characters
– Sexism in the gaming industry

Today’s episode is a transition point. After this, we’re fully embracing the gaming aspect of this series and focusing on sex(ism) in gaming, something we couldn’t do before because of academic reasons (which have since been resolved).

Another change is the switch from playing “Call of Duty” to more feminist titles like “Portal 2”, frankly more palatable to our tastes than glorifying jingoism by shooting brown people and foreigners. We also took steps behind the scenes to speed up our episode schedule, by using Fat Steve’s method of processing voice recordings. (Thanks, Steve!)

We’re plugging away at the final 4 episodes in another room as we type this, so there’s not much more we can say… besides thanking everyone for tolerating the oddities we’ve posted to Feministe over several months. If you think this entire series has been stupid… well, hey, at least we’re wrapping up in October.

Till next time, farewell!

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27 comments for “VLOGGING – Campus Rape Exaggerated?

  1. aveskde
    August 19, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    the head of a giraffe against a bright blue sky: its mouth is pursed sideways[Content Note (added by mods) - semantic quibbling about sexual coercion and violence]

    When you call your opposition “pro-rape” you cause a lot of us to tune you out. No one is “pro-rape.” That’s just a way to vilify people and not actually address what they said in a rational manner.

    For example, the argument that “forcible sex” is not the same as “rape” is a defensible position, whether or not it is right.

    Off the top of my head, I can imagine people answering in the affirmative to “forcible sex” if they felt pressured into having sex. How many of us have had a moment when our partners wanted to have sex, but we weren’t in the mood, but did it anyway? Well, that’s “forcible sex.” It isn’t rape, however. Rape is predatory and violent.

    Assault is similarly vague, in that it doesn’t have to be sexual. I could answer “Yes, I have been assaulted” but that would refer to bullying, not sex.

    Conservatives get irritated at so-called “feminist propaganda” because they perceive feminists as using facts (or numbers) in disingenuous ways to promote their ideology.

    • Angel H.
      August 19, 2014 at 3:35 pm

      We need a giraffe here.

      …And tell her to bring some Troll-B-Gone!

      [Thank you for sending a giraffe alert ~ Mods]

      • August 19, 2014 at 5:36 pm

        I’ve reviewed aveskde’s commenting history and nearly all of it is semantic quibbling or concern-splaining. Took me right back to the heady days of alt.syntax.tactical, and that’s not a good thing.

        I don’t want aveskde to be the first commentor on a post here ever again, because having a first comment be so carping tends to set a “chilling effect” tone for the rest of the thread, so xe is now in permamod. Aveskde – your comments will still be considered for publication here, but if your comment is one of the first three comments submitted to any thread it will probably be rejected, unless you change your quibbling ways. Wait until others have had a chance to respond before starting to expressing your concerns in future.

        Note to other commentors – commentors with a more balanced commenting history remain welcome to submit a critical comment as the first comment in any thread, should the need be perceived.

    • August 19, 2014 at 5:50 pm

      CW: rape apologia

      Off the top of my head, I can imagine people answering in the affirmative to “forcible sex” if they felt pressured into having sex. How many of us have had a moment when our partners wanted to have sex, but we weren’t in the mood, but did it anyway? Well, that’s “forcible sex.” It isn’t rape, however. Rape is predatory and violent.

      No one uses “forcible sex” to describe that kind of situation. In any case, being pressured to have sex against your will is rape. And if you think otherwise, you are pro-rape. That may not be your intent, but your intent doesn’t matter here. In any case, you clearly didn’t read the screening questions for the CDC study (which doesn’t use the term “forcible sex”, BTW), so your argument is devoid of any substance.

    • Echo Zen
      August 21, 2014 at 12:55 pm

      Wow, the comments sure escalated quickly.

    • Lumina
      August 30, 2014 at 2:31 am

      What the eff? Sounds too much like Richard Dawkins.

  2. Andrew
    August 20, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    I enjoy the VLog series and look forward to future episodes. I did want to ask if Sarkeesian’s work is being taken into consideration to prevent duplication of topics.

    • Echo Zen
      August 21, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      That would be a logical assumption! But we didn’t look at Feminist Frequency before deciding our final episodes. Whilst Sarkeesian might cover the same topics as we do, our methods are way different — she does case studies of individual games, and we present hard data to demonstrate sexism in gaming generally. The way we assembled facts and numbers in the above episode on campus rape will be the style of the final few episodes.

      I like how Sarkeesian shows footage from individual games she talks about in her episodes. I’d like to do the same, but frankly we don’t have the budget for 50 games, so we just show generic game footage in the background. This whole vlog project has been a weird experience, characterised by compromises with professors over what we talk about and how we present it. I just want the project to feel more cohesive as we sprint for the finish line.

  3. Jason
    August 27, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    The data on campus rape is reliable, but take a look at these statistics. These are the numbers researchers get when they use the same surveys on male respondents that were developed for use for female respondents.

    Note the introduction. It *also* quotes CDC figures as the source, CDC’s 2010 study found that male and female sexual aggression was equal in the year on the study. If you accept the CDC male->female victimization numbers but reject the same CDC study’s female->male victimization numbers, you need a damn good reason for excluding half the findings, other then not fitting some pre-defined narrative you want to tell.

    Take a quick look, and consider how you’d feel about those numbers if you gender-flipped the perpetrators and victims. Pretty much any time they use these types of survey in a gender-neutral way it shows that male and female perpetrators are not that different.

    • EG
      August 27, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      So do a vlog or something. Organize around the issue. Put together support groups and shelters. Nobody’s stopping you. Why is this our responsibility? Are men incapable of looking after their own, the way women have had to?

      • Jason
        August 28, 2014 at 1:47 am

        > Why is this our responsibility?

        “I’ve never raped anyone so rape isn’t my responsibility”. This doesn’t work for men as a response. I’m not the guy who did it, does that give me a similar claim that it’s in no way my responsibility to do anything about campus rape?

        > Are men incapable of looking after their own

        This sounds like victim blaming. How would you be if someone used that line that women should look out for each other as the primary means of reducing sexual assault by males? That would be blatant victim-blaming, and not acceptable.

    • EG
      August 27, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      Further, I’d like to know how you explain away the discrepancy in lifetime stats that same CDC study shows.

      • Jason
        August 28, 2014 at 1:54 am

        Lifetime prevalence deals with people of all ages. Things were a lot worse for women of previous generations. Plus, older men are much less willing to confide with anyone about their problems. Men in general are much less likely to divulge to anyone about Intimate Partner Violence than women (this is in the CDC report), and older generations of men are notably less likely to divulge.

        But we’re specifically talking about the current generation when we say “campus” rape. Attitudes in the current generation are better reflected in the 12 months incidents than lifetime. Quite a few gender norms and behaviors have converged in the modern day.

    • TimmyTwinkles
      August 27, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      No, it’s pretty damn different. Here’s a quote from the article you link to (and one i heartily agree with):

      It seems apparent (and I choose those words with care) that whatever the incidence of female sexual assault of adult males, our society is not teeming with men who have been seriously psychologically and emotionally damaged by experience of female abuse and assault.

      I’ve been the “victim” of unwanted sexual contact from females (quite a few times over the years), and while it was annoying, the very thought of equivocating it with a woman being sexually assaulted turns my stomach.

      • Jason
        August 28, 2014 at 12:58 am

        That’s exactly the point. It’s a straw man to say that we’re *always* comparing violent assault here with mere annoying behavior. The campus rape statistics pick up plenty of mere annoyance on both sides as part of the statistics.

        But you’re reading the data for female->male as “annoyance” and the data for male->female as violent assault. I don’t see where the data indicates that this differentiate interpretation is warranted.

      • Jason
        August 28, 2014 at 1:09 am

        One example is using alcohol to try and get sex. If a campus male does that, it’s rape, agreed? Drunken “consent” is not considered “consent”. And this is reflected in the statistics.

        So, why is a woman getting a man drunk with the intention of getting him to “consent” not considered rape?

      • Lolagirl
        August 28, 2014 at 12:11 pm

        Talk about a straw man argument. Nobody is saying it isn’t rape if it’s a drunk guy not giving consent to sex with a female partner. At least not here. FFS, this discussion has been hashed out at Feministe plenty of times. You’re going to have a difficult time finding anybody other than a troll arguing here that men can’t equally be considered rape victims if a woman gets sex out of them via alcohol or other intoxicants.

  4. a lawyer
    August 27, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    The objections to the studies–and I have read a lot of them–are rooted in the fact that the studies; schools; criminal system; society; and students tend to use very different definitions of what “rape” means.

    And that is BEFORE the reporting starts.

    Read an article and you’ll be sure that the report, and the “1 in 5” number, is on “campus RAPE.”

    And that’s understandable. rape is a punchy word. It’s probably part of why the title of this post is “is campus rape exaggerated,” not “did the CDC study properly account for issues regarding post-hoc reconsideration of consent in the context of attempted assault” or whatever.

    So most people who don’t read the CDC study–which is almost everyone except for a few folks–think that “1 in 5 college women are raped,” by which they mean whatever definition they personally apply to “rape.”

    And then they think that “1 in 5 college aged women can’t REALLY be raped,” so then they toss the whole thing aside.

    But of course that is just a communications problem.

    The “1 in 5” is actually describing the 19% who are “victims of attempted or completed sexual assault of any type after entering college.” (see section 5-1 of the report, at https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/221153.pdf)

    Of those victims, 11.1% reported “completed sexual assault of any type after entering college.”

    Of those, 4.7% were “physically forced sexual assault,” which is, unfortunately, probably the closest analog to what Joe Public thinks of as “rape.” Which is more like “1 in 20” and which is why they instantly discard the “1 in 5” number as bollocks. (And if you want to get technical about it, 3.4% or “1 in 33” were actually classified by the researchers as “physically forced rape,” though honestly I don’t recall how they defined the difference.)

    Of course, they also found a ton of incidents relating to alcohol, in which something like 81% of them were things that which the victim chose to start drinking/smoking/whatever. Which, again, unfortunately does not match what Joe Public thinks of as “rape.”

    That is why I think it’s more of a semantics issue. It’s not that the study is wrong; it’s that people are talking about entirely different things when they say “rape.”

    • Donna L
      August 27, 2014 at 6:40 pm

      something like 81% of them were things that which the victim chose to start drinking/smoking/whatever. Which, again, unfortunately does not match what Joe Public thinks of as “rape.”

      So Joe Public thinks that women who have consumed alcohol or smoked pot are unrapeable? I’m dubious, but if it’s true, so what? Is that your opinion too?

      • a_lawyer
        August 27, 2014 at 8:42 pm

        Of course not. I thought that the “unfortunately” modifier would make that clear.

      • a lawyer
        August 28, 2014 at 9:47 am

        As for the “so what:”

        If the goal is to create new public policy, then it should be based on (a) accurate data; (b) presented in a way that people understand; (c) in a manner that enhances the accuracy of their understanding.

        So far we are only doing (a). Possibly (b.) Not (c), at least not very well.

        It’s unquestionable that the motivations of some opponents are poor (to put it mildly,) but IMO feminists are not always 100% striving for “accuracy of understanding” when they talk about the issue.

        Out of curiosity:
        1) How many people do you know that can tell you the rape statistics? Who use the “1 in 5” statistic?
        2) Of those people, how many of them have actually read the entire study; understood what the numbers refer to; and understood the benefits and limitations of that data?

        I think #1 is a tiny fraction of #2. Generally speaking I think that’s a bad thing, because inaccuracy and misunderstanding are bad.

    • Jason
      August 28, 2014 at 2:06 am

      For the 4.7% and 3.4% difference, i think that “rape” in that specific context is defined as vaginal penetration with a penis.

      “Sexual assault” can mean a wider range of forcible sexual acts which do not necessarily mean penis-in-vagina. Those things still legally and morally count as “rape”, but they’re not the “technical” rape.

      • Lolagirl
        August 28, 2014 at 12:19 pm

        Nope, wrong again.

        Most rape/sexual assault statutes here in the the U.S. include a sufficiently broad definition to include any sexual penetration of the victim by the offender. So it most certainly is NOT limited to p in the v.

        Here’s a link to the series of sexual assault statutes in Illinois that pertain to sexual assault which illustrates my point. Skip down to Section 11-1.2 and read on.

        Bottom line Jason, you don’t appear to be arguing in good faith with your straw man arguments and misstatements of the law and obfuscation of the point at hand.

      • EG
        August 28, 2014 at 12:40 pm

        Lolagirl, you’re back! How are you? I’ve missed you! I remember you were going through some hard times for a while. Probably best if you answer in Spillover, I guess. I’m just posting here because I think you’re more likely to see it.

      • Lolagirl
        August 28, 2014 at 7:43 pm

        Hi EG! I’ve missed you too!

        I miss the old days of impassioned debate and discussion here. This particular topic is always guaranteed to bring some interesting convos, although methinks Jason is trolling with what he’s brought to the table thus far.

      • a lawyer
        August 28, 2014 at 1:21 pm

        For the 4.7% and 3.4% difference, i think that “rape” in that specific context is defined as vaginal penetration with a penis.

        I linked to the study: either you don’t know (which I don’t) or you have read the study and you do know. But there isn’t much point in guessing.

        “Sexual assault” can mean a wider range of forcible sexual acts which do not necessarily mean penis-in-vagina.

        Depending who you are talking to, “sexual assault” can mean a huge range of things.

        This is precisely the issue that I am talking about. It doesn’t matter what YOU think “sexual assault” means, much less what it can mean.

        The study is what it is. It defined sexual assault in a particular way which the researchers chose, about which they are quite clear. If you’re going to look at the study and make conclusions, you should know what the study is studying.

        Those things still legally and morally count as “rape”, but they’re not the “technical” rape.

        Where do you get this idea?

        It is quite possibly the case–though I don’t know at all–that there are some things which might be classified “sexual assault” in the study that are not classified as “sexual assault” by at least one state. It’s also possible that some things are under-classified in terms of seriousness.

        But IIRC the researchers were under the opinion that their grouping was a reasonably accurate analogue for criminal conduct.

        Have you read the study?

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