The case of Zach Jesse – can men’s rights help women too?

Commonly, people are told that organizations that advocate for men’s rights are unnecessary because feminism, when done right, is pro-man as well as being pro-women. Since feminists are also looking out for men and advancing men’s issues, we are told, men should rally behind these organizations and let women take charge of making the world a better place for men.

The fact that this claim is demonstrably false is likely no surprise to most readers of this site. When men and boys are consistently lagging further and further behind in education, systematically denied due process rights when accused of crimes, and disproportionately targeted by policies that punish boys for being boys, the claim that feminism is helping men rings hollow indeed.

What is less obvious, though much more interesting, is that the claim may be the exact inverse of the truth. In short, it may be the case that, in certain instances, advancing the cause of men’s rights is the way to advance the cause of women as well.

Consider the recent case of Zach Jesse. To the best of my knowledge this case received very little publicity, but it perfectly illustrates the problems with the present spat of rape hysteria that has been inflicted on Americans.

Zach Jesse is a 30-year-old law-school graduate who pled guilty in 2004 to a charge of aggravated sexual battery against a fellow student at UVA (he was 18 when the incident took place). He served his sentence and entered University of Richmond law school in 2011. In his own words, he “meant to use it as a stepping stone to better myself and the community around me rather than a ball-and-chain.”

A couple months ago, he made the Top 8 of a high-profile Magic: the Gathering event in Atlantic City. While he was playing in the Top 8, which was streamed on Twitch, a few prominent members of the Magic community unearthed the fact that Jesse was a sex offender and created a firestorm out of it (read Jesse’s response to it here).

This culminated a couple weeks ago with Jesse receiving a lifetime ban from playing Magic: the Gathering from Wizards of the Coast, the manufacturer of Magic. His Magic Online account was also seized. The only statement Wizards of the Coast has made about the banning is this:

We work hard to make sure all players feel welcomed, included and safe at our events so that they can have fun playing Magic. We don’t generally comment on individuals or provide position statements in the abstract, but we take action to address player issues and community concerns when we feel it is necessary.

There has been a large, though mixed, public reaction to this happening. Some defend Wizards of the Coast’s Actions, arguing that playing Magic is a privilege, not a right, and that Hasbro, Wizards’ parent company, likely doesn’t want a convicted sex offender as one of the public faces of a game marketed to children.

Others defend Jesse’s cause, arguing that Wizards is out of line banning Jesse for an incident that happened over ten years ago and for which he has tried very hard to move past. Defenders also point out that at least one member of the Magic Hall of Fame was convicted of drug trafficking 15 years ago and has not received anything approaching this kind of treatment (in fact, by virtue of being in the Hall of Fame, he is automatically invited to all Magic Pro Tours and receives appearance fees from Wizards of the Coast for attending all sorts of Magic events).

Perhaps the most interesting comment on Jesse’s case, though, came from a Magic Judge named Tasha Jamison:

As a woman, as someone who has experienced domestic violence and sexual assault, one of the ideas that has held me back from reporting is the idea that ‘reporting would ruin [the accused]’s life.’ This makes me sick to the stomach because it reinforces that idea: here is a person who has served his time, who has complied with all requirements, who appears to me to be genuinely remorseful and committed to public service.

… and he gets what is effectively a lifetime ban from the competitive Magic community when his prior conviction came to public attention due to his strong performance.

Since he has a conviction, I hesitate to bring in the rhetoric of ‘false rape claims,’ but it’s going to hover around anyway. It seems to me that this ban *is* something that gives credibility to the idea that women have the power to ruin men’s lives through false rape claims, which reduces the credibility of anyone who accuses someone of sexual assault (even when the evidence is sufficient to satisfy a court of law), which in turn reduces the willingness of a victim to pursue any sort of formal action.

In essence, if you give women the power to ruin a man’s life, some women will be hesitant to utilize that power, even if they otherwise ought to.

What we have seen from the erosion of due process is that many women will make use of false rape claims to ‘punish’ men in their lives or to avoid taking responsibility for a problematic sexual encounter. In fact, current policies often encourage this sort of behavior by failing to hold the accuser to account for false claims.

This topic has been explored in great depth on this and other sites dealing with this issue. What we also need to see, however, is that the policies eroding due process also hurt women by making them more hesitant to report when a rape actually does take place. In short, the erosion of due process rights both makes false accusations more likely and also makes it more likely that real offenses are not reported.

It seems obvious that feminism, in arguing that due process rights be denied to men accused of rape, is actually doing a disservice to the cause of women who want to see justice served on the issue of rape. If feminism is not only failing but proving counterproductive to the ends for which it was intended, then perhaps there needs to be a new approach to this issue, strengthening rather than weakening due process rights for accused individuals and calling everyone, women as well as men, to take responsibility for their actions rather than always seeking to place blame for bad circumstances at the feet of someone else.

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