In a recent edition of the Post, there is a very thoughtful and serious discussion of whether the phenomena of “rape culture” even exists. It will no doubt receive the usual stream of invective — accusations of trivializing rape, denying that sexual assaults occur, implying that women who drank too much deserved to be raped. Hardly real criticisms in any intellectual sense, but they will come.
These critics — that seems almost too kind a descriptor for them, but alas — don’t seem to understand that a denial of rape culture is not a denial that rape exists or an expression of indifference to the pain it causes its victims. The world is imperfect. Bad or disturbed people commit crimes, including rape; good, well-adjusted people don’t. My heart breaks for children killed by their guardians, and in a perfect world none ever would be, but even 100 children dead at the hands of their parents does not make Canada a child-killing culture, or anyone who’d say so a child-murder denier.
Indeed, the more closely one follows the increasingly hysterical volleys of rhetorical fire back and forth on this issue, the more apparent it becomes that those who speak of a rape culture don’t understand what the word “culture” actually means. To result in a “culture,” a phenomenon must be widely accepted as the norm. It is culturally normal in some countries for women to be virtual chattels, governed by patriarchal standards of honour; to be married against their will; to meet blame from their kinsmen and indifference or even hostility at law enforcement and court levels when reporting sexual assault; to be shunned as unmarriageable — or worse — for the “shame” of having been raped, and so forth. There we can legitimately speak of a “rape culture.”
Here, where women are socially and legally equal to men, official sympathy for rape victims at every institutional level has created a climate so overwhelmingly sympathetic to female victims of sexual abuse that the emerging cultural danger is injustice to falsely alleged perpetrators. We are gripped by a baseless, but pandemic, moral panic in which significant collateral damage is beginning to pile up.
Moral panic fuelled by ideology and righteous indignation quickly corrodes the critical faculties and blinds even otherwise intelligent people to objective facts. The numbers on campus rape don’t even come close to the famous “one in four” [women on campus are victims of rape or attempted rape], even taking into consideration unreported rates (i.e. multiplying reported rapes by 10, or even 100).
Where did that figure come from anyway? From bowdlerized research.
It began in1982, when Mary Koss, then a professor of psychology at Kent State University in Ohio, published an article on rape in which she expressed the orthodox — and remarkably misandric – feminist theory that “rape represents an extreme behavior but one that is on a continuum with normal male behavior within the culture.”
Koss undertook a survey whereby she arrived at the one-in-four figure. To get there, Koss mischaracterized responses. For example, 73% of those she characterized as rape victims said they had not been raped. And 43% of the alleged victims said they had continued to date their alleged rapists. Nevertheless, the one-in-four meme took hold. The survey was published in Ms Magazine in 1987 and “took the universities by storm,” producing what can rightly be termed a rape-culture industry: expensive, over-staffed rape-crisis centres, hotlines, rallies, conferences, sexual-assault procedures consultancies and inter-collegiate sexual-assault networks.
You can produce any culture you like if you dumb deviancy down. If you change “against her will” to “without her consent,” as we have, that is a huge paradigm shift from what we used to think of as rape: i.e. forced sex. And if a drunk woman can’t give her consent, another moved goalpost, she is ipso facto raped.
Last word to brilliant feminist (the kind I like) Camille Paglia: “The feminist obsession with rape as a symbol of male-female relations is irrational and delusional. From the perspective of the future, this period in America will look like a reign of mass psychosis, like that of the Salem witch trials … The fantastic fetishism of rape by mainstream … feminists has in the end trivialized rape, impugned women’s credibility, and reduced the sympathy we should feel for legitimate victims of violent sexual assault.”
Amen to that, sister.
Editor’s note: this item originally printed in The National Post.