Dangerous rape myths: Part 1

In the wake of the flurry of rape accusation–related news stories, feminists are up in arms again, spouting the same old casually hateful rhetoric against presuming the accused innocent until proven guilty. Most are advocating automatic belief of accusers, and as always there are feminist groups consistently attacking the recognition of due process rights in criminal and civil court when an accusation of sexual misconduct is at stake. Some groups are even complaining about the prosecution of false accusers. These groups are not bothered at all about the impact of a false accusation on a man’s life, yet they are outraged that if it appears that a woman abused the system in a way that wreaks such havoc, she might as a consequence experience a shadow of it. Feminist advocacy pits the accuser’s feelings against the accused’s right to due process and the innocent’s right to liberty.

Feminist writers and advocates are using the most flimsy, sexist excuses for this. Many of these have been discussed and countered. I’ve written about them before as well, but it’s obvious from recent discussion that they’ll need to be addressed over and over because knowing that they’re unjustified does not stop feminists from continuing to spout dangerous rape myths. These rape myths must be examined and challenged.

Here in Part 1, I will examine three common and destructive rape myths: that doubt = misogyny; that the innocent have nothing to fear; and that false allegations are rare.

1. Not believing a woman’s rape accusation is misogyny.
In portraying the perpetrator of a harmful act as a victim, this excuse disregards the impact on the accused man, the actual victim of her lie. It’s his life that is affected, his reputation, and his future. It’s his freedom that is threatened and his welfare, depending on how vigilante-prone his community happens to be. Insisting on the automatic, unquestioning belief of a woman’s accusation against a man is misandry, as it depends on either a willingness to sacrifice innocent men or the belief that no man can ever truly be innocent.

However, there are also specific reasons why it’s not misogynistic to question a woman’s accusation. In fact, it’s misogynistic to make female gender a reason for ignoring standard analysis and denying the impact of the accusation. Nothing is more demeaning to rape victims than saying the charge is so minor that accusing a man of it is not damaging to him. Of course it is damaging! It’s a heinous crime, the nature of which incites social responses that feminists exploit for political and social power. They have spent far too much effort and money spreading panic over it to pretend not to understand the gravity of being accused. This excuse is feminists showing that the ability to exploit proxy female victim status is more important to them than supporting actual victims and seeking a just outcome.

To claim that the investigation and assessment of an accusation made by a woman is an attack on women, one must first consider women’s accusations unique from and unequal to men’s accusations—and therefore uniquely exempt from being expected to meet the standards for proof to which male accusers are subject. To exempt a woman’s accusation from standards for proof, one must consider her exempt from criticism, exempt from accountability for her word, exempt from scrutiny for mistakes, as if women aren’t capable of living up to those standards or expectations. It’s another example of feminist denial of female agency and female strength. They need women to be helpless and stupid in order to support their agenda.

So let’s assume for a moment that a woman’s lie really has no impact. What are feminists telling rape victims, both male and female, when they make assertions based on that assumption? After all, if an accusation does no damage to the accused, how serious can the crime he’s accused of be?

And exactly how is it empowering to women when a man is told, “It’s only rape that you’ve been accused of … nothing serious. Why you gotta be so mad?” Isn’t that the same thing as telling women, “You are so meaningless that when you attack someone the damage you do is irrelevant.” But that’s not nearly as demeaning to women as acknowledging the gravity and power of her rape accusation enough to want it proved before acting on it. God forbid she be expected to live up to that; that’s a standard only men are capable of handling, right?

2. If a man is not guilty, he has nothing to fear.
The wrongness of this assertion is highlighted by cases of false conviction such as the Brian Banks story. Even if we ignore existing examples, there is still the ordeal the accused must go through: mandatory investigation, public defamation, and possibly being tried on the charge. During the ordeal, he faces discrimination and suspicion at the hands of his peers and possibly also harassment and violence. If he’s underage, the chance of violence increases because social violence among youth is more tolerated than among adults, due to the expectation among adults that kids will sometimes fight and to the fact of reduced legal repercussions for fighting while underage.

We all know what gym class is like for a boy bullied because he is unpopular. Imagine what it would be like for an accused boy who is believed by the other kids to be guilty of raping a girl.

But let’s not ignore the factors that lead to false conviction, as it is a very real, very serious risk. Under legislation like the Violence Against Women Act, policies enacted by police precincts, and procedures followed within the court system, a male accused of rape is considered guilty until proven innocent—a daunting and perilous standard. Conviction may occur in the absence of evidence. Even if he is acquitted, the allegation can stick to his reputation. An accused male who has been acquitted faces the likelihood that to some he will never again be just a guy; he’ll always be seen—and treated—as a falsely acquitted rapist.

However, just for a moment, let’s assume that assertion is true, that the falsely accused are never convicted. How does that justify subjecting anyone to the experience, putting him through the rigors of an investigation, damaging his reputation, and possibly forcing him to defend himself in court? Is it really believed within the feminist community that the hope of an acquittal negates all other aspects of the experience? Does feminism now consider no harm to be done even if only the worst harm is evaded? Does this mean that it’s okay for men to fantasize about rape, joke about rape, and threaten women with rape as long as they don’t actually do it? After all, if a woman is not actually getting raped, then she has nothing to fear, right?

3. False allegations are minor because their occurrence is rare.
This is contradicted by existing factors within the community. Victim advocacy on the topic of rape calls for the treatment of allegations as credible without doubt, including when there is not sufficient evidence to support them. Even the lack of a conviction is not viewed as a vindication of the accused but as an instance of the perpetrator getting away with the crime. The assertion of rarity, based on loyalty to the concept that female accusers must not be doubted, is circular reasoning—a logical fallacy in which the reasoner begins with what he or she is trying to end up with. (Because we are not allowed to doubt the credibility of alleged rape victims, it must be accepted that false allegations occur only in the rarest of circumstances, when evidence against the accusation is overwhelming.)

Broadening the definition of rape to include incidents in which the alleged victim was not averse to the interaction until after the fact has further muddied the water by creating a conflict between what feminists consider rape and what rape actually is (and is considered to be by the law). This manner of twisting the definition turns sex into a form of entrapment in which the woman may withdraw consent after the event. The fact that the man involved did not force the encounter by any means does not deter feminists from applying the label “rape.” This leads to the filing of allegations that get tossed out or struck down because the accuser was never actually victimized. These cases, in turn, build an area of disagreement in which the term rape has been falsely applied to sexual encounters in a way supported by feminist ideology. That disparity in viewpoint is the key to a lot of feminist dismissal of the falsely accused.

Basing the assertion of rarity, in any part, on loyalty concepts like regret as evidence of rape, and guilt until innocence is proven, is an act of begging the question, or basing one’s belief on a false premise that one has accepted to be true. (The allegation cannot be false because the woman feels raped or because the man must be perceived as a rapist.)

Still, just for a moment, let’s accept that assertion as true. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that only 1 in 100 allegations actually turns out to be false. How does that make the act of falsely accusing any less wrong, any less serious, or any less harmful to the victim, the falsely accused? Does he suffer less because of the rarity of his plight? Does the “fact” that other accusers are honest reduce the damage done to this victim’s life? How about we apply this to rape. If we get the occurrence of rape down to 1 in 100 women, can we just let it go and not prosecute the perpetrator in that one case simply because the crime is rare? If it doesn’t happen often, then it doesn’t merit much attention, right?

How is this an accurate or honest way to measure the severity, seriousness, or wrongness of any crime? Applying the rarity-as-an-excuse standard, misdemeanors such as moving violations while driving (running a stop sign, speeding, improper lane change), which are committed with greater frequency than any assault, should be taken much more seriously, discussed at length, and subject to greater legal consequences than, say, anything as comparatively rare as rape. When played out to such an obvious extreme, the belief that rarity excuses the behavior is exposed as irrational.

Of course, these three rape myths aren’t the only ones common to the feminist bigotry of our times. In Part 2, I’ll examine three more myths: that it hurts real victims to question fakers; that false allegations are not harmful to the accused; and that even if they are harmful, they are not near as bad as actual rape.

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