Duke: The Waterloo of "rape-crisis feminism"?

As the Duke “rape” case collapses, The Wekly Standard comes out with an excellent, long but riveting cover story by Charlotte Allen on “Duke’s Tenured Vigilantes.” Allen discusses the problems that plagued the case from the beginning, mainly because of inconsistencies in various stories told by the accuser, and is appropriately tough on Durham County District Attorney Mike Nifong (who has gotten into more legal hot water since the article came out); but her main focus is on Nifong’s “enablers” outside the legal system. Writes Allen:

Mike Nifong’s handling of the case was clearly outrageous. But he would probably not have gone so far, indeed would not have dared to go so far, had he not been egged on by two other groups that rushed just as quickly to judge the three accused young men guilty of gross and racially motivated carnal violence. Despite the repeated attempts by the three to clear themselves, a substantial and vocal percentage–about one-fifth–of the Duke University arts and sciences faculty and nearly all of the mainstream print media in America quickly organized themselves into a hanging party. Throughout the spring of 2006 and indeed well into the late summer, Nifong had the nearly unanimous backing of this country’s (and especially Duke’s) intellectual elite as he explored his lurid theories of sexual predation and racist stonewalling.

….

Although outsiders know Duke mostly as an expensive preppie enclave that fields Division I athletic teams, the university’s humanities and social sciences departments–literature, anthropology, and especially women’s studies and African-American studies–foster exactly the opposite kind of culture. Those departments (and especially Duke’s robustly “postmodern” English department, put in place by postmodernist celebrity Stanley Fish before his departure in 1998) are famous throughout academia as repositories of all that is trendy and hyper-politicized in today’s ivy halls: angry feminism, ethnic victimology, dense, jargon-laden analyses of capitalism and “patriarchy,” and “new historicism”–a kind of upgraded Marxism that analyzes art and literature in terms of efforts by powerful social elites to brainwash everybody else.

….

Postmodern theorists pride themselves in discerning what they call “metanarratives.” They argue that such concepts as, say, Christianity or patriotism or the American legal system are no more than socially constructed tall tales that the postmodernists can then “deconstruct” to unmask the real purpose behind them, which is (say the postmodernists) to prop up societal structures of–yes, you guessed it–race, gender, class, and white male privilege. Nonetheless, in the Duke lacrosse case the theorists manufactured a metanarrative of their own, based upon the fact that Durham, North Carolina, is in the South, and the alleged assailants happened to be white males from families wealthy enough to afford Duke’s tuition, while their alleged victim was an impoverished black woman who, as she told the Raleigh News and Observer in a credulous profile of her published on March 25, was stripping only to support her two children and to pay her tuition as a student at North Carolina Central University, a historically black state college in Durham that is considerably less prestigious than Duke. All the symbolic elements of a juicy race/gender/class/white-male-privilege yarn were present. The theorists went to town.

Allen offers some in-depth discussion of how the “metanarrative” played itself out both in statements by the left-wing faculty at Duke and in the mainstream media coverage; her article is worth reading just for that account. With the case unraveling, the hanging party at Duke remains unrepentant. Allen quotes an inadvertently hilarious article by Duke English professor Cathy Davidson, one of the 88 faculty members who signed a full-page ad in the Duke student paper, The Chronicle, on April 4, 2006 — a so-called “listening statement” expressing solidarity with students who sided against the accused players. Davidson’s op-ed, worth reading its entirety, defends the ad by claiming that (1) it never fostered a presumption of guilt toward the lacrosse players and (2) that the real issue here is assorted social injustices (poverty, unequal pay for women, lack of affordable health care and child care, etc. etc.). Davidson does mention in passing, toward the end of her piece, that “if it turns out that Mike Nifong has no evidence (as he insisted he did back in the spring), he will have betrayed the trust of an entire community and caused torment to these young men and their families”; but she also suggests that the accuser deserves to be seen as a victim simply because she is “a single mother who takes off her clothes for hire partly to pay for tuition at a distinguished historically black college.”

As for the suggestion that the “listening” ad never promoted a presumption of guilt: read for yourself. By the way, the ad has been taken down from its original location on the website of Duke’s African-American studies department; but the Google cache remains. As Allen notes, comments such as, “These students are shouting and whispering about what happened to this young woman and to themselves,” certainly imply that the ad signers assume the woman’s story to be true. In fact, every single student comment quote in the ad that is directly relevant to the case is supportive of the accuser and skewed heavily toward belief in the guilt of the accused.

But in addition to the professors and the journalists, there is another culpable group that has not received enough attention: the sexual assault victim advocates and the professional feminists (two overlapping groups) who have been fanning the flames as well.

I made two blogposts on this issue in 2006. The first, built around my May 1 Globe column, dealt with the advocates’ attitude toward this case and the “women don’t lie about rape” mindset in general. As I wrote in the column:

Feminism has achieved real and important progress in the treatment of sexual assault victims. A couple of generations ago, a stripper at a party with athletes would have been viewed by many as fair game. That this is no longer the case surely makes us a more decent society.

But even some people who applaud this change believe that in some cases, the pendulum has swung too far. Many feminists seem to think that in sexual assault cases the presumption of innocence should not apply.

Appearing on the Fox News show ”The O’Reilly Factor,” Monika Johnson-Hostler of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault declared that her role was ”to support a woman or any victim that comes forward to say that they were sexually assaulted.”

To O’Reilly’s question, ”Even if they weren’t?” Johnson-Hostler replied, ”I can’t say that I’ve come across one that wasn’t.” Feminist pundits discussing this case, such as Wendy Murphy of the New England School of Law, exude an overwhelming presumption of guilt.

My second post, about a month later, was a response to Barry (Ampersand), who accused me of distorting Johnson-Hostler’s exchange with O’Reilly (prior to the line I quoted) to imply that she had explicitly stated she did not believe in the presumption of innocence. Of course, I never suggested that; I think a presumption of guilt — not in the courtroom perhaps, but in the court of public opinion — comes out of Hostler-Johnson’s assertion that every woman who claims she was sexually assaulted is telling the truth. (In another exchange Barry quoted later, she allows that these particular accused men may be innocent but goes on to assert that someone in that house was guilty of rape.)

As for Wendy Murphy: K.C. Johnson at the invaluable Durham-in-Wonderland has a mind-boggling compendium of her falsehoods, distortions, misstatements, and wild speculations uttered on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. (There is also the classic: “I never, ever met a false rape claim, by the way. My own statistics speak to the truth.”)

Here are some of the lies, with comments by KC:

1.) (22 December 2006) “One of the reasons I think she should be thought of as fairly credible is that she rejected a 2 million dollar plus offer by people on behalf of Duke at the outset.”

In fact, the accuser told police on June 30 that she had never been offered any money, by anyone, to drop the case.

2.) (1 May 2006) “All the photographs showing how really fine she was when she left scene were doctored, where the date stamp was actually fraudulent.”

In fact, these photographs have been cited in various defense motions, and even Nifong hasn’t challenged their veracity.

3.) (11 April 2006) “You know, these guys actually . . . some of them have been, according to neighbors, reportedly been involved in not only carousing activity but other sexual offenses.”I am aware of no statement, by any neighbor, accusing any of the players of involvement in “other sexual offenses”; the Coleman Committee Report established that they had no such records.

….

9.) (27 April 2006) “It was because a broom handle was used, which by the way, doesn’t produce DNA when you put it inside someone.”

The search warrant for the lacrosse house contained no mention of a broom; and at no point in her myriad stories did the accuser claim assault by a broom.

10.) (2 May 2006) “The broomstick DNA has not yet been revealed.”

In fact, no “broomstick DNA” exists, since the police never seized a broomstick.

11.) (5 April 2006) “She had a torn genital area.”

In fact, in a recent court filing, even Mike Nifong conceded, “There is no scientific or other evidence independent of the [accuser’s] testimony that would corroborate specifically” a charge of rape.

The unfounded speculations:

1.) 1.) (19 June 2006) “Let me tell you what I think [Nifong] probably has—statements from some of the players who are probably cooperating because they actually have a conscience and think it matters when you tell the truth. And I bet she has GHB in her blood.”

2.) (26 Dec. 2006) “There’s a good chance a few of [the players] actually saw what happened and may well be cooperating.”

3.) (26 Dec. 2006) “Are there photographs? We know there were before photographs and after photographs. There’s a chance there are during photographs.”

(There are five more where that came from.)

And, on that pesky presumption-of-innocence issue:

(May 1) “I’m really tired of people suggesting that you’re somehow un-American if you don’t respect the presumption of innocence, because you know what that sounds like to a victim? Presumption you’re a liar.”

(April 10) “These guys, like so many rapists—and I’m going to say it because, at this point, she’s entitled to the respect that she is a crime victim.”

As this email posted on the conservative website MichNews.com shows (assuming it is authentic), Murphy is still sticking to her guns, even in the face of the prosecution’s collapse, and still repeating her wild fantasies about photos of the sexual assault.

Murphy, a former sex crimes prosecutor and an adjunct professor at the New England School of Law in Boston, is a real piece of work. She’s a tireless defender of discredited child-abuse witch-hunts based on junk science. She’s an ideologue whose contempt for opposing viewpoints puts off even those sympathetic to her cause (see this page for some student responses to a lecture she gave at Harvard), and who once called a snow sculpture of an erect penis built as a campus prank a “powerful symbol of sexual dominance and gendered violence” similar to “a snow sculpture of a Nazi swastika or the confederate flag.” And then people wonder where the “man-hating feminist” stereotype comes from.

Murphy may be an extreme case, but her contempt for the presumption of innocence is fairly typical of the camp that Katie Roiphe once dubbed “rape-crisis feminists.” These are the ideologues who see rape as the ultimate act of a male “war against women,” and for whom, as Catharine MacKinnon put it in her 1987 book, Feminism Unmodified, “feminism is built on believing women’s accounts of sexual use and abuse by men.” In 1985, amidst the media storm surrounding Cathleen Webb’s recantation of the rape charge she had made in 1979 against Gary Dotson (then serving a prison sentence for the crime), feminist sociologist Margaret Gordon wrote an article for The Chicago Tribune called “Rape and the Benefit of Belief.” She concluded by saying, “Rape victims deserve the benefit of belief. To give them less is to do agreat disservice and injustice to all the women who tell the truth.” This formula, of course, is a deliberate reversal of the classic legal principle that the accused deserve the benefit of the doubt.

In fact, no one knows the true prevalence of false accusations of rape, and it would be very difficult to establish an accurate picture. (I dealt with this topic in a 1999 article in Salon.com.) But obviously, false accusations to happen. As I wrote in Salon:

To recognize that some women wrongly accuse men of rape is no more anti-female than it is anti-male to recognize that some men rape women. Is it so unreasonable to think that a uniquely damaging and stigmatizing charge will be used by some people as a weapon, just as others will use their muscle as a weapon? Do we really believe that when women have power — and surely there is power in an accusation of rape — they are less likely to abuse it than men? As Columbia University law professor George Fletcher has written, “It is important to defend the interests of women as victims, but not to go so far as to accord women complaining of rape a presumption of honesty and objectivity.”

Of course it’s the job of rape victim advocates to advocate for victims, just like it’s the job of defense attorneys to advocate for the accused. But the victim advocates should not rally unquestioningly to the side of anyone claiming to have been sexually assaulted, no matter how suspect her story, or slam those who raise legitimate questions about her credibility. A knee-jerk “if she says she was raped, then she was” stance is not only unfair to the accused, it is also, in the end, damaging to the advocates’ credibility — and therefore, to those for whom they advocate.

If the Duke prosecution case turns out to be the fiasco it now seems to be, it may become a turning point in media attitudes toward rape charges. Even some good liberals such as New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff have been appalled by the prejudice exhibited in this case against white male jocks — no better, Kristoff suggests, than the prejudice directed against black hobos in the Scottsboro Boys case in the 1930s. (For those who don’t have Times Select, the column is summarized here.) Maybe we’re starting to remember that the presumption of innocence is a liberal value, even when an accusation of sexual assault is involved.

Sadly, a new skepticism would likely backfire against real victims. It is often said that women who make false accusations of rape cause great harm to those who really are raped, making it harder for them to be believed. Victim advocates who champion fake victims hurt the real victims too, by depriving them of effective and credible advocacy. Maybe we need rape victim advocates who are not committed to ideological myths, and who are more interested in helping victims than in gender politics.

More: An excellent column by Wendy McElroy examining the “talking points” posted by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC), and believed to be authored by Murphy herself. The “talking points” are basically verbal somersaults intended to prove that the “Duke Three” are probably rapists and that the prosecutor is guilty of no wrongdoing. Here’s a mind-boggling sample:

The “talking points” address Nifong’s suppression of DNA evidence — a transgression for which he is being investigated on ethics charges by the North Carolina State Bar. The head of a lab testified in court that Nifong told him not to reveal exculpatory results.

The “talking points” state, “One can argue that Nifong’s withholding of this information was proper because the [accuser's] sexual history, like the sexual history of the defendants, is constitutionally protected private information. It is improper for any prosecutor to disclose this information without a hearing at which a judge must make a ruling to decide whether sexual history is relevant to an issue in dispute.”

McElroy concludes:

And so the defamation and misinformation continues.

To those who ask, “What will make it cease?” the answer is clear: nothing.

The attack is not based on what is true or false, on whether a rape occurred or not. NSVRC derives its money from the current paradigm of victimhood. Murphy has based her reputation on it. They are fighting for their lives and livelihood.

I’m not sure it’s money per se, so much as ideology. Either way, the victim advocates are strongly invested in perpetuating their dogma, at the expense not only of accused men but of the real victims.

23 Comments

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23 responses to “Duke: The Waterloo of "rape-crisis feminism"?

  1. colagirl

    Great post, Cathy–I’ve been keeping an eye on this case ever since the allegations that Nifong concealed the DNA evidence, and the more I read about it, the more my mind boggles. How else to react to attitudes like this:

    Davidson’s op-ed, worth reading its entirety, defends the ad by claiming that…(2) that the real issue here is assorted social injustices (poverty, unequal pay for women, lack of affordable health care and child care, etc. etc.).

    One would hope as a presumed liberal, that Davidson would see the *real* issue as the specter of prosecutorial misconduct resulting in the concealment of evidence that could clear the name of innocent people wrongly accused. I mean, a more blatant abuse of institutional power is hard to imagine. That’s the part of the case that I find the most scary.

  2. Barsawad

    I wonder – why should a woman wrongly accuse a man of raping her? Afterall, isn’t it shamefull to be raped?

    Here, most women who are raped – never report it. It’s completely out of the question; they would rather die than report.

  3. Anonymous

    Barswad,

    Please…

    Reasons: Vengeance, money, attention, victm status, etc.
    And where is the stigma when the accuser name is not revelad?

    But, anyway, women are so much moraly superior to men, that they never lie, right? Right?!?

  4. Nick S

    It’s likely that as more evidence emerges of men who have been wrongly convicted of rape, and of the much greater number of false accusations that occur, eventually the rape laws will become discredited and it will become more difficult to obtain convictions.

    If you give feminists enough rope, you can be pretty confident they will hang themselves.

  5. Nick S

    “Here, most women who are raped – never report it.”
    Rape victim advocates often claim that most rapes go unreported (which is probably true). However, what is often ignored in this argument is that this can only decrease the percentage of reported rape cases that are actually true. This point can be illustrated fairly simply. Suppose 100 rapes occur in a particular area over a period of time. And suppose there are also 100 false accusations. That would mean 50% of reported rapes were false. But then suppose of the 100 actual rapes that occurred only half were reported. That would then mean that 100 out of 150 (or two-thirds) of reported rapes were false.

    Rape victim advocates cannot argue that most rapes go unreported without also accepting that this has consequences for the percentage of reported cases that are true or false.

    Women who make false accusations of rape are rarely punished or prosecuted. Especially nowadays, there is probably less incentive for women to refrain from making false claims than there is for men to refrain from committing rape. So the idea that the number of false accusations is so small compared to the number of genuine cases is hard to believe.

  6. Jim

    Barsawad,

    Where you are, not only would they rahter die, they often do die if they are raped. It is different here.

    Let me explain – rape is a serious charge. There are only two elements of the crime that have to be established – 1) sexual contact between the accuser of the accused,during the time period the accuser says the rape took place and 2) lack of consent on the part of the accuser.

    That means that the accuser controls the information that constitutes the second element of the crime. What this means is that the quality of the judgement rests oin the rigor with which the accusations is examined. Our system of law requires the accuser, either the prosecutor or whoever, to proof their accusations. In the case of rape, the accuser should really not be regarfded as a victim until he or she has proven there was a rape in the ifrst place, usually by medical examination. Then there is still the burden of proving that he/she did not consent.

    The issue is that there are those that think it is all just too, too much to expect of a frail little female to have to adhere to these requirements. That makes it very easy to make accusations of rape.

    And, no, shame, about either sex or lying, is not much of a barrier here.

  7. Richard Bennett

    Not just “lack of consent”, but lack of *informed* consent. Thus, if a drunk man a drunk woman have sex, the man is a rapist under the law because the woman was incapable of giving “informed consent” due to her incapacitation. But the man is supposed to exercise restraint despite his incapacitation. This is the classic double standard.

    Off-topic a bit, the case of Genarlow Wilson on Georgia is interesting. Wilson, at age 17, was at a party where a 15-year-old girl was performing oral sex to all comers, of which Wilson was one. The exploits are on video tape, so there’s no doubt it happened and that the young woman was the aggressor. The age of consent in Georgia is 16, so Wilson committed statutory rape by allowing the girl to go down on him. If they’d had intercourse, the rape would be a misdemeanor because the age difference is less than 3 years. But for oral sex, it’s a felony carrying a ten year prison sentence, no possibility of parole.

    The Georgia law is insane and has since been amended, but not retroactively. Wilson is black, and that may account for the lack of attention to his case vs. the Duke non-rape rape case.

    It’s very weird.

  8. Jim

    “It’s very weird. “

    It’s very Georgia. Defending frail females is a bedrock principle of Southern patriarchy and by extension also of gender or misogyny feminism.

    The girl was very likely committing prostitution, and a lot of these laws are in place to obscure that aspect of these situations.

  9. MikeT

    Feminists largely don’t care what it does to men when they are falsely accused and see others falsely accused. I’ve been falsely accused of rape when I didn’t even have sex with the accuser! I didn’t even know about the rumors because it was so close to graduation until 2-2.5 years later a girl I started dating met a girl who knew the rumor and had actually helped spread it. Fortunately for me, the girl grew up around tougher people and actually knew some things about what a real rape would be like (thus the accuser’s story fell apart).

    And now I flat out don’t believe a woman was raped unless she can look me in the eye and say she was coerced with real force, not emotional coercion of the “if you love me” variety. I won’t even give a woman the benefit of the doubt if she’s intoxicated because of other regret-based claims I heard of in college.

    All the while they come up with stupid responses on mainstream feminist sites like Pandagon like, “we need to teach men to stop raping!” Gee, I must have missed that moral lesson, you know, the one where rape was passed off as a little indiscression. The way that mainstream feminists approach dealing with rape is guaranteed to make more victims out of innocent men, make more men suspicious of rape claims and not do a damn thing to stop actual rapists.

    But then, they don’t care about these things. It’s a way to deflect criticism from them of their personal failures. The fact that they refuse to acknowledge any substantial cultural differences between America today and America as of 1950 speaks volumes to that effect. “Women have won,” and have lost. Fewer men want to marry American men, fewer men even trust them to have a serious relationship, and things like this cult of female victimhood and male oppression are why.

  10. Bob

    The faux-crime of “rape” is hardly a crime at all. “Rape” is feminazi hate hysteria, a bomb lobbed squarly at destroying men, and as many men as possible. The faux-crime of “rape” is the most lied about of all “crimes.” It would be surprising if 8% of female rape-hate whines had any truth at all. Even for actual rape the crime breaks no bones nor empties anyones purse. In the few cases of actual rape that do occure the only damage amounts to her hurt feelings because her assumed total domination of men and sex was disrupted and the man decided this time. In the very small percentage of rape-hate accusations that have any truth at all a penalty equal to overtime parking, about the price of sex on the street, would be all that is appropriate or fair. Hate is not how to run a free nation, not even if its rape-hate.
    Bob

    Catch more of The World according to Bob at: http://bobstruth.blogspot.com/

  11. Cathy Young

    Bob: The only reason I am not deleting this vile tripe is as a reminder to us critics of feminism that misogyny is not merely a feminist myth. Do me a favor, though, and do not show up on this blog again.

  12. Jim

    MikeT,

    I wa srtangentially involved with a similar case. A woman I knew in the National Guard told me a year or tow after the “fact” that a man in our same unit whom she had been dating had raped her. I asked about the results of the exam. She said there had been none, becuase he had worn a condom. I said I had no idea he was that nimble.

    Perhpas a year or two later a detective from the Sheriff’s Dept. contacted me for a statement because I had been mentioned. I repeted the conversation the soldier and I had had. The detective was female. Her whole tone was completley sceptical of the accusation, perhaps because she had handled enough real rape cases. Last I heard of it.

    Then many years later I ran into the male soldier, who turns out to be having problems getting his clearance updated. Imagine that. In his case it affects his livelihood.

    Back to the detective. I never spoke to her in any depth, but I wonder to what extent she resented this accusation for the discrediting effect it might have on real accusations. In this case, she headed off that result.

    Cathy, Bob was out of line. But the really issue is not that his attitude is wrong, but that it might be becoming common. That is a danger. When women like you speak up like this, that is a rememdy. But there need to be effective legal penalties for false accusations that discredti real victims.

  13. Jess

    MikeT,

    While I sympathize with your situation, I would like to point out that you’re a part of the problem if you draw your conclusions and set them in stone based on your own personal bad experience. I have had a large number of frightening, revolting, and even violent encounters with men who have allowed themselves to cross the line into sexual predation–to what degree should I judge all men based on my experiences? Some of these acts were done by men who seemed like nice, normal guys–men I considered friends, even–who unexpectedly turned into Mr. Hyde under the influence of alcohol and anger. Sadly, my experiences are quite common; I know very few women who have NOT been seriously harrassed (I’m not talking about a few off-color remarks, here), molested or assaulted. Based on your own responses to your bad experience, what do you imagine happens to all the rage and frustration in such cases? What do you think comes out of the fear that these experiences create?

    I’m not condoning false accusations. But just as I think it’s important for women to identify and condemn men who are truly a danger, and not let that spill over onto men who are not, I think it’s important for men to do the same vis-a-vis women. I also wish men would make more of an effort to understand the ugliness that is too often inflicted on women, and not immediately dismiss it as whining or lies. Some of it is (true in any conflict), but a large proportion of it is not. In return, I agree that women should dedicate themselves to the cause of justice and mutual respect, not to the interests of just one gender. But men should too. Including you.

  14. Nick S

    Jess, you have just given us a whole lot of unsubstantiated, anecdotal and hyperbolical claims about how men are systematically victimising women throughout society. It doesn’t seem to matter how much evidence emerges of injustices committed against men, how many claims of female victimisation are discredited, the moral is that women are always more hardly done by. Why? Because you say so.

    I think it’s funny the way people imply that men who are falsely accused are somehow partly to blame for this. There are eery parallels of ‘blaming the victim’ here.

    One of the problems that is amply illustrated is the way that many women have emotionally invested so much in playing the victim that they simply can’t deal with the fact that women are actually more victimisers than victims in our era of state-enforced feminism.

    You say that men need to become more considerate of women’s suffering, and not just dismiss women who claim to have been mistreated as whiners or liars. Given the number of false and misleading claims that have been used to advance women’s interests (on a whole range of issues), it’s only understandable that men become more cynical about women who claim to have been mistreated. If anything, I think women could learn to be more understanding of the difficulties of being a male in a feminist era.

  15. Jess

    Nick,

    WTF? Go back and read my post more carefully. As I said quite explicitly, I do not condone false accusations, and maybe I need to be even more explicit and state that I do not condone false accusations from MEN OR WOMEN. How do you know what women are lying or what men are sexual predators? None of us are ever going to know that. I can only speak from my own experience, and from the experience of women I know and trust to be honest about such things. Same for you.

    My point, as you would know if you chose to read more carefully, is that replacing women’s sense of victimhood and hostility towards evil men, with men’s sense of victimhood and hostility towards evil women is hardly an improvement. We need to get past that. If you want women to have some understanding and support for your situation, you need to have some for theirs. And vice versa. If you care about justice for men, and men being given the benefit of the doubt, then do the same for women.

    Is that clear enough for you?

    And by the way, I’ve made my peace with my experiences–I really don’t think of myself as a victim. My point was that if Mike (and others) feel that much outrage and resentment over one bad experience, how much outrage do you suppose many women feel over multiple bad experiences? I’m not proposing a contest here–just a little more empathy.

  16. Anonymous

    I recall a comment by Rosalind Wiseman, speaking of teenagers:

    As I’ve mentioned, girls don’t like admitting it, but most are really bad at saying “no” clearly….As a result a girl will often say “no” while she is still kissing him or [various other mixed messages].

    Her point was that if you say “no” badly enough, it can sound like “yes”. Especially to someone hoping to here “yes”.

    When you consider also the tendency of every persons memory to remember whatever makes that person look good to him/herself, there must be a great many cases where the people involved genuinely have completely different memories about what happened.

    This suggests that this is a case where prevention beforehand is worth a lot more than retribution afterwards.

    Ms Wiseman wrote of training her students to think ahead. And if necessary to say:

    “No, I do not want to have sex”, “No, you have to stop trying to persuade me to have sex”, and if all else fails: “If we have sex now, I will consider this rape”.

    She claimed that the boys in her classes were happy about this. As long as they know.

  17. Nick S

    Jess,

    First of all I never actually accused you of condoning false accusations. However, there is a clear implication in much of your thread that men are at least partly to blame for false accusations.

    Much of the rest of your post is hysterical drivel. You accuse me of misrepresenting your views, and yet you misrepresent my views almost beyond recognition.

    “How do you know what women are lying or what men are sexual predators? None of us are ever going to know that. I can only speak from my own experience, and from the experience of women I know and trust to be honest about such things. Same for you.”
    It’s a bit rich for you to criticise me for supposedly making judgements about these cases without knowing all the facts, while you are all too willing to simply believe any woman’s story without knowing any of the other facts or evidence. Of course I never claimed to know whether each individual woman is lying or not, or whether each individual man is a sexual predator. There’s a huge difference between judging individual cases and making overall judgements about the proportion of cases that are likely to be true or false. I simply believe that a large proportion of rape claims are false, because a) there is growing evidence of the number of false claims and of men who have been falsely convicted, and b) because I believe there is less disincentive for women to refrain from false accusations because they are rarely punished for them. This is known as making an educated judgement based on available information.

    “My point, as you would know if you chose to read more carefully, is that replacing women’s sense of victimhood and hostility towards evil men, with men’s sense of victimhood and hostility towards evil women is hardly an improvement. We need to get past that.”
    It is rather hypocritical of you to lecture men about how they shouldn’t play the victim, while at the same time you are happy to offer up exaggerated and unsubstantiated accounts of how much women are victimised (like saying that every woman you met has been a victim of serious sexual abuse by men).

    “If you care about justice for men, and men being given the benefit of the doubt, then do the same for women.”
    If you are referring to the burden of proof in criminal cases, then of course I believe in the same for women. Where did I suggest otherwise? If a woman is accused of making a false accusation, and prosecuted for it, then she should only be convicted if it is proven beyond reasonable doubt. If, on the other hand, you are trying to draw some parallel between the rights of men accused of crimes and some supposed right of women who make accusations to be believed, then you are very confused indeed.

    “If you want women to have some understanding and support for your situation, you need to have some for theirs. And vice versa.”
    It is disingenuous for you to turn that argument back on me. The fact is that you initiated that point by complaining that men are not sympathetic enough to womens suffering. Of course respect and understanding is a two-way street. But how much understanding men or women are entitled to all depends on your view about which sex is actually more oppressed. Given the fact that relatively few women have seemed to care about the injustices infliected on men during the feminist era, how much understanding and support should women expect in return?

    “My point was that if Mike (and others) feel that much outrage and resentment over one bad experience, how much outrage do you suppose many women feel over multiple bad experiences?”
    This is a loaded question. The point is that I (we) don’t accept the argument that women generally have more bad experiences than men. The outrage and resentment that Mike and others feel generally doesn’t stem solely from one incident. It stems from the broader social environment that surrounds issues like this. It stems from the fact that it is difficult for men to talk about issues like false rape claims without being marginalised and branded misogynists. It stems from the fact that, up until now, there have been virtually no outlets for men to deal with these issues. It is understandable that when men have been forced to suppress their grievances, anger and resentment grows. The same is not true for women. There have long been vast numbers of organisations representing women on this and a whole range of issues.

  18. Cathy Young

    Guys, I haven’t been policing the comments section much, but can we please have a little more civility here and not refer to other posters’ comments as “hysterical drivel”? One may agree or disagree with certain portions of Jess’s post but I see a good-faith effort on her part to build bridges and have some dialogue, and verbal attacks aren’t really conducive to that. And I do think Jess makes an excellent point that replacing feminist rhetoric about evil and brutal men with “masculist” rhetoric about evil and devious women is hardly an improvement.

  19. Anonymous

    Alas, I believe there are some major “facts” left out of the public discourse on the Duke staudents and Brother Nyfong.
    Major missing fact = why were the two black females at the party, in the first place?
    The answer maybe found in my mispent youth. The best entertainment at bachelor or stag parties is, you got it, sleazy females.
    The well-to-do older brothers of a good friend of mine threw him a bachelor party at a road-house on the Jersey side of the GW bridge. They had hired a couple of very attractive, young black women, who arrived at the road-house, I recall vividly, in a brand new Cadilac convertible with the top down.
    The girls had been well paid to do each other for a fixed period of time and then take on any or all of the guys, each for a fixed fee. After the show, the girls solicited volunteers, but none came forward. There was some discussion, the girls put on their clothes and left in a huff, really pissed that they had wasted their time for such meager revenue.
    I believe this is the kind of story the Nyfong got at the outset and that made him so indignant. But, after the initial story, his facts disolved. The pimp that was hired to supply the girls would have claimed he didn’t know what they were talking about. It may well be that no one at the Duke party actually touched either girl after the show and that the claim of rape was really a complaint about no cash.
    Think about it. Why would an experienced guy like Nyfong do such irrational things? He didn’t; the were rational in the context of his original fact construct.
    Who would dare call two black hookers, well, hookers? Again, think about my initial questions; why were these two black women at a Duke students’ party, what were the arrangements and was there any other person (the pimp) involved?

  20. Nick S

    Cathy,

    I will try to abide by your civility code from now on. However, I would like to respond to some of your defence of Jess.

    “And I do think Jess makes an excellent point that replacing feminist rhetoric about evil and brutal men with “masculist” rhetoric about evil and devious women is hardly an improvement.”
    Even if this argument had merit on its own, it is hard to swallow coming from someone who makes wild claims such as that nearly every woman she has ever known has been the victim of serious sexual abuse from men. Jess clearly doesn’t want to replace feminist rhetoric about evil and brutal men with anything else, period. She wants to retain that rhetoric, albeit with a few token concessions. I should also point out that I never made the same generalisations and exaggerations about women’s wickedness that Jess makes about men’s wickedness. For example, I never claimed that nearly every man I have ever known has been the victim of serious abuse by women. Yet Jess gets the credit for being conciliatory and acting in good faith! Incredible. I don’t see how misrepresenting the views of others or holding on to discredited feminist myths constitutes acting in good faith or building bridges.

  21. Anonymous

    What is the point of this discussion about rape?Where a man
    might see a rape as being a sexual assault some women see all intercourse as being rape and this is where the disparities occur.
    Truth to say if rape is defined as
    being intercourse that wasn’t enjoyed by one of the parties then I have been raped quite a few times,and I’m male.
    A real law is one where the trangressor is aware that he/she is doing wrong,not some half baked idea that someones feelings have
    just been walked on therefore there should be retribution in the form of the law.

  22. Anonymous

    That last comment is reductionist to the point of ridiculous. Fact: studies by credible US crime agencies Have been done and show rape is falsely reported to the same extent as other crimes – about 5% of the time. Soem outlyers may define rape as unenjoyable sex, but I doubt that definition would console the more than 3,500 people who call the Boston area rape crisis hotline every year.

  23. Nick S

    Only 5% of rape accusations are false? Really? It is difficult to prove the exact figure but there has been growing evidence that at least 40%, probably more, of all rape accusations are false. Presumably the crime agency would have a vested interest in serving prosecutors and therefore downplay the extent of false accusations.

    During the 1990s sociologist Eugene Kanin published studies showing that the percentage of false accusations is much higher. This is the same Eugene Kanin who during the 1950s and 1960s published studies claiming that male sexual aggression was quite common. It is unlikely that someone coming from that perspective would make such claims about false accusations if they weren’t true.

    The reason why false accusations of rape are probably proportionately higher than the proportion of false accusations for other crimes is precisely because of the emotive nature of many sexual encounters. You don’t get that many cases where people trade away goods and then file a false claim that the purchaser stole them. However, you do get cases where women agree to have sex and then claim rape out of regret, to cover up for an affair, to punish a man for rejecting her etc. etc.

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