[Trigger warning: discussion of rape and other sexual assaults; quotations that show profound misogyny, slut-shaming and victim-blaming; and rebuttals that share stats and stories about rape and rape culture, and yeah, with a lot of profanity. A LOT of profanity.]
I am totally cheating tonight. The Day 7 prompt for Writing 101 is about creating a sense of contrast: “Focus today’s post on the contrast between two things. The twist? Write the post in the form of a dialogue.”
But I am currently so enraged and stabby-feeling over George Will’s latest exercise in newspaper-subsidized misogyny that it was inevitably going to be my topic tonight, no matter what I had to do to shoe-horn it into the Writing 101 structure. (Honestly, as far as ideological contrast goes, we have that in abundance. As far as dialogue is concerned? That’s more of a stretch.)
Women, Higher Education, and Sexual Assault: a Point-Counterpoint Between George Will and Mezzo Sherri
Colleges and universities are . . . learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous (“micro-aggressions,” often not discernible to the untutored eye, are everywhere), and that when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate.
Dude, even though it didn’t exist by the same name, the conceptual underpinning for our current understanding of microaggression has been around since at least 1905, when Freud first theorized about the sublimated violence/victimization cycle in so much of modern humor. And even if your current status as rich, urbane, white male — sort of the royal flush of the privilege poker hands — makes it hard for you to perceive microagressions with “an untutored eye,” here’s a tip from Charles Davis at VICE: “You don’t need a reference manual to not make people feel bad; you just need to listen every once in a while, learn a thing or two, and try to be more considerate, particularly around people you just met. Since when did stopping to think before you open your stupid mouth become such a bad thing?”
And excuse me? Being the target of sexual violence is a “coveted status”? In whose bizarro world is that true? After all, the rest of your column just oozes compassion and acceptance for those individuals who have experienced sexual assault. Oh wait: the rest of your column is actually “contributing to a society that is utterly dismissive of their experiences.” (PolicyMic)
Consider the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. “sexual assault.”
1. Here’s some basic set theory for you: all rapes are indeed sexual assaults, but not all sexual assault is rapes. (Or, to break it down even further, here’s how I used to explain that concept to my SAT students back in the day: All of my bracelets are jewelry, but not all of my jewelry is bracelets.) I point this out just because if you’re going to use irony quotes to make fun of a term, it might be best to actually understand the term you’re mocking, and oh, maybe to check in and see if your mockery actually functions as humor or instead just shows your own woeful ignorance about a topic. (Also see above, re: microaggressions.)
2. Supposed epidemic? Really? I know you’re gonna quibble with this statistic later on below the fold, but let me just lay it out there anyhow. The CDC reports that 19% of undergraduate women had experienced “attempted or completed sexual assault” since entering college. Now this is a statistic you’ll see reproduced by lots of advocacy and service organizations (sometimes rounded up to the “1 in 5” phraseology we’ll be discussing soon), but please note I did not go to a partisan or activist source here. I went to the C-D-motherfucking-C. 19% of undergraduate women experience some sort of sexual assault, and 37% of female rape survivors are first raped between the ages of 18-24. And yes, that final age range admittedly extends beyond the usual age window for undergraduate students, but still. How much more of an epidemic do you need?! How many women need to suffer before you can get up a compassion boner for them?!?
Herewith, a Philadelphia magazine report about Swarthmore College, where in 2013 a student “was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months”
Slut-shaming at its finest. Because of course, once you’ve said yes at one time in one context that means automatic consent for all future times in all future contexts. And by the way, just emphasize how foul your perspective is:
“They’d now decided — mutually, she thought — just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. ‘I basically said, “No, I don’t want to have sex with you.” And then he said, “OK, that’s fine” and stopped.. . . And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn’t do anything — I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep.’”
Six weeks later, the woman reported that she had been raped.
Well, she reported having been raped because that’s actually the legal definition applicable to the events as described here. But hey, why should an insignificant thing like factuality matter between friends?
Now you’ve been nice enough not to state the most evil of your assumptions outright, but they’re palpably there, oozed between the lines of suggestion and innuendo.
Why didn’t she fight harder after saying the first “no”? Because we’ve been trained (over and over again) NOT to do so! Even if it’s slightly off the subject, perhaps this video will help explain the level of understood threat that might cause a young woman to decide against “fighting back.”
I had a friend in college who was date-raped sophomore year. (I know: I must be lying about this, and this event couldn’t actually have really occurred because George Will has decreed that college sexual assault is merely a “so-called epidemic.”) She carried some guilt for a while about not having “struggled more” — and I remember her sharing the moment of insight that emerged during a session with her therapist where my friend realized that she had, to the best of her ability in the midst of this awful experience, made a threat assessment and consciously concluded that if she didn’t stop struggling that she would be killed, or at least seriously, seriously wounded. It is perfectly understandable that someone may make a decision to stop resisting, wether because of cultural programming, threat assessment, or some other reason(s). That choice to cease actively fighting back in no way excuses a rapist from the legal and moral responsibility of having committed such a harmful act against another human being.
(This is also, by the way, why affirmative consent standards are so necessary. Yes means yes!)
Why did she wait so long to report this crime?* Maybe because she knew that jerk faces like you would blame her or doubt her. Maybe because even the most “casual look at our criminal justice system, military justice system and the academic disciplinary system under scrutiny right now reveals that each tend to punish survivors, not reward them.” (Salon, emphasis added.)
I could find story after story that demonstrates the ways women reporting sexual assault get interrogated about their clothes, alcohol use, sexual history, and general behavior/decorum, but to save us all some time, here’s a photo gallery that both captures many of these victim-blaming attitudes but also wonderfully eviscerates them.
(I’m skipping ahead a few paragraphs because I only have enough patience to dialogue with one last passage.)
The statistics are: One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, and only 12 percent of assaults are reported. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that if the 12 percent reporting rate is correct, the 20 percent assault rate is preposterous. Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes, for example, that in the four years 2009 to 2012 there were 98 reported sexual assaults at Ohio State. That would be 12 percent of 817 total out of a female student population of approximately 28,000, for a sexual assault rate of approximately 2.9 percent — too high but nowhere near 20 percent.
Oh, I see what you did there: it’s like SAT algebra all over again! (98 over x equals 12 over 100; and then once you solve for x put that number over the total population number to get your percentage…)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: CDC. The 19% assault rate has been confirmed by the C-D-motherfuckin’-C.** So rather than taking the 12% report rate as the hard-and-true fact and using that to invalidate the CDC’s confirmed statistic, why not try this idea on for size: maybe the 12% number is wrong! And that notion is even kind of awfully plausible, since this figure can only ever be “an inferred estimate, because there is no directly measured number of unreported assaults.” (Pharyngula.)
Oh, and by the way? If a 2.9% rate of sexual assault is “too high” by your assertion, and considering the fact that the actual assault rate of 19% has been confirmed by the C-D-motherfuckin’-C, do you want to go back and rethink any of your prior statements about a “so-called” epidemic?
* I almost put the word crime in those mocking irony quotes (as I assume George would have done), but I just couldn’t do it.
** I swear, if I ever go back to writing anything based on my dissertation research, I am working this phrase in there somehow.
Image credit: http://michonnemicheaux.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/before-you-make-excuses-for-rape-tw/