Today in Rape Apologia

[Content Note: Rape apologia; disablist language.]

I know it's early, but this is a strong contender [DoNotLink] for the worst thing you're going to read all day.

Actual Headline: "The Rape Epidemic Is a Fiction." Welp!

Kevin D. Williamson's case primarily rests in the discrepancies that have been found in the number of women who report sexual assault depending on how the questions are asked.

This is not unusual in surveys attempting to establish incidents of sexual assault, whether one is asking victims or perpetrators. For example: Perpetrators who will answer yes to a question like "Have you ever had sex with an unconscious partner?" will, even in the same survey, answer no to the question "Have you ever raped someone?"

This also speaks to the concern Williamson raises here:
It is probably the case that the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses is wildly exaggerated—not necessarily in absolute terms, but relative to the rate of sexual assault among college-aged women with similar demographic characteristics who are not attending institutions of higher learning. The DoJ hints at this in its criticism of survey questions, some of which define "sexual assault" so loosely as to include actions that "are not criminal." This might explain why so many women who answer survey questions in a way consistent with their being counted victims of sexual assault frequently display such a blasé attitude toward the events in question and so rarely report them. As the DoJ study puts it: "The most commonly reported response — offered by more than half the students — was that they did not think the incident was serious enough to report. More than 35 percent said they did not report the incident because they were unclear as to whether a crime was committed or that harm was intended."

If you are having a little trouble getting your head around a definition of "sexual assault" so liberal that it includes everything from forcible rape at gunpoint to acts that not only fail to constitute crimes under the law but leave the victims "unclear as to whether harm was intended," then you are, unlike much of our culture, still sane.
Sanity has nothing to do with it. Understanding that much of our culture has no idea—by design—about what constitutes sexual assault, or meaningful consent, is crucial.

That women are failing to report incidents of sexual assault not on the basis of their lack of consent, but on their assumptions about whether their assaulter intended to harm them, should be of grievous concern. It's not evidence of feminism gone wild; it's evidence of a cultural diminishment of women's agency so profound that women allow their rapists' presumed intent to define whether they were raped.

For that reason, women who may answer yes to a question like "Has anyone ever had sex with you while you were unconscious?" might also, even in the same survey, answer no to the question "Have you ever been raped?"

The horrible truth is that many women have a "blasé attitude toward the events in question and so rarely report them" because we are groomed by our culture to be compliant victims: Sexually objectified, denied agency, not empowered with the right of consent, entrained to be shamed by sexual exploitation, and experiencing sexual assault as so ubiquitous as to be utterly normalized and a routine part of womanhood.

The most objectionable part of Williamson's piece is not, however, that he is wrong about the most basic facts of his premise. It is that he accuses feminists of inventing this fiction as a political gambit:
The fictitious rape epidemic is necessary to support the fiction of "rape culture," by which feminists mean anything other than an actual rape culture, for example the culture of the Pakistani immigrant community in Rotherham in the United Kingdom. "Rape culture" simply means speech or thought that feminists disapprove of and wish to suppress... Feminism is about political power, and not the Susan B. Anthony ("positively voted the Republican ticket — straight") full-citizenship model of political power but rather one dominated by a very small band of narrow ideologues still operating under the daft influence of such theorists as Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, each of whom in her way equated political opposition to feminism with rape.
I have not written, to date, the majority of the 710 entries in our Rape Culture archive (after starting to use labels only in '09), as a political game.

I care about people who are harmed. I remember them and carry them with me. I ache from knowing that I will be writing about victims of sexual violence for as long as I do this work.

This is not a goddamned game. Not to me.

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