Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Heather Mac Donald responds to critics of her ‘campus rape crisis myth’ article

In a March 2 City Journal article Heather Mac Donald responds to the feminist criticisms of her prior article on the campus rape crisis myth.

Key excerpts of the current article follow.

Let me propose a thought experiment. An unapprehended rapist has assaulted two women in a particular area of State University’s campus-.04 percent of the female undergraduate population. Would the State University administrators tell girls to stay away from the area until the rapist is caught? Or would they remain silent about whether girls should continue to frequent that area of the campus, because “rape is never a woman’s fault”? The first, of course, because students’ safety is the administrators’ paramount concern, regardless of whether female students have a “right” to frequent that dangerous area at night.

Campus rape researchers and advocates, modifying Koss’s statistic slightly, say that they believe that a whopping one-fifth to one-quarter of college women are raped by their fellow students. Virtually all of these alleged rapes could be avoided if the girls took certain steps: don’t get into bed with a guy when you are very drunk, don’t take off your clothes, don’t get involved in oral sex, and so on. Such advice is fully consistent with female empowerment. It recognizes that girls have the power to stop “campus rape.” It treats them as moral agents able to control their fates.

But when I suggest to campus sexual assault administrators that they could stop what Koss calls the “rape pandemic” overnight if they persuaded girls to exercise more prudence, I inevitably receive responses like the following (these are my interlocutors’ actual words): “I am uncomfortable with the idea of ‘recommending that female students exercise more modesty and restraint’-this indicates that if they are raped it could be their fault-it is never their fault.” Or: “Yes, modesty would have a certain impact, but who’s responsible?”

There are two possible reasons why the administrators refuse to take the most efficacious, practical action to end campus rape-counseling sexual prudence. Either they know in their heart of hearts that what is happening on campuses is not really rape, but something much more ambiguous and also much less traumatic than real rape. Or-and this possibility is too horrible to contemplate-these self-professed women’s advocates really do believe that a drunken hookup is rape, and yet are withholding from women the simplest, surest way to prevent being raped, simply in order to preserve the principle of male fault. If the latter situation actually prevails, I conclude that the campus rape movement is purely political, interested solely in casting men as the evil perpetrators of the patriarchy rather than in most effectively protecting potential victims of a traumatic crime.

In her response, Koss says that “Men are supposed to know that [it is] wrong to have sex with a woman who is unable to consent due to intoxication.” Some men may know that; others may not. By all means, try to educate as many as you can. But the point is, if you want to protect women right now, the surest way of doing so is persuading them to avoid risky sexual encounters, rather than hoping that the drunken men with whom they have gotten into bed have a solid sense of ethics. What if a man knows that it is wrong to have sex with a very drunk woman but is himself too drunk to act on that knowledge-who’s going to protect the woman then? It is certainly ironic that feminists are relying on men to protect women when the women are perfectly able to determine whether a drunken night ends in intercourse. Moreover, if drunkenness cancels a woman’s responsibility for her actions, why does a drunken man who has sex that he may regret the next day nevertheless remain responsible? Are women less responsible for their actions than men?

If it were the case that millions of rape victims graduated from college each year with serious emotional trauma, we’d have heard about it. Their parents would have demanded that colleges prevent this crime “pandemic.” Alternative academic institutions would have sprung up, guaranteeing a safe place for women to study and learn. None of this has happened, because the millions of women whom campus rape researchers designate as victims don’t suffer serious emotional trauma and don’t think of themselves as victims. You would have thought that that would be celebrated as a sign of strong womanhood.

Putting the above argument in part in the dankprofessor’s terms, what Mac Donald is saying is that the feminist campus anti-rape movement is cynically using female students as a means to an end, as a means to hit back at men; that this movement is fueled by sex hatred and effective rape prevention is of secondary concern. Empirically demonstrating this argument is, of course, an impossibility. What can only be addressed is whether Mac Donald’s argument makes sense of the “facts”.

Such does make sense for me in terms of my engagement of essentially the same campus activists in regards to the campaign to prohibit consensual sexual relationships between students and professors. In the student/professor context, the campus feminist activists present male professors who are sexually involved with students in the most dehumanizing terms. They are presented as de facto rapists since it is held that female students can never give consent because differential power precludes consent. In their terms, female students do not count; if they protest that they consented to the relationship, they are ignored. Campus activist feminists reduce dissenting female students to the status of being children, and view themselves as their Big Sister protectors and all too often this protection means getting these students to do and to believe what they want them to do and to believe. Interesting, in a sense the anti-rape movement feminists may be similar to campus rapists- wanting to control women for the sake of their own power.

What the dankprofessor believes is at play here is authoritarianism. Authoritarians attempting to exert their control over others. Too many campus feminists have created an authoritarian sisterhood, a sisterhood that is merciless on women who dissent from their orthodoxy, one such woman being Heather Mac Donald. Yes, there has been some polite critiques of Mac Donald’s first article on campus rape. But to my knowledge, no feminist, no member of the campus anti-rape movement has come forward chastising their feminist confreres who name call and heap abuse on Mac Donald. The restraint Heather Mac Donald has demonstrated in response to this abuse has been admirable.

In addition, the dankprofessor wishes to recommend two books by Daphne Patai which provide tremendous insight into authoritarian campus feminism- HETEROPHOBIA; SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND THE FUTURE OF FEMINISM and PROFESSING FEMINISM: CAUTIONARY TALES FROM THE STRANGE WORLD OF WOMEN’S STUDIES.

If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessorTM
© Copyright 2008


March 3, 2008 Posted by | coercing women, consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, Heather Mac Donald, higher education, rape, sex, sexual politics, student professor dating, Uncategorized | 1 Comment


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