Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Writing right about rape and Heather Mac Donald

University of Virginia student, Patrick Cronin has an op ed piece, THE RIGHT RAPE STATISTICS, in today’s LA Times. It should come as no surprise that this op ed was primarily devoted to attacking Heather Mac Donald’s earlier LA Times piece on the campus rape crisis myth. As for right rape statistics which the title implies the column is all about, the dankprofessor ended up disappointed since Cronin did not write about right rape statistics. Almost all of the column was a rehash of previous criticisms of Mac Donald, many of which have already been commented on by the dankprofessor. So I will only take a couple of excerpts from this column and keep my commentary to a minimum and hopefully avoid engaging in redundancy.

Cronin states-

Mac Donald makes several false assumptions when constructing her argument. First, she assumes studies on campus rape are irrelevant because many survivors do not call their experience rape. She later blames the victims, citing their behavior as a contributory factor to their experience. Such victim-blaming has a direct and obvious effect on reporting. If people like Mac Donald stigmatize a survivor as a promiscuous, irresponsible alcoholic, is there really much incentive to come forward? And if a victim convinces himself or herself that no assault took place, why use the resources available?

I don’t think that Mac Donald characterized campus rape victims as promiscuous irresponsible alcoholics. She simply indicated that putting oneself in a highly sexualize environment in which alcohol is being consumed by self and many others can put women at risk of being sexually victimized. To indicate that Mac Donald’s cautionary rhetoric represents a form of stigmatization is in the dankprofessor’s opinion other worldly thinking.

Acknowledging having been assaulted can be a very difficult first step toward recovery. That’s why sociologists performing these studies ask if a person experienced what’s defined as rape or sexual assault without putting those words into the questions. As a result, these studies catch people who were raped or assaulted according to the legal definition, even if they do not recognize their experience as such. Mac Donald asserts that this style of questioning undermines the validity of these studies, but, in fact, it exposes the difficulty and trauma of reporting.

If the alleged victim of rape does not recognize, or psychologically construct her experience as rape, it does not matter how a researcher may characterize the verbiage of the respondent. It only matters if one does not consider the woman’s definition of the situation to be paramount. As for these studies exposing the difficulty and trauma of reporting, almost all crimes are underreported, whether they be violent or non-violent crimes. As far as I know, there is no trauma reporting syndrome. In fact, it is usually the opposite, telling others of ones experiences is usually therapeutic. And one could go even one step further and argue that if potentially violent persons had the opportunity to verbalize to others their violent feelings and inclinations, there would probably be less violence. The dankprofessor finds it interesting that there are suicide hotlines for potential suicide offenders but no homicide or rape hotlines for potential violent offenders.

There are those in our society who choose to ignore rape and sexual assault because of its gravity, frequency and complexity. They choose to blame the survivor, dismiss the statistics or question the political motivation of those who try to end rape and sexual assault and mitigate the life-altering consequences of its occurrence. They rely on antiquated notions of drunken frat boys and promiscuous young women looking to “have a good time.” I know plenty of the people Mac Donald chooses to define based on these stereotypes. None has ever asked to be raped. Some have been raped anyway.

The dankprofessor agrees that stereotypes do play a role in rape and sexual assault. But I would argue that both men and women have to free themselves of stereotypes such as “these guys are not the type of guys who would commit rape”, “college guys are cool, no need to worry” or “women wouldn’t be acting and imbibing if they really didn’t want sex” if we are going to decrease rate of rape and sexual assaults.

And Cronin doesn’t do anything to improve the “sexual climate” when he ends his essay on this note: “None has ever asked to be raped. Some have been raped anyway.” Using nonsensical word play is no way to deal with rape or any other form of violence.

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 4, 2008 Posted by | consensual relationships, ethics, feminism, Heather Mac Donald, higher education, rape, sex, sexual politics | 1 Comment

Undergrad female students as sex workers

The Australian publication, THE SUNDAY AGE reports that “HUNDREDS of university students in Victoria have turned to prostitution to pay their way through higher education…Up to 40% of the female sex workers in Melbourne’s brothels are attending the city’s eight universities and other colleges.

Monetary issues appear to be the main motivation for Australian coeds to become sex workers. One 22 year old coed who has been working as a prostitute for 18 months stated- “In an ideal world I wouldn’t be doing this work but it’s well paid and there’s no way I could afford to complete university and live out of home if I had any other part-time job.”

THE SUNDAY AGE contacted the managers of all Australian brothels; and nearly all of the managers estimated that 40 to 50% of their sex workers were full-time students.

Glen Barnes, general manager at Melbourne’s largest brothel, the Daily Planet, said that university students often made the best workers. He explained: “We’ve got nearly 200 girls on our books and I’d say at least 35% are students, and they’re nearly always a pleasure to deal with.

“Typically they’re very career-oriented and know exactly what they want to get out of the job. Going to uni is obviously getting more and more expensive, and for many who haven’t got wealthy parents, this is the best way to make ends meet. Most of the girls say it’s the rising costs of fees and being a student in an expensive city like Melbourne that is making them consider the sex industry.

“We’re happy to have them and try to provide an environment which supports them. That means that if it’s quiet and they’re not with a client we allow them to get out their laptops and study in a spare room.”

A spokeswoman for Top of the Town, another large brothel in the CBD, with about 90 girls on its books, said that girls from all backgrounds were involved.

“You really can’t generalise about the type of girl that will become a sex worker,” she said.

“We’ve got workers who went to the most prestigious schools in Melbourne and come from very affluent families. In their cases I think they’ve made the decision that they’d want to earn their own money rather than accepting handouts from their parents.

“We’ve also got girls who come from more disadvantaged situations, who can’t live at home while they study, or perhaps they don’t want to be a burden on their parents.

“By working in the sex industry they can earn a lot of money in a relatively short period of time.

“The shift work also means that it’s fairly easy for them to combine it with their studies.

“Brothels in Melbourne are very well run and offer a safe, clean environment and, after all, these ladies aren’t doing anything that’s illegal. Some people may object to it, but it really is very professional.”

The Top of the Town spokeswoman said one former sex worker had paid her way through a law degree by working one or two nights a week and, once qualified, had returned to the brothel to give legal advice to some of the girls.

“A lot of the time with students, the girls are very clear that they’ll only work while they’re studying,” the spokeswoman said. “Once they’ve got their degree or qualification that’s it, they’ll walk away.

“It’s not necessarily a choice for the rest of your life, just a way of paying your way until you get to where you want to go.”

In terms of the financial needs of university students living in Melbourne, “Statistics from the University of Melbourne show that rent and living expenses for those students who live in the city totals about $25,000 if living in university or shared accommodation in the city. This does not include tuition fees, which are deferred until after graduation. For a student living in a one-bedroom flat or studio, this cost can rise to more than $30,000.”

Apparently, universities are aware of this situation-

A spokeswoman for Monash University said: “Obviously these ladies are adults and are free to make their own choices about what work they want to enter into. However, we do have extensive services for those who are suffering money problems. Any student can visit our financial counsellors, who are available on all campuses.

“We also offer a wide range of grants, scholarships and bursaries, to those from financially challenged backgrounds.”

The dankprofessor notes that the article reported only on students employed as prostitutes in brothels. Other avenues for prostitution may have been via self-employment, advertising on the internet, employment as escorts as well as employment as escorts for the entertainment of clients of large corporations. Of course, female students may also be employed in other areas of sex work, such as strippers and as actors in pornography.

The article does fail to give any attention to male students who are employed in some capacity as sex workers.

So to date, the dankprofessor blog has reported on students employed as sex workers in France and Australia. Blog readers references to articles dealing with other countries, particularly the USA, will be most appreciated.

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 4, 2008 Posted by | higher education, prostitution, sex, sex workers | 1 Comment


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