Politics & Policy

Who Really Created the ‘Rape Culture’?

The cultural Left has encouraged the worst instincts among some young men.

‘Two, four, six, eight. Stop the violence. Stop the rape.” So chanted a group of Ohio University students calling themselves “f***rapeculture” at a protest a couple of years ago. Rape-culture activists have become a fixture on campuses throughout the country, and now, 55 colleges — including Harvard, Princeton, and Berkeley — are under federal investigation for mishandling sexual-assault complaints.

Some of my conservative/libertarian sisters have pointed out that the statistics on sexual assault are wildly inflated. Christina Hoff Sommers notes that the “one in five women are victims of rape” statistic that the Centers for Disease Control popularized (and that has been cited as justification for drastically diminishing the due-process rights of those accused) are wildly at odds with Department of Justice crime-victimization surveys, and are based on poorly worded questions and unrepresentative samples. Heather Mac Donald asks whether we are to believe that 20 percent of college women are rape victims when only .05 percent of Detroit residents report being raped. Cathy Young observes that “three quarters of the female students who were classified as victims of sexual assault by incapacitation did not believe they had been raped.”

#ad#Let’s stipulate that some of the hysteria about campus rape is based on poor statistics, but something is going on. A non-trivial number of young women are having a bad time of it on campus.

The “rape culture” advocates think they’ve found the problem: We haven’t “taught men not to rape.” Zerlina Maxwell, writing in Time, argues that we live in a rape culture that blames the victim by asking whether she was drinking.

The young women who find themselves in a rough world of sexual insensitivity and sometimes even brutality are looking in all the wrong places to lay blame. They should look left; to the cultural left, that is, including the feminists.

The modern campus is a little hothouse of leftist ideas about human nature and the ideal human society. The universities are devout propagators of false nostrums about sex differences and sexuality. The world that the Left (very much including the feminist Left) has created is one that could have been designed by a poorly civilized teenaged boy. Far from teaching that women are more sensitive and vulnerable than men, the Left encourages a sexual free-for-all.

Every freshman on campus is invited to the bacchanal. At Yale, they call it “Sex Week.” At Columbia, the health service hosts a website called “Go Ask Alice” where the curious can learn about many things. Interested in a threesome? Alice replies: “For many in the bedroom, three (or more) may be a welcomed crowd. For others, two is the better number.” Good to know. Alice offers advice about everything you can think of and doubtless things you haven’t. She’ll enlighten you about “scat play” and educate you about how many calories are in semen and whether “eating feces” is “safe.”

If men and women were just the same in their sexual needs, desires, and behaviors, then the hook-up culture would yield an equal number of unhappy males and females complaining of rape and assault. What could be the reason that the overwhelming number of those who feel victimized — who are victimized — are women?

Of course the culture must teach men not to rape. Western culture has been doing so for thousands of years. Next to murder, rape is the most harshly punished crime. But rape is also notoriously difficult to prove — especially if the victim shows no bruises. The false accusation of rape is almost as serious as the crime itself. Serious, non-ideological people recognize that this most intimate crime can be an excruciating legal thicket.

Before feminism declared it a thought crime, we used to teach men to be gentlemen. That meant never taking advantage of a woman who was too drunk to give consent. Smart women didn’t rely only on a man’s conscience, though. They didn’t get blind drunk and go to a stranger’s room. It was once considered foolish to take off your clothes with someone who didn’t love you — far less someone who hardly knows your name. That’s not “slut shaming,” it’s simple prudence.

The current climate has encouraged the worst instincts among some young men and doubtless confused many others. Some may find themselves accused of sexual assault when they got mixed signals. Others are predators who pick off easy prey in a world without guardrails. Women have been brainwashed into thinking that this sexual sewer is empowering.

Mail your thank-you notes to the Left.

— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2014 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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