Phi Beta Cons

Heather Mac Donald on Campus Rapes

At long last (as City Journal web readers know, it’s been “coming soon” for more than a month), Heather Mac Donald’s piece on the “campus rape myth” is up.

Basically, she argues there’s a bizarre dichotomy on college campuses: On the one hand, administrations condone sexual permissiveness (“Sex Week” and the like), but on the other, they promote a narrative that college women face the threat of rape almost constantly. They claim one in four women will be sexually assaulted before graduation.
Mac Donald writes:

No crime, much less one as serious as rape, has a victimization rate remotely approaching 20 or 25 percent, even over many years. . . . The one-in-four statistic would mean that every year, millions of young women graduate who have suffered the most terrifying assault, short of murder, that a woman can experience. Such a crime wave would require nothing less than a state of emergency . . . Admissions policies letting in tens of thousands of vicious criminals would require a complete revision, perhaps banning boys entirely. The nation’s nearly 10 million female undergrads would need to take the most stringent safety precautions. Certainly, they would have to alter their sexual behavior radically to avoid falling prey to the rape epidemic.

The number, of course is bunk: When you ask women if they’ve been raped, very few say they have been. To come up with the 25-percent figure for Ms. magazine two decades ago, a researcher gave a survey about a variety of experiences, then classified those experiences as rape. Seventy-three percent of the “victims” said they hadn’t been raped, and 42 percent had sex with their “assailants” again.
The reality underlying the trend is that (surprise) college girls get drunk and do things they wouldn’t have done sober. The boys, many of them drunk as well, “take advantage” of the girls. It’s quite unfeminist when you get down to it: “Inebriation strips women of responsibility for their actions but preserves male responsibility not only for their own actions but for their partners’ as well. Thus do men again become the guardians of female well-being.” Mac Donald cites the “rape” tale of one woman who couldn’t even remember what happened: “I may have initiated it.”
One thing Mac Donald doesn’t mention, though, is that by law in some states it’s rape if a woman willingly gets drunk, and then willingly has sex. So I’m not sure she’s right when she says, “the overwhelming majority of campus ‘rape’ cases that take up administration time and resources would get thrown out of court in a twinkling.”
By all means there’s a difference between this and what most people mean when they say “rape,” but university administrators are far from alone in failing to recognize it.


The Latest