BY Jim Byset
A CURIOUS thing is happening at the National Post right now. Over the past two weeks, the National Post has printed four articles on rape culture. Rape culture, for those of you who don’t know, is the idea that we live in a society whereby rape is an accepted reality. Evidence that we are living in such a culture comes from our apparent comfort with sexualizing and objectifying women, the prevalence of prostitution and pornography, victim blaming, slut shaming, and trivializing rape.
Quite often, statistics and facts accompany the theory – with feminists and activists quoting numbers that are, on the face of it, pretty terrifying. While there doesn’t seem to be a consensus as to exactly how many women are being raped or sexually assaulted (advocates of the theory never include data on male victims,) what is clear is that the numbers are absolutely huge. Indeed, they’re so big that they’re simply not credible. Many noted academics, critics, and commentators such as Christina Hoff Sommers have repeatedly argued this point but to little avail. While critics of feminism have been effective in ripping the theory to shreds, gender feminists plow on regardless – safe in the knowledge that neither politicians nor the mainstream media have any interest in confronting their claims.
That comfortable status quo, however, might be about to change.
Over the past fortnight, The National Post has aggressively challenged the concept of rape culture. Barbara Kay, long noted for her rejection of feminist thought, wrote two articles in which she critiqued the spurious tenets of rape culture theory. Brian Hutchinson penned a piece in which he investigated the origins and veracity of foundational ‘statistics’ that underpin rape culture and, just two days ago, The National Post Editorial Board threw their considerable weight behind the push to openly scrutinize the idea of rape culture.
Kay sees the recent coverage as part of a greater awareness, and skepticism about the claims made by feminists.
I am very pleased to see the Post’s editorial board taking a definite stand on this issue[.] I think perhaps it is a sign that there is only so much fear-mongering you can generate without adducing evidence for it before public skepticism takes hold. According to rape culture claims, the risks to campus women of sexual assault are higher than the risk of any other crime on earth. And yet women walk around the campus seemingly blithely unaware of the terrible fate in store for them or their girlfriends (based on the one in four/five figure). There is a cognitive disconnect here, and ordinary Canadians are puzzled by it.
As well they should be – the idea that we live in a rape culture clashes spectacularly not only with official crime stats, but also with the dim view that society in general takes of sexual assault and rape – a point that Margaret Wente of The Globe and Mail recently explored, saying that,“[the] manufacture of “rape culture” is a triumph of ideology over substance. It has inflated a serious but uncommon threat into a crime wave.”
The key word here is inflated. Feminists routinely buttress their theories with statistics that are not congruent with reality; they use definitions and methodologies that result in a hopelessly skewed picture. No reasonable person – even for a moment – would believe the ‘statistic’ that one-in-four women are raped on university campuses, yet that is the conclusion that Mary P. Koss came to in her now infamous (and repeatedly debunked) survey in 1987.
Amazingly, 73% of the women that Koss characterized as rape victims, did not share that view – they did not think that they were victims of rape. 43% of these supposed rape victims went on to date their ‘rapists.’
Clearly Koss’ definition of rape is just plain wrong and an honest scholar would address that. Koss chose not to address the problem, however, and so have the countless feminist academics who’ve since mimicked her methodology. What exists as a consequence is a strange form of hysteria across college campuses, and, to a lesser degree – across society. Kay believes that the success of the feminist propaganda machine, in popularizing the myth of a ‘war on women’ is directly responsible for promulgation of rape culture.
Once you accept… that the urge to violence against women is a chronic and unabating evil, situated in the hearts of men, and ready to spring out at any opportune moment, you have created a moral panic with no basis in evidence, just a theory that violence against women is a continuum from a child’s stolen playground kiss on the cheek to the calculated rapes of women in Bosnia-Herzogovina. No amount of vigilance, therefore, is too much, and no woman is therefore really safe. In fact, a very tiny percentage of women are at actual risk of violence from men in our society, and of those who are, much of it is avoidable.
The recent debacle at Wellesley College in is a perfect example of this hysteria. American artist Tony Matelli’s temporary art installation – a statue of a fairly ordinary looking man sleepwalking in his underwear was deemed by students as an “inappropriate and potentially harmful addition to our community.” Admittedly – the statue is unusual – and at a stretch unsettling – but it’s a statue. It doesn’t possess agency and has nothing to do with rape. Yet, these staggeringly obvious facts did not deter Wellesley students from setting up a Change.org petition to have the ‘triggering’ statue removed from its location on campus grounds, which, depressingly, garnered some 988 signatories.
[T]hat is the point of it (rape culture) – to sow terror of men in order to convince authorities that women continue to need support, that the rape-crisis industry is not only necessary but in need of expansion, and therefore even more funding in this area is called for. The real beneficiaries are stakeholders in jobs created by the moral panic.
It is difficult to draw any other conclusion. Rape culture just doesn’t make any sense. It contradicts the general societal view of rape and sexual assault as a heinous crime; it contradicts how seriously the legal system views such crimes and relies on debunked, dishonest research. It also describes a picture that Kay says is completely at odds with crime statistics.
“The fact is that instances of rape have gone down in the general population. If they have gone up on campuses, there have to be other factors at work. Why has there not been more emphasis on facts and statistics around the phenomenon? Because the case for rape culture collapses when you start looking into the stats. Even if you multiply reported rapes by 100, you still don’t get figures that add up to a “culture.”
It is vital, according to Kay, to continue to put pressure on those that perpetuate such theories by asking questions, and demanding answers.
“[We should ask] the same questions we should ask of someone who promotes the idea that there are packs of stray dogs roaming the city and we are in danger of getting rabies from their bites: Show me the evidence. How many police reports of bites? How many hospital admissions for rabies? How many stories of bites and rabies turned out to be urban myths? Why are the rabid dogs only roaming around in this city and not in the nearby ones? Is “rabies” a misnomer in most cases for “infection”? Has “rabies” been redefined in this city and not in others? How is it that so many of the self-reporting victims were so drunk when they were bitten that they can’t remember feeling the pain of the bite?”
These are questions that feminists need to answer. There should be no more talk of ‘triggering,’ no more ad hominem attacks or appeals to emotion – if feminists want their theories to be taken seriously then they should be made to publically defend them. If they are not willing to do that then financial support should be withdrawn from programs that support such spurious theories. It is high time for a critical audit of rape culture theory, and the industry it supports.