Friday, April 8, 2011

Promoting Rape Culture in the Sun-Times

Posted By on 04.08.11 at 02:41 PM

Usually it's the comments on blogs and online articles that make me question my faith in humanity—but in a recent Sun-Times op-ed, author Heather Mac Donald gets it wrong, and the commenters get it right. Mac Donald's argument, that rape doesn't really exist on college campuses, is so unbelievable that I had to read this twice to make sure I wasn't imagining things:

Biden has just announced more college red tape on the laughable ground that schools ignore sexual violence. In fact, virtually every campus has a robust sexual-violence bureaucracy which sits idle, waiting for the shell-shocked casualties of rape to crawl through their doors. The victims never come — because they don’t exist.

Mac Donald's other arguments are equally ludicrous. I'm not sure how the fact that women still want to go to coed colleges proves that sexual assault isn't a problem on college campuses, and I can't even begin to get into her dismissal of statistics from the U.S. Department of Education that nearly 20 percent of college women are the victims of actual or attempted sexual assault (leaving aside the fact that about 60 percent of sexual assaults go unreported).

I wish I could be surprised that the Sun-Times would publish a piece that not only ignores the existence of rape culture but actively contributes to it—but after the New York Times's treatment of the case of an 11-year-old rape victim, I've stopped expecting much from the mainstream media. What did pleasantly surprise me was how thoughtful the comments were, calling out Mac Donald's absurd contentions, including the round of good old-fashioned victim-blaming she wraps up the article with:

There are a few, simple antidotes to the alleged campus-rape crisis: Don’t drink yourself blotto. Don’t get into bed with one of your fellow drunken revelers. Keep your clothes on. If every girl practiced those elementary rules, poor Ms. Ali might be out of a well-paying government job.

The idea that women are responsible for preventing sexual assault reminds me of one of the best lists I've ever seen: Sexual Assault Prevention Tips Guaranteed to Work! It's worth reading the whole thing, but here are a few favorites.

1. Don't put drugs in people's drinks in order to control their behavior.
7. USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM! If you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public.
10. Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone "on accident" you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can blow it if you do.

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