By Dr. Mom
Cash Daily Contributor
Academics—especially feminist academics—love to make up theories through which they interpret all facts and life. When “The Patriarchy” became passe, even to first-year Feminist Studies students, “rape culture” was devised to explain why everything—especially in America—is terrible for women. “Rape culture” is the allegedly ubiquitous system that runs through society, teaching men that women’s lives are worth less than men, their bodies belong to men, and that men will not be punished for taking advantage of any woman that crosses their path. This culture of implicit rape follows women everywhere and makes their lives a constant struggle to be recognized and valued.
The problem is that this is entirely theoretical, since there is no way to prove that every man believes he has impunity to treat any woman any way. They would never admit it if they did, and most women wouldn’t be able to live in the world as sane people if they believed this to be true. Nevertheless, feminists insist on its reality, and woe be unto him (or her) that asks for objective evidence. Among elites, the concept of rape culture has, like “white privilege,” moved from the realm of theory into an entrenched orthodoxy without spending much time in the halls of empirical proof in between. But when a theory of culture becomes a paradigm of journalism, some stories become too good to fact-check.
Fast-forward to this past tumultuous week, whereupon the journalism world was roiled by what now appears to have been a scandalously lazy attempt by a feminist journalist to destroy the reputations of a fraternity, a university, and the entire Greek system. As luck would have it, in her search for an incontrovertible exemplar of rape culture, she stumbled across a perfect and awful moral tale, spun by a young woman who claimed to have been violently gang-raped as part of a fraternity initiation.
I won’t go into the details—though it would have been a good idea for the journalist to question more of them—but there were enough flaws in the telling and the tale to set the blogging bloodhounds baying. Before long, the story began to fall apart—but not before the University of Virginia had prostrated itself before the altar of unchallenged accusation, shutting down the Greek system and promising to make proper feminist amends with committees and investigations and special programs to address the “problem.” The fraternity itself was vandalized, with windows broken and clever slogans written on it like “Stop raping people” and “UVA Center for Rape Studies.”
The idea that rape is everywhere, all the time–that all men rape, and all women are raped–is beyond ridiculous. Yet this is the underlying assumption that allows otherwise intelligent people to believe a story full of holes, bereft of logic, and possibly false. It seems impossible that so many apparent innocents could be libeled this way, accused without defense of the most indefensible of crimes. Make no mistake: if the story in Rolling Stone is true, a terrible crime has been committed, and many people need to spend many years in prison.
But if it is not, the paradigm of rape culture was enough to lead not just the writer, but multiple news networks, newspapers, and celebrity talking heads to believe seven young men raped a woman for three hours while she lay on the broken shards of a glass table in pitch-black darkness, in a building in which an official function was going on. When people desperately want to believe their delusions and conclusions, terrible injustices can be done. It has happened before—right here in America.
In 1990, the longest, most expensive criminal trial in American history ended with no convictions. Virginia McMartin, her grandson, and other defendants had stood accused of child molesting, including claims of Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA). It seems impossible today, but during the 1980s, SRA was all the rage in disciplines from law to psychology to education. There was a nationwide rash of claims that Satanic cults were at work nationwide, networks of elites so powerful that they could molest, rape, torture, and even murder innocent children at will, with no fear of discovery or reprisal. Uncritical media reported the victims’ claims as though they were proven fact, and law enforcement around the nation held seminars teaching how to recognize the signs of SRA.
The media helped the public forget the quaint notion of “innocent until proven guilty,” reporting every accusation—however bizarre—with undiluted sympathy for the alleged victims. The preliminary hearing took 20 months. The trial took three years. Ray Buckey spent five years in jail before the trial came to an end. At UVA, it looks as though enough questions have been forced into the discourse by bloggers and dogged investigators that the media has decided to slink away, muttering “nevermind.”
The children of the McMartin pre-school claimed not just that their tormentors molested and abused them, but that the adults flew around the room and shifted shapes. As time went on, sanity seemed to return to the chattering classes, and by the time of the acquittal there was not much air left in the SRA balloon.
Rape culture is flying around the room right now. Let’s hope in three decades we remember it as the hysteria it is.
Dr. Mom is a married mother of three boys and the author of Souls, Bodies, Spirits: The Drive to Abolish Abortion Since 1973. The hills she chooses to die on are the Bible and the Constitution, in that order. In addition to her American Studies doctorate, she also holds a Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology and is, therefore, perfectly equipped to interpret the current Administration. She also tweets as DrKC4.