Dispelling the myth of rape culture on campus

The concept of rape culture was invented by feminists to tar all men with the brush of the worst of them

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Accusations of rape made by students against other students or staff members have caused great concern in universities and beyond.

Female students at McGill University, according to individual and in-class conversations, frame rape as a result of “rape culture.” But their definition of “rape culture” doesn’t fit with what’s usually meant by “culture.”

In order to say that we, members of McGill University or, more broadly, Canadians, have a rape culture, two conditions would have to be met. First, rape would have to be regarded as a good thing, something desirable, beneficial. Second, people would have to be encouraged to engage in rape. I don’t believe that either of these conditions is met.

Furthermore, I would estimate that 98 per cent of rapes among students are unintentional. Students don’t say, “I’m going out to rape someone tonight.” Rather, they say, “I’m going out to party, I want to get wasted, I want to get laid.” They may not do their due diligence in regard to consent, and they may not use good judgment in proceeding or stopping. They may do wrong but not intentionally. This is further evidence that they’re not being guided by a culture, which inculcates intentions.

It’s true, of course, that rapes take place. But does that mean that we have a rape culture?

Let’s take another example that could be framed in a parallel fashion. In North America there are hundreds of thousands of serious car accidents every year, and tens of thousands of people are killed in auto accidents. Does this mean we have a car accident culture?

In fact, we have a car safety culture, which includes laws about who may drive, extensive training and testing requirements, under what conditions people may drive, elaborate rules of the road, penalties for those who violate the rules, and oversight to catch those who violate the rules. People don’t intend to have accidents but they do intend to do things that inadvertently lead to accidents: they drink and drive, text while driving, drive in fog, snow and ice, and sometimes impulsively speed or pass other cars when they shouldn’t.

As a male who has spent more than a half century in institutions of higher learning, I’ve never heard anyone say that rape was a good thing and I have never heard any man encourage another man to engage in rape.

So it appears to me that the concept of rape culture in North America is without merit. There is no rape culture in North America.

With regard to violent sexual assaults on females, the feminist narrative combines with the traditional male protectiveness toward women when women may have been subjected to violent sexual assaults, to rape. Hillary Clinton’s plea that “every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed and supported,” was and is understood as meaning that any female making an accusation must be believed.

The administration of former U.S. president Barack Obama sent directives to institutions of higher learning making it clear that accusations by women must be accepted and acted upon. American university administrators saluted and acted energetically, trying, suspending and expelling accused men. The same spirit moves Canadian universities: McGill University designates any person who makes an accusation, with no test of validity, a “survivor.”

In courtrooms, where accusations of rape were tested against evidence, it turned out that some accusations of rape and sexual assault by females were unsupported by evidence or were outright lies.

In some high-profile cases, prosecution has, in fact, failed. And in others, accusers were deemed to have lied and were sentenced to incarceration. Canadians watched as prominent television personality Jian Ghomeshi was accused of sexual assault by a number of women whose testimony failed to convince a judge and Ghomeshi was acquitted on all charges.

In another case, a female American college student named Nikki Yovino apparently had consensual sex with two male college football players and then accused them of rape so her boyfriend would not be mad at her. She was charged with giving a false incident report and with tampering with physical evidence, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. She was released on $150,000 bond pending trial.

Why would intelligent, educated, otherwise reasonable young women assert such an invalid proposition?

The concept of rape culture was invented by feminists to tar all men with the brush of the worst of them. Denigrating your male opponents, especially morally, enhances feminist claims for legitimate female ascendency.

It’s a dishonest trick but those are not unknown in politics.

Philip Carl Salzman is professor of anthropology at McGill University, senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, and fellow of the Middle East Forum.


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