Rape Nation?

Even the educated '90s male doesn't worry about its political incorrectness. "When she says no, she doesn't always mean no," a usually reasonable male told me recently. "Sometimes she means yes. As a man, you have to either believe that or admit that you are a rapist." On the nation's over-sexed college campuses, the date rape issue has raged for more than a decade. In response to studies that show one in four college women has been a victim of rape or attempted rape, programs have been instituted to educate women, to teach self-defense and to "Take Back the Night" at an annual march across campus.Recently, UNR Prevention for Sexual Assault programs began to educate college males. University Psychology professor and director of the on-campus Psychological Service Center Bill O'Donohue trains men to question their partner and get an answer, or explicit consent. College-age men who pay $20 to participate in the experimental training program are made aware of the kind of dangers they could face if they are accused of rape. They are also taught empathy for victims of rape. "Too many programs are directed at females," O'Donohue said. "If there was a sniper on campus, you could teach students to duck, roll and wear bullet-proof vests ... but it's better to have fewer snipers."Rape RatesBut just how many "snipers" are out there? It depends on who is writing the definition of "rape." By some defintions, one-in-four women are raped. By others, the number is less than that.Anyone who doubts whether rape is a national problem need look no farther than a study by UCLA sexuality researcher Neil Malamuth, who interviewed college men about their attitudes toward women, asking them if, assured they would never be caught, they would rape a woman. About 30 percent said they would.Several of those interviewed explained to Malamuth the "hate-fucking" fad, where a male fantasizes with guy friends about "doing it 'til she bleeds" with an unpopular or stuck-up female -- an activity designed to teach the woman her place or "tame" her. Sometimes, the study discovered, a man will brag about a sexual encounter where he "thrashed her so hard she cried" or "nail her to the wall." Despite these frightening attitudes toward women, the past few years of media attention have focused on turning what's been known as the "date-rape scare" into a myth propounded by uptight angry misanthropic women.But feminists have traced attempts to debunk statistics showing a rape epidemic of crisis proportions to the writings of similarly uptight, angry misogynistic men in conservative journals like Commentary and Public Interest, and magazines like Playboy.It was the well-known 1987 study, later called the Ms. magazine report, by psychology professor Mary Koss who interviewed more than 6,000 college students, that established the number "one-in-four" for college females as victims of coercive sex.But over the next few years, her definition of "rape" was called into question by Neil Gilbert, a Berkeley professor and writer who had become well-known for his crusade against a California child abuse prevention program. Gilbert had called the program a waste of money promoted by feminists with a hidden agenda. Regarding rape statistics, Gilbert wrote that Koss' questions were ambiguous, especially ones like "Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn't want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?" This, he said, allowed a woman to label as "rape" any sexual liason that she regretted the morning after. "What does having sex 'because' a man gives you drugs or alcohol signify?" Gilbert asked in his article "Examining the Facts," one of several in which feminists say Gilbert provides no studies of his own to refute Koss. "A positive response does not indicate whether duress, intoxication, force, or the threat of force were present; whether the woman's judgment or control were substantially impaired; or whether the man purposefully got the woman drunk in order to prevent her resistance to sexual advances."Date Rape a Myth?But the media blitz against feminists for "rape hype" didn't begin in earnest until a young Harvard woman, Katie Roiphe, a student who questioned Koss' study based on her own experience, wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times. In 1991, her article was reprinted in Playboy. The next year, her book The Morning After came out to the joy of a media culture that gave her rave reviews and featured her on morning talk shows for months. Roiphe's basic thesis, which she repeated ad nauseum during media interviews, was: "I don't feel that one out of four of my friends are being raped." But the footnotes of Roiphe's book cause some to wonder whether the young woman had even read Koss' study. Instead, Roiphe extensively cited Gilbert's work.On the UNR campus, the director of the Women's Resource Center, Helen Jones, said that she is convinced that Koss' methodology is fine. A plethora of smaller studies done in the past decade indicate that 20 to 27 percent of college women have been victims of rape or rape attempts. A similar study by Reno grad students fell in line with the Ms. Report, she said. When critics challenge the Koss study, they are attempting to make it look contradictory, when, in fact, it clearly is based on a broader definition of rape."It's like putting up a straw man," she said. "The studies are what they are -- based on what they define as rape." In Nevada, NRS 200.366 defines sexual assault as subjecting another person to sexual penetration, or forcing another person to make a sexual penetration on himself or another, or on a beast, against the victim's will or under conditions in which the perpetrator knows or should know that the victim is mentally or physically incapable of resisting or understanding the nature of the conduct.That's pretty much Koss' definition, which she based on the law in her state, Ohio. Her definition was later challenged by those who especially questioned whether drugs or intoxicants made a person unable to understand the nature of his or her conduct.But even with the alcohol and drug related statistics taken out of Koss' work, the numbers don't change dramatically, lowering only to one in five.Silence Means NoBut hard-line feminists would rather the numbers go the other direction. They insist that rape is under-reported, and numbers are more likely to be one in three."Any sexual intercourse without mutual desire is a form of rape," said Andrea Parrot, a psychiatry professor who studies acquaintance and date rape at Cornell University. "Anyone who is psychologically or physically pressured into sexual contact is as much a victim of rape as the person who is attacked on the streets."Author Stephanie Gutmann, who also cites Gilbert to debunk the feminist "agenda" in her article "It sounds like I raped you," countered: "Under ... this new definition, a man who whined until his girlfriend agreed to have sex with him would be guilty of rape." The debate over the definition of rape may not be resolved any time soon. Men's rights activists refer to the study's statistics as scare tactics, part of a feminist "agenda" to undermine personal responsibility and foster confusion. Gilbert's editorial contribution to the Wall Street Journal has been reprinted on a Men's Issues website: "The rape crisis movement's agenda is to change social perceptions of what constitutes acceptable intimate relations between men and women so that the slightest pressure amounts to inappropriate use of force, sweet talk and efforts at verbal persuasion are coercive, and the faintest demurral means no. "It is an effort to reduce the awesome complexity of intimate discourse between the sexes to the banality of 'no means no'." But no isn't the only way to say no, said a date-rape educator quoted by Reason magazine's Gutmann. If a participant isn't fully willing, she called that rape."People don't have the right to use other people's bodies assuming anything," she said. "Stone silence throughout an entire physical encounter with someone is not explicit consent."


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