Over the weekend the LA Times ran an op-ed, “What Campus Rape Crisis,” by Heather MacDonald.
MacDonald argued that:
…During the 1980s, feminist researchers committed to the rape-culture theory discovered that asking women directly if they had been raped yielded disappointing results — very few women said that they had been. So Ms. magazine commissioned University of Arizona public health professor Mary Koss to develop a different way to measure the prevalence of rape.
Rather than asking female students about rape per se, Koss asked them if they had ever experienced actions that she then classified as rape. One question, for example, asked, “Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn’t want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?” — a question that is ambiguous on several fronts, including the woman’s degree of incapacitation, the causal relation between being given a drink and having sexual intercourse, and the man’s intentions. Koss’ method produced the 25% rate, which Ms. then published.
(Editor’s note: CALCASA is choosing not to help this individual spread her message and as such will not be linking to the op-ed or openly quoting her. Aside from the strikethrough, this post stands unedited.)
Read Koss’s response here:
The conclusions in Heather McDonald’s opinion might have impacted differently had she included the following information:
1. The US Department of Justice recently funded its own study led by Bonnie Fisher to verify the findings of Koss. Fisher and colleagues replicated the evidence of a pandemic of rape on campuses using questionnaires approved by the Department of Justice for their validity Fisher’s rape estimate is 1 in 5 during women’s college career, whereas Koss’ was 1 in 4 since age 14. Also, Fisher omitted rape while intoxicated—or sex while intoxicated as MacDonald thinks of it. These differences make the higher Koss statistic understandable. The accurate comparison isn’t 1 in 4 versus practically nothing. Using the US Department of Justice data as the “gold standard” MacDonald should have focused on 1 in 4 versus 1 in 5.
2. The National College Drinking Study done at Harvard also reported similar numbers and more importantly found that they could be predicted by the rate of binge drinking on the campus as a whole. Thus, on high binge drinking campuses, ANY woman was more likely to be raped, not just those who intoxicated themselves.
3. Men are supposed to know that just as you would not have sex with a dead body or an unconscious person lying on the street, it is equally wrong to have sex with a woman who is unable to consent due to intoxication.
4. Studies show that whether or not a woman acknowledges her “unwanted sex” or “regretted sex” or “promiscuous sex” as rape, she suffers equal emotional distress to women who view their experience as rape. This finding was originally reported by Koss and colleagues in 1988 and the same conclusion was reached by the US Department of Justice study.
5. Women who drink too much deserve a hangover and eventually a reputation as budding alcoholics, they do not deserve to be raped.
Other notable responses include the following two:
Oh, THAT Campus Rape Crisis!
by Blair Jones
Heather MacDonald’s recent letter (read: article reprinted from right-wing journal) “What campus rape crisis” (2/24/08) came off as audacious and wildly inaccurate. After more careful study, it turns out to be a mild rhetorical flourish on a decade or so of toxic neo-conservative writings, hacking and attacking any semblance of “progressive culture” the author can overplay.
MacDonald came up on the rough-streets of Bel Air, spending her youth in private schools before going on to Stanford and Yale. The well-educated and newborn neo-con (Heather dropped her rose tinted liberal lenses in early adulthood for some stylish black-and-white libertarian specs) tapped into her part of the universal human experience in order to write on the issues she knows best: Policing and Racial Profiling, Immigration, Homeland Security, Education and Welfare. Her positions on the issues are not surprising coming from so far to the Right that our current president looks like a welfare worker (In her own words: “Since Bush was not a conservative, arguably he did no harm to conservatism.”) and her tropes consist of racist claims regarding African American and Latino families (calling them a “nosedive” for America’s family values) and making the attempt at “Setting Immigrants Straight” at David Horowitz’s Right-Wing breakfast club.
So why is she confused about rape?
As it happens, MacDonald finds herself to be more in-the-know than folks at our Nation’s Centers for Disease Control, Department of Justice, Harvard, NYU, Syracuse, and every other research institute that has consistently and persistently found the exact-same-findings for the last 20+ years: that violence against women not only exists, but that it is of epidemic proportions.
The basis for MacDonald’s research rests with cutesy, fresh out of college neo-con activist Karin Agness (read about her in Time magazine’s “What Would Ann Coulter Do?”) who believes that campus’ response to drug and alcohol facilitated sexual assault is entirely falsified. With drastically right-winged positions on healthcare, Title IX, abortion, women in the military and (not unlike her cohorts at conservative think-tank The Manhattan Institute’s quarterly newsletter “City Journal” from whence MacDonald’s letter is reprinted) the biological disparities of gender and race, Agness is mild in epidemic-denial.
While the editors at the LA Times choose to run second-hand neo-con drivel, many of the rest of us are dealing with the very real problem of violence against women. Courts and cops, republicans and democrats, men and women are overwhelmingly in agreement about the irrefutable fact that rape happens. MacDonald’s propaganda is like a tantrum: with her eyes squinched, her fingers in her ears the rest of us walk by and stare at her as she shouts. And while it’s ok to stare, we ought to keep working on the mission that many of us have an overt passion for: Creating a World Free From Sexual Violence—not just in our minds, but on our campuses too.