"Guilty Until Proven Innocent"
You may have heard about the following scary case:
One evening in February 2012, Vassar College students Xialou "Peter" Yu and Mary Claire Walker, both members of the school's rowing team, had a few drinks at a team gathering and left together as the party wound down. After a make-out session at a campus nightspot, they went to Yu's dorm room, where, by his account, they had sex that was not only consensual but mainly initiated by Walker, who reassured her inexperienced partner that she knew what to do. At some point, Yu's roommate walked in on them; after he was gone, Yu says, Walker decided she wanted to stop, telling him it was too soon after her breakup with her previous boyfriend. She got dressed and left.
The next day, according to documents in an unusual complaint that Yu filed against Vassar last June, Yu's resident adviser told him some students had seen him and the young woman on their way to the dorm. They had been so concerned by Walker's apparently inebriated state that they called campus security. Alarmed, Yu contacted Walker on Facebook to make sure everything was all right. She replied that she had had a "wonderful time" and that he had done "nothing wrong"-indeed, that she was sorry for having "led [him] on" when she wasn't ready for a relationship. A month later Walker messaged Yu herself, again apologizing for the incident and expressing hope that it would not affect their friendship. There were more exchanges during the next months, with Walker at one point inviting Yu to dinner at her place. (In a response to Yu's complaint in October, attorneys for Vassar acknowledged most of these facts but asserted that Walker had been too intoxicated to consent to sex and had been "in denial," scared, and in shock when she wrote the messages.)
Last February, one year after the encounter, the other shoe dropped: Yu was informed that Walker had filed charges of "nonconsensual sexual contact" against him through the college disciplinary system. Two and a half weeks later, a hearing was held before a panel of three faculty members. Yu was not allowed an attorney; his request to call his roommate and Walker's roommate as witnesses was denied after the campus "gender equity compliance investigator" said that the roommates had emailed him but had "nothing useful" to offer. While the records from the hearing are sealed, Yu claims his attempts to cross-examine his accuser were repeatedly stymied. Many of his questions (including ones about Walker's friendly messages, which she had earlier told the investigator she sent out of "fear") were barred as "irrelevant"; he says that when he was allowed to question Walker, she would start crying and give evasive or nonresponsive answers. Yu was found guilty and summarily expelled from Vassar.
If we're getting the straight story here, this sounds like a completely unremarkable case of consensual sex between adults. Vassar has a rather bad reputation for being a bastion of the loony academic left, and contemporary "rape crisis feminism" is one of the most central components of that toxic stew.
In my more cynical/pessimistic moments, I think: it's proven fairly hard to catch and convict actual rapists and those who commit sexual assault...so the academic left has settled for convicting innocent people; hey, maybe that't not ideal, but it'll do in a pinch...
Much of this insanity is pulled along by various crazy aspects of contemporary radical feminist theory, include the astounding confused concept "*rape culture*". As with so many confused concepts, "rape culture" survives on vagueness, the passing reference, and the force of shrill dogmatism. It's common to see claims roughly of the form "Problems of x kind make it harder to combat rape culture, and this has led us to focus on blah blah solutions to these problems." "Rape culture" gets invoked in passing, and the claim that, for example, contemporary American culture is a so-called "rape culture" is simply assumed to be true without proof, nor even any clear explanation of what that phrase is supposed to mean.
But what makes culture C a rape culture? If C is a rape culture if and only if the rape-relevant aspects of the culture mostly or largely condone rape, then it is the most obvious thing in the world that e.g. contemporary American culture is not
a "rape culture." The vast, overwhelming, almost exclusive attitude toward rape in the culture is that it s not only wrong but a heinous crime, often thought of as worse than murder. The only thing worse than rape is pedophilia...which is, of course, a form of rape... So no "rape culture" there.
OTOH, the idea might be that C is a "rape culture" if and only if there are some elements or other
in the culture that condone rape. This would be an extremely uninteresting/unimportant concept...and, furthermore, if this is what the phrase means, then it's typically used by feminists in highly misleading ways... However it might be worth thinking about. Rape is primarily an act that hinges on individual choice and the individual moral responsibility of the rapist (though the lefter-than-liberal left tends to detest those notions)...but there may very well be minor aspects of the culture that are insufficiently anti-rape. For example, it used to be a common view that women often said 'no' when they meant 'yes.' Obviously that is sometimes true, or at least used to be, but the very fact that this was passed down as an aspect of conventional wisdom might very well be an aspect of the culture which--though in no way explicitly pro-rape in content--tended to promote sexual assault and rape. Certain sub-cultures, such as some fraternity "cultures" may very well promote rape. And so-called "pick-up artist" (PUA) culture clearly endorses actions which are largely indistinguishable from rape. So, in this extremely permissive sense of "rape culture," the U.S. might be said to have/be one.
However, the phrase is obviously highly misleading, suggesting as it does that the promotion of rape is a central feature of the culture, and/or that the culture condones rape more than it condemns it. Look we cannot call American culture an "intellectual culture" because there are some minor
aspects of the culture that could be called intellectual; we cannot call it a "Hispanic culture" because there are Hispanic subcultures; we cannot call it a "cancer culture" because there are some common practices (e.g. smoking) that cause cancer. Any reasonable way you look at it, "rape culture" does not accurately describe American culture.
Bad theory and faulty concepts seem to be far from the more poignant practical concerns of people being falsely accused of rape, but I think it's fairly clear that bad theory is driving bad practice in cases such as this. Another bad contemporary feminist idea is that women can decide that they have been raped even if they apparenlty consented at the time, enjoyed the experience, continued to have contact (or even sex) with the alleged attacker, and gave no sign whatsoever during the encounter that they were unwilling to have sex. This is the sort of madness that generates policies like Vassar's. These are insane policies built on insane theories, and that is why they should be eliminated. However, even those who don't care about justice and reason should oppose the policies. Even those feminist who only care about (as some say) "power for women" should at least care that such policies infantilize women by treating them like perpetual, inveterate minors, people who are not sufficiently rational and autonomous to make their own decisions, take responsibility for their free actions,and live with the consequences. This view of women is the antithesis of everything old-school, admirable feminism fought against.
If we're getting the straight story about Mr. Yu and Ms. Walker, I sincerely hope that Yu sues both Vassar and Walker for a gigantic truckload of money.