A Bad Week for Rape Culture

As Steve noted earlier today, Rolling Stone magazine has backed off from its blockbuster story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia. I wrote here that the story, written by an activist and based entirely on anonymous sources, was incredible on its face. “Jackie,” the alleged victim in the story, was gang raped by seven men in a fraternity house, but didn’t go to the police. Seriously? But she told several friends, and her friends said she’d better not report it, or else they might not get invited to any more fraternity parties. Because those parties are so much fun, evidently.

It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that this absurd narrative turned out to be false. Now, feminists are saying that “Jackie” must have gone through some sort of traumatic experience, even if not the one described in Rolling Stone. I don’t doubt that; she is evidently disturbed and may well have been traumatized at some point. But not by being raped by seven fraternity brothers at Phi Kappa Psi on September 28, 2012.

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The author of the article, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, now says that it doesn’t matter so much whether “Jackie’s” story was really true. (This is a common theme among liberals these days.) The real point of the article, she says, is that the University of Virginia didn’t respond forcefully enough to the incident. But this is a transparent bait and switch. The university’s reaction was inadequate only if the story was true. If it was false, then the university over-reacted, for example by closing down the entire fraternity system. (As William S. Burroughs said in a different context, “After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it.”) There are no valid lessons to be drawn from a lie.

Then we have the case of the appalling Lena Dunham. If you have no idea who she is, you are lucky. But she wrote an autobiographical memoir (at age 28, much like her idol Barack Obama, for whom she filmed a commercial in 2012) titled Not That Kind of Girl. (It’s none of my business, but since she brought it up, she does appear to be that kind of girl.) In her book, she claimed to have been “raped by a Republican” when she was a student at Oberlin. The party designation, for her, was obviously of the essence. She described her purported rapist as a fellow Oberlin student named Barry, who was a prominent Republican on campus, had a radio show and wore a mustache.

Apparently, if you Google for 15 seconds you can find out that there was one man named Barry who was an active Republican at Oberlin while Dunham was there, just a few years ago. He is married, has a couple of kids, and says he has never met Lena Dunham. He doesn’t fit the rest of her description–didn’t have a radio show or a mustache, never worked at a particular library, and so on. We only know that Dunham’s account is a lie because John Nolte went to Oberlin and investigated it. Dunham’s story rapidly fell apart upon inspection. Lying about being raped for political gain: that is really low, even by Democratic Party standards. I hope it is, anyway.

Meanwhile, the real Barry is widely suspected of being a rapist. I agree with Eugene Volokh that Barry has a good libel case against Dunham, should he choose to bring it.

I don’t know why, all of a sudden, “rape culture”–especially on college campuses–is all the rage. How about young women aged 18-22 who don’t go to college? Does anyone seriously think that men who attend college are more likely to be rapists than men who don’t? The campus angle seems consistent with liberals’ solipsistic, navel-gazing view of the world.

But the “rape culture” fad has nothing to do with the actual prevalence of rape, which, according to FBI statistics, is at a 40-year low. Lying about rape? I don’t know, that could be on the upswing.

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