An Unintentional Two-Pronged Approach

You know what’s more frustrating than a willful distortion of a feature? A complaint about that distortion that distorts the distortion.

Alright, let’s start at the begining. There was this article in the New York Times called Stepping Up to Stop Sexual Assault which is, by and large, about men can prevent sexual assault on campus by intervening when they can tell that a girl is getting some unwanted attention from one of their bros. It’s called "bystander intervention," and it basically encourages guys to be cock blocks. But as a sideshow, it smuggles in some truths about the campus rape scene that feminists aren’t normally in the mood to hear. For example, that the girl in these incidents is often too drunk to remember what happened, that false accusations (even deliberately false accusations) get formally made to the police, that most campus disciplinary committees have very little idea what they’re doing and tend to presume, independently of what the courts say, that the victim’s story is true, and – the one the feminists really want to bury – that the lion’s share of sexual assualts on campus are committed by repeat offenders – i.e. it isn’t a "rape culture" so much as a handful of predators.

But OK, none of that was the author’s main point. As an apple, the author doesn’t fall too far from the mainstream tree. He may not be toeing the feminist line, but he’s still primarily concerned with preventing campus sexual assault and basically unconcerned with false accusations. He doesn’t present them as an injustice to be fought so much as a practical reason why men might want to jump on the "bystander intervention" bandwagon. The notion that women getting drunk enough so as to impair their decisionmaking ability might be irresponsible in any way isn’t this bloke’s particular soapbox.

Which is why Laura Clawson is absolutely right, in the linked Daily Kos bit, to call out James Taranto’s Wall Street Journal piece (also linked above) for implying that it were. Taranto’s piece is called Drunkenness and Double Standards, and to read it you’d think that Winerip’s New York Times piece was all about wrongful accusation – since that’s more or less all he quotes from Winerip’s article. He spends the first couple of paragraphs going into great detail about a false accusation – completely stripped of the context of Winerip’s treatment (in which it was merely an example of a univeristy learning that it can’t handle these cases independently of the prosecutor, not a cautionary warning that sometimes the purported "victim" is lying), then follows up with some "balance" about a stranger assault which he hastens to point out is comparatively rare (no mention of how rare false accusations might or might not be). Then he segues into an incident in which a girl who was so drunk she couldn’t even remember what had happened the night before is saved from assault by one of these bystander interventionists – only in contradistinction to the article he’s quoting from, Taranto wants to use this to springboard a discussion about double standards about alcohol. Well, I’m right with him there – it’s grotesque that alcohol absolves a woman of all responsibility and places all the guilt squarely on the man’s shoulders. Nevertheless, that wasn’t the point the article he cribbed that incident from was making with it, and so Clawson is right to call him out for misrepresenting Winerip’s treatment.

But here’s where it gets weird. After noting that Taranto is essentially lifting details out of context from Winerip’s article, she proceeds to … you got it! … utterly misrepresent what Taranto is saying.

Quoting Taranto:

Which points to a limitation of the drunk-driving analogy. If two drunk drivers are in a collision, one doesn’t determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver’s sex. But when two drunken college students "collide," the male one is almost always presumed to be at fault. His diminished capacity owing to alcohol is not a mitigating factor, but her diminished capacity is an aggravating factor for him.


Except for the part where one of the drunk drivers rapes the other. But hey, let’s extend this logic to crimes besides rape. Yeah, that guy is dead, but we were both drunk at the time, so … not guilty! Actually, scratch that. There wasn’t even a crime.

So, she’s just gonna completely ignore that Taranto was saying that the drunk driving analogy is INadequate. That it DOESN’T fit the situation very well. That you CAN’T just say "well, we hold drunk drivers responsible for what they do while drunk, therefore whatever a guy does while drunk is entirely his fault!" And of course the reason for that is that drunk-driving isn’t an interactive thing. There isn’t a long exchange between the drunk driver and the person he hits leading up to the thing. Taranto is absolutely CORRECT to point out that in a collision where BOTH parties were drunk that the "whoever was drunk did it" heuristic isn’t gonna help. And he’s furthermore CORRECT to point out that that this the general case in campus "assaults." The general case is that both parties were not thinking clearly. The general case is that both contributed to the collision. And so sure, it seems really unfair that one sex is automatically absolved of any decisions made while under the influence while the other’s guilt is heightened.

However much alcohol has been consumed before a rape and whoever has consumed it, the one thing all rapes have in common is a rapist.

But that’s just it: Taranto’s whole point is that calling something where consent signals got crossed due to alcohol consumption on the part of both parties a "rape" is deeply problematic. And it would be really nice to just once hear a feminist concede that point and try to grapple with it.

What we, all too typically, get instead is something more along the lines of what Clawson did instead:

And the New York Times article that Taranto wildly distorts points out that "Research by Mr. Lisak indicates that about 3 percent of college men account for 90 to 95 percent of rapes." We are talking about predators, even if the predator is in the guise of a nice college boy who just made a mistake (the time he was caught).

And so you’d think that Ms. Clawson, having acknowledged that there’s a difference between predators and "nice college boys," would be even remotely interested in separating the signal from the noise here – in making sure that the people we’re turning over to the police really are these predators who’re taking advantage of drunk girls, and not the nice college boys who get what looks to them like clear consent because they’re drunk, and is indeed clear consent while the girl is drunk too, but magically isn’t the next morning when the consequences come knocking along with the headache. There’s a difference – a very important difference – and the fact that some men are predators is no more valid an excuse to assume all men are than noting that black property crime rates are higher justifies the police stopping any black man who walks into a convenience store. For all his misrepresentations of the article he’s quoting, Taranto has an incontrovertable and important point, which is that not all "victims" are really victims. Feminism needs to get some Due Process religion and fast if it wants to avoid the inevitable backlash.

It’s still a damn shame that articles like Taranto’s enable this kind of crap. Taranto, for his part, isn’t doing anyone any favors by so wilfully misrepresenting Winerip’s article either. Winerip wrote what he wrote, not what we might have liked him to write – and honestly, Winerip’s approach is better left alone. The evidence is in, and feminists just aren’t going to be reasonable about this – so what Winerip is doing is probably the only way to actually get some of these topics on the table. Notice, for example, that in her anger with Taranto Clawson forgot to notice that Winerip actually pretty much did say that alcohol abuse leads girls to sleep with guys and make false accusations. That’s a start.

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