Readers continue one of our most popular threads of late:
While I agree that rape prevention is never the responsibility of those who might have been victimized, the same is true of those who might be victims of false accusations. And that is the all-important flip side of this question. It is difficult to subject the claims of rape and sexual harassment victims to close scrutiny, because if they have indeed been victimized, it only adds to their trauma. At the same time, plenty of people are falsely accused of rape, sexual harassment, etc, and their lives have been ruined thereby. This goes especially for people in positions of responsibility over young people, like public school teachers. An accusation of rape can end a carefully cultivated career for years, sometimes forever.
While we are teaching people, especially young men, not to rape, and to act as allies when women are threatened with rape (a role I’ve played, BTW, preventing what certainly would have been a rape if I hadn’t acted), we should also teach young people how lives are ruined by careless and misleading accusations.
Sometimes we encourage young people to be open about how a situation makes them “uncomfortable,” when they are too young to judge the possible effects of an accusation. And sometimes the accuser is encouraged by well-meaning adults who are far too credulous and give adolescents too much credit for knowing things they don’t, in fact, know. A few leading questions, an easily-led adolescent with a grievance, and you’re in court, and your family has lost its sole support.
A reader stated about rape: “Typically, it’s an assertion of power on the part of the male, not a desire to get off sexually without seeking the consent of the other.” I know that you cannot extract power from sex at all (male potency or power may be men’s most erotic trait), but I cannot conceive of how lust can be taken out of the motivation behind most rapes. Statements about how “rape is about power, not sex” seem to want to keep sex as this all benevolent, all natural, all safe part of life … and not concede that sex is an animal instinct that can drive us towards extreme selfishness and harm unless we exert control over it.
One of your readers repeats the durable old feminist chestnut that “male-on-female rape is rarely about sex.” Sometimes this thesis is trotted out to explain male-on-male rape and child molestation as well. But this notion – originated by activist Susan Brownmiller in the 1970s and never supported by any actual science – was essentially a political assertion arising from the zeitgeist of a bygone era. And the notion was criticized early (by D. Symons in The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1979)) and late (by R. Thornhill and C. Palmer in A Natural History of Rape (2000)).