Jessica Valenti has exiled herself from the adult table on the subject of sexual assault. As regular readers know, Valenti has a fetish for writing things about rape that are, by any rational measure, inane. Her latest piece will not disappoint her sycophants: she brands respected Yale law professor Jed Rubenfeld a rape apologist for having the temerity to be even-handed and rational on the subject of campus sexual assault. She says that Prof. Rubenfeld and his ilk are "a bunch of adult men (and a few women) worrying themselves to death that a few college-aged men might have to find a new college to attend."
Valenti's suggestion that Professor Rubenfeld is somehow protecting rapists is both downright laughable and downright hateful. If there are feminists of good will who give a damn that Valenti's childishness engenders disrepute of their movement, they need to denounce this monstrous accusation, or they should stop wondering why so few people -- including so few women -- identify as feminist. It is mind-boggling that these folks don't understand that their hostility to due process makes them look like monsters and nutcases.
David Bernstein of the Washington Post and FIRE's Susan Kruth explain why Prof. Rubenfeld's piece is helpful to the public discourse. Rubenfeld's is but the latest serious voice to enter the conversation on this issue in recent weeks. Last month, a letter was published in the Boston Globe signed by 28 Harvard law professors, virtually all them liberals, voicing strong objections to the school's one-sided, feminist-inspired sexual misconduct policies. Professor Alan Dershowitz, a titan of criminal jurisprudence, said that his school's policy "was written by people who think sexual assault is so heinous a crime that even innocence is not a defense." This week, Prof. Dershowitz made it clear that his criticism extends beyond Harvard Yard and is meant to indict the Obama administration's college sex policies. Prof. John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University, said that illegals crossing the border have more rights than college men accused of rape. The American Association of University Professors criticized the Department of Education's mandate that schools use a "preponderance of the evidence" standard -- the lowest in our jurisprudence -- for college disciplinary proceedings involving sexual assault. The AAUP said the higher "clear and convincing evidence" standard isn't just preferable, it is "necessary" in order to insure that students are afforded the due process they are entitled.
But to extremist feminist pundits like Valenti, even to raise concerns about these issues is rape apology. This is exactly what the lunatic fringe of the feminist movement does best: it shuts down discussion by reducing to vile caricature anyone who expresses concern about wrongful rape claims or the absence of due process in college sex tribunals. See, e.g., here and here.
Newsflash: it's not either/or. Society can, and should, battle sexual assault without making due process a casualty of the war on rape. Rape is not acceptable, and wrongful expulsions are not acceptable collateral damage in the war on rape. We don't require fairness in tribunals to protect rapists but the innocent. Blackstone's Formulation is foundational to our jurisprudence, but radical feminists seem to think it has no application to sexual assault. Every civilized society must strive to eradicate heinous criminality by punishing offenders, but it also must insure that the innocent aren't punished with them.
Robby Soave said it best: "People who oppose the death penalty do not sympathize with murderers. Critics of U.S. drone warfare policy are not on the side of the terrorists. Most self-identifying liberals understand this. So why do feminist liberals smear every person who dissents from their extreme, unhelpful, and legally dubious positions on preventing rape as a rape apologist?" Soave says that Valenti's piece is but "the most recent and infuriating example of this contemptible, authoritarian demonization campaign." Soave offers Valenti some sound advise: "How about this, Valenti: If you can't talk about rape without attempting to shut down the discussion about how to actually prevent rape, maybe you are the one who shouldn't talk about it."
Valenti's hatefulness is manifested when she trivializes the victimization of the wrongly accused. To her, expulsion for a wrongful rape claim just means "a few college-aged men might have to find a new college to attend." In fact, expulsion for a wrongful rape claim can be a life-altering punishment. Cornell's Prof. Cynthia Bowman said this: “The consequences for someone expelled for sexual assault are enormous and will follow him throughout his life, leading to rejection by other schools, inability to qualify for the bar and a great deal of stigma. To impose those consequences on someone requires a rigorous standard of proof and many due process protections to ensure fairness.” Brett Sokolow, probably the most prominent victim's advocate on American campuses, has expressed concern that "a lot of colleges now are expelling and suspending people they shouldn’t, for fear they’ll get nailed on Title IX.” He, too, points out that the stakes are high for students expelled for sexual assault: expelled students no longer automatically have the option of just registering at another school. Nowadays, schools share information, which makes that problematic, so students who are expelled have a lot more at stake.
In the shadow of the hanging trees of the Old South, those who were sympathetic to lynchings maligned those who denounced the absence of due process as victim blamers. As one lynching sympathizer explained, the folks who called for due process never “say[ ] or do[ ] anything to discourage the crime which provoked” the lynchings in the first place. Indeed, these “fanatics . . . have assailed the victims of the brute’s lust . . . .”
But why am I not surprised by Valenti's extremism? Valenti, of course, believes that rape is normal for even decent men: "Rape is part of our culture; it's normalized to the point where men who are otherwise decent guys will rape and not even think that it's wrong. And that's what terrifies me." Along those lines, Valenti recently tweeted agreement with Socialist Michael Laxer's epiphany that "all men" are responsible for the bad things that happen to women. Laxer clucked: "There are no 'good guys,'" and that men, as a class, "are responsible."
Never mind that even feminist darling Dr. David Lisak instructs that rape is committed by a small group of repeat-offender sociopaths and that "the vast majority [of men] would never commit rape." Never mind that America's leading anti-rape organization, RAINN, recently distanced itself from the "rape culture" meme in a letter to the White House. "Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime," it wrote. The "unfortunate" tendency to blame "rape culture" for sexual assault, RAINN wrote, "has led to an inclination to focus on . . . traits that are common in many millions of law-abiding Americans (e.g., 'masculinity'), rather than on the subpopulation at fault: those who choose to commit rape."
Given her world-view about men, it's little wonder that Valenti has suggested America follow the lead of Sweden, where "some activists and legal experts . . . want to change the law there so that the burden of proof is on the accused; the alleged rapist would have to show that he got consent, instead of the victim having to prove that she didn’t give it.” In other words, the act of lovemaking that has gone on around the world countless times a day since the beginning of time would be presumptively rape any time a woman cries rape -- guilty until proven innocent.
And remember when Valenti weighed in on the ancient debate about whether Woody Allen raped a woman? She implied that "we know" Woody Allen is guilty of rape because other women -- who have no relevance whatsoever to the facts of Woody's Allen's case or the parties involved -- have been abused by other men. A fortiori, this woman was abused by Woody Allen. The irrationality, the childishness, is jaw-dropping.
And we can't forget that Valenti recently mocked the efforts of the mothers who started FACE, the organization that seeks to raise awareness about the injustices faced by presumptively innocent college students accused of sexual misconduct. This is one nasty woman.
The feminist community needs to join rational voices who are denouncing Valenti's brand of hate and '70s gender get-evenism.