Last year, Rolling Stone, a national magazine with a big circulation, reported in great detail on a purported brutal "gang rape" that supposedly occurred at the University of Virginia. The "victim," called "Jackie," asked Rolling Stone, not to contact the alleged rapists to confirm the story, and Rolling Stone kowtowed to her. "Jackie" refused to report the story to police, and the school didn't care. It suspended fraternity activities anyway, without any investigation.
We all know how that turned out. "Jackie's" story was, in the words of the Washington Post, "a complete crock." The Post wrote: "Rolling Stone propagated a biased work built on a mix of naivete and advocacy." A police investigation subsequently found no evidence that Jackie was sexually assaulted. The friends cited in the Rolling Stone article told a different story of events on that night than what Rolling Stone had reported. Cathy Young explains: ". . . the evidence against [Jackie] is damning. It’s not simply that there was no party at Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity named by Jackie, anywhere near the time when she said she was attacked. It’s not simply that her account changed from forced oral sex to vaginal rape and from five assailants to seven, or that her friends saw no sign of her injuries after the alleged assault. What clinches the case is the overwhelming proof that 'Drew,' Jackie’s date who supposedly orchestrated her rape, was Jackie’s own invention."
Despite all this, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said that "Jackie" ought to be beyond criticism. "Victim blaming or shining the spotlight on her for coming forward is not the right approach," Gillibrand said, assuming "Jackie" is a victim. It would be "inappropriate" to charge Jackie, she said. "One of the challenges with survivors of sexual trauma and rape is that they often don’t want to actually participate with law enforcement because they don’t think justice is possible. They don’t think they will be believed; they think they’ll be blamed." (This, from a woman elected to the United States Senate.)
On CNN, a legal analyst named Sunny Hostin clucked: ". . . the suggestion that ["Jackie"] just sort of made this entire thing up flies in the face of statistics." As if the facts of a serious allegation can be judge based on "statistics."
And of course, Jessica Valenti penned a thing called "Inconsistencies in Jackie's story do not mean that she wasn't raped at UVA." What more can we say about Valenti?
A writer in a college newspaper topped them all: "Instead of tackling a major magazine for slacking on its job, the media criticized the testimony of a traumatized victim who is trying to live with the effects of her trauma." And: "Rape culture is a fundamental part of this investigation. Just because the police report could not find evidence does not discredit Jackie’s experience, and we need to use this case to spark discourse rather than use it as an example of a false rape claim." The inanity speaks for itself.
We are in uncharted territory--what can we say about people who mount defenses that don't bother to defend? About "truth" where the facts don't matter? Like the kid who didn't do his homework but insists "the dog ate it," the explanations are worse than the original misdeed. Ours is a culture where high profile rape case after case after case turn out to be lies, but the lies are regarded to be as good as the truth, and our our sons are reduced to vile caricature based on absurd narratives that no sane person would believe in any other context. The real lesson of the Rolling Stone debacle is exactly opposite of the one Rolling Stone set out to teach with its bogus rape story. Instead of proving the existence of"rape culture," the fact that this story was written at all, published by a major magazine, and believed by so many is evidence that ours is a culture with an almost pathological fear and disdain of young men.
The witch hunt against young men has been brewing at the University of Virginia for years. After all, it's the school where victim blaming is perfectly appropriate -- if its directed against men wrongly accused of rape. A few years ago, its student newspaper wrote this: ". . . there are simple ways for individuals to avoid compromising situations that could lead to false accusations of sexual misconduct. Drinking responsibly at parties and respecting personal boundaries when communicating digitally, for example, would be a good start." Imagine if the newspaper had written something similar about rape victims.
It's also the school where students accused of sexual assault are offered assistance--not to defend themselves against false claims but to deal with the fact that they are abusers.
It's also the school where a council of student leaders wants to have private rape trials.
In the wake of the hysteria ginned up by the Rolling Stone article, the UVA sorority sisters were ordered by their national chapters to stay home for a weekend when they usually party. The sorority sisters had a conniption because it finally dawned on them that the animating impulse of the "war on rape" is that men are predators (they are fine with that) and that women are the pathetic children of the federal government's "Its On Us" campaign who need daddy-surrogates to save them from the bad rapists. Silly girls! They thought they were strong and independent women.
Ironically, when students at the University of Virginia made a serious attempt to simulate a sexual assault trial, the students learned how difficult it is to arrive at the truth in that kind of case. It's much easier, and apparently a lot more satisfying for many, to simply assume that the accused is guilty by reason of penis.