Feminists have been lecturing us for years that we need to automatically believe women who accuse men of rape. To carefully investigate these serious accusations and wait until the facts come in is to perpetuate “rape culture”, feminists tell us. Slate’s DoubleX warned about the danger of this foolish philosophy back in September with False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem:
More than a quarter-century ago, feminist legal theorist Catharine MacKinnon wrote that “feminism is built on believing women’s accounts of sexual use and abuse by men”; today, Jessica Valenti urges us to “believe victims en masse,” because only then will we recognize the true prevalence of sexual assault.
But the warning from within their own ranks wasn’t heeded. In late November Sabrina Rubin Erdely and her editors at Rolling Stone made the mistake of eating their own feminist dog food, and ran with a fantastic story of ritualized rape at the University of Virginia. Feminists around the nation devoured this fantastic story without a second thought, using it as the poster child for “rape culture”. Chloe Angyal of feministing.com went on MSNBC and praised Erdely for revealing the truth to her about America’s rape culture:
I have to thank you, Sabrina, for writing this. I think you’ve done a tremendous act of public service, and I’m genuinely very, very grateful. It is hard to read an article like this and avoid the conclusion that we live in a culture that hates women, just hates us. It’s hard to read an article like this and conclude that the men in this culture, the boys and men in this culture, are raised to see women as not just less than them but in some cases as less than human.
This is not just a frat problem. This is an American problem.
Feminists had barely finished their meal before they started to feel the rumblings of trouble to come. It was obvious to everyone that they had swallowed something putrid. Instead of purging themselves of the problem, feminists tried to fudge the diagnosis. Julia Horowitz, the assistant managing editor at the University of Virginia’s student newspaper, wrote in Politico that “to let fact checking define the narrative would be a huge mistake.” Zerlina Maxwell wrote an article in the Washington Post titled No matter what Jackie said, we should generally believe rape claims*:
Many people (not least U-Va. administrators) will be tempted to see this as a reminder that officials, reporters and the general public should hear both sides of the story and collect all the evidence before coming to a conclusion in rape cases. This is what we mean in America when we say someone is “innocent until proven guilty.”…
In important ways, this is wrong. We should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser says. Ultimately, the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist…
The accused would have a rough period. He might be suspended from his job; friends might defriend him on Facebook… But false accusations are exceedingly rare, and errors can be undone by an investigation that clears the accused, especially if it is done quickly.
But those rumblings didn’t go away. Rolling Stone’s editors are now a mess, and they are starting to recognize the problem with consuming the gelatinous mass of canine cuisine in the first place:
We published the article with the firm belief that it was accurate. Given all of these reports, however, we have come to the conclusion that we were mistaken in honoring Jackie’s request to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account. In trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault, we made a judgment – the kind of judgment reporters and editors make every day. We should have not made this agreement with Jackie and we should have worked harder to convince her that the truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story. These mistakes are on Rolling Stone, not on Jackie. We apologize to anyone who was affected by the story and we will continue to investigate the events of that evening.
All of this was a huge misstep by feminists, an unforced error. Just a few weeks ago they were methodically advancing their new rules for handling sexual assault allegations on campus which place a huge burden on the accused. They even had many conservatives signing on to California’s new Yes Means Yes law in the deluded hope that it would usher in a post-hookup sexual marketplace. Now they are a sad, stinking, wretched mess, trying to figure out how to undo the damage they did to their own cause.
One thing strikes me as fairly certain; I don’t think feminists have learned their lesson.
Bon appétit, feminists.
*The title of the Washington Post article may have been changed after initial publication, because the title in the url is “no-matter-what-jackie-said-we-should-automatically-believe-rape-claims”