Couple of anti-feminist myths debunked
Ampersand pinged me and alerted me to this fascinating post he wrote about a factoid I don’t think I even knew was bouncing around out there, one that states that 40% of rape reports are false. I’m sure I’ve heard this number, but it’s like when anti-choicers say that condoms have a 50% failure rate. It’s such clear bullshit that the fact that they all believe it doesn’t mean anything but that they will believe anything if it supports their goals of maximizing accidental pregnancies, especially for teenagers. But actually, they do get the number from somewhere. The Texas Freedom Network,* who kept hearing this number crop up in abstinence-only programs, dug around and found that it traces back to a study done on prostitutes who sporadically used condoms while working in developing countries with extremely high HIV transmission rates. The 50% number actually shows, from what I could understand, that condoms work well, since they did 50% better than prostitutes in their situation who didn’t use condoms. Which shows how wingnuts use numbers—they grab one out of nowhere, pretend it means something it doesn’t, and cling to it in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, because it confirms a bullshit belief.
So, just as the 50% number came from somewhere, no matter how tenuously, so does this 40% number has a source. A Eugene Kanin of Purdue University went to a small Midwestern town, asked the cops how many of the rape reports they got were recanted, and came up with a 40% number. This has become a fetish for misogynists, who firmly believe that most rape isn’t real, but evidence that women are hypocritical sluts who have sex (because they’re sluts!—poor men can’t help it when sluts throw themselves at men, for whom sex is a morally neutral act) but then regret it (because they know they shouldn’t be sluts), and because they’re sluts (who have no moral sense, and you can tell because they had sex), they can’t just pretend the bad sex didn’t happen, but have to run to the police because…..well, I’ve never understood what women are supposed to get out of going to the police. But we are talking about a sexist myth, so perhaps the assumption is that women are just that fucking stupid and evil.
This myth is extremely important to anti-feminists, because without it, they wouldn’t have a way to excuse it when they or their friends rape someone. I know that sounds harsh, but that’s just how it is. I’m finishing up Alexandra Robbins’ book Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities (a problematic book in many aspects, but still enlightening and worth reading—I’ll review it when I finish it), and she describes a classic situation where a group of men decide that a victim simply “changed her mind” and reported a guy because….profit! Because women are inhuman and enjoy having everyone hate them. The “changing her mind” situation that’s totally not-rape happened as follows—rapists offers to give victim a ride to a party. She trusts him, because she thinks he’s a friend. Instead of taking her to the party, he takes her to a secluded place. They struggle, and she realizes if she keeps fighting back, he’s really going to beat her up. After he finishes raping her, she leaps out of the car and runs away. He chases her down, knocks her down, and then, after he lets her get up, offers to walk her home. Presumably to keep her safe from rapists who beat women up. Obviously, the offer is his way of convincing himself she “changed her mind” and that he’s not a rapist at all—the rape kit obviously has some evidence to the contrary, because he gets the rare conviction.
His frat brothers 100% believe she’s just a slutty slut slut who changed her mind. That’s why this myth persists, because without it, men who rape would face social ostracism and they might avoid raping. God forbid.
As you can imagine, this 40% figure comes from an extremely weird and unverifiable study. Kanin won’t reveal what town he worked in, which means no one can follow up and verify his claims. The “false reports” were actually victims who recanted. Why did they recant? We don’t know, because Kanin didn’t interview them. Ampersand:
There is no indication that Kanin attempted to interview any of the alleged false rape accusers to get their perspective, or in any way attempted to independently verify anything he was told by police. Kanin also implies that the recanters were told they’d be charged with filing false reports, but does not report the outcome of those charges.
Emphasis mine. Being from a small town, I can assure you that the police in these situations often agree with the town that when a woman is raped, she owes it to the town to shut up about it, for the same reason these frat brothers expected the girl in Robbins’ book to shut up about it. Because they know the rapist, and they’d rather not revise their opinion of him, and who are you to expect otherwise? It’s depressing how many stories I’ve heard about really obvious rapes in small towns where the victim was strongly pressured to drop the charges, and frankly, you’re pissing in the wind if you don’t, because if the rapist has any status over you (even just male privilege, but often race comes into play, outsider vs. insider, jock vs. non-jock, and other social hierarchies), he won’t get convicted. And then you either leave town or you face him and his crew making life outside your home hard for you. Men of a certain class in small towns pretty much have a legal right to rape. With that in mind, I’m utterly unsurprised that the cops used the threat of false reports to threaten victims into recanting—these threats probably happened in the midst of faux-fatherly advice about how it’s too much trouble to prosecute a case that you can’t win anyway.
Ampersand gathers up different, genuinely rigorous studies, and found that researchers have to do a lot of work to get around the misogynist biases inside police departments. For instance, on British study found that the 8% false report rate dropped to 2.5% when you corrected for the police refusing to prosecute because they seemed to believe the victim didn’t deserve their protection, because she’d been drinking or they thought she was a nutty female.
It’s important to remember that a false report doesn’t necessarily or even often mean a false accusation, though rape apologists often conflate the two. People who report false crimes because they’ve got mental problems that cause them to attention-seek often don’t want others to get hurt, and so they generally stick to accusing made-up strangers. The Ashley Todd case is illuminating, and has the added bonus of incurring wingnut sympathy because she’s one of theirs. I’m going to give Todd the benefit of the doubt and assume that while she was engaging in gross race-baiting, she probably didn’t realize that if the cops had believed her story, real men were in danger of being arrested.
Not that this thorough debunking will cause even a single misogynist to drop this nonsense. Again, if you’re a rape apologist, you either believe that women are dirty liars, or you have to come out and say that you generally approve of rape. We saw this cycle work with the “Observe and Report” situation. Critics and fans automatically classify the rape as “bad sex”, because otherwise they’d have to deal with the fact that they are invested in misogynist tropes about what sex is supposed to look like at best, and at worst they have to face up to the fact that they or their friends have or could rape someone. Feminists point out that fucking someone who is passed out drunk is rape by any legal standard in this country. Feminists are told that we’re full of shit, and fans feel secure believing that, because women are full of shit, amiriteguys? Just imagine how that works in real life, when the stakes are a lot higher.
Enough on that—I promised multiple debunkings, and I have two. The other one’s shorter, but also interesting. Lon Newman, using the new user-created diary function at RH Reality Check, writes about Pro-Life Wisconsin’s 40 day harassment campaign of the Family Planning Health Services in Central Wisconsin. It’s a very clarifying protest, because it shows that anti-feminist forces generally focus their hate on any place they think gives aid and comfort to loose women.
Over the Lenten season, PLW and its local supporters participated in the “40 Days for Life” national campaign — conducting a ‘continuous’ prayer vigil outside our clinic offices. When asked by local reporters why they were participating in this effort, they said it was to stop abortion. We do not perform abortions at any of our facilities.
It’s true! They don’t! It’s the first thing their FAQ sheet says.
Question: Does FPHS provide abortion services?
Answer: FPHS does not provide abortion services. We provide all-options pregnancy education and support the right of the client to make her own decision based on her situation. We provide medically accurate abortion information including the name and locations of organizations that provide these services. FPHS staff may not make abortion referrals.
This is no small part why I think the whole “common ground” strategy where anti-choicers and pro-choicers are supposed to meet and agree that reducing the abortion rate is a good idea is a joke. Clearly, anti-choicers aren’t exactly interested in the abortion rate, except as a shocking indicator of the massive sluttitude of America. The only reliable way to reduce the abortion rate is to attack the cause of abortion, which is unintended pregnancy. And that’s where talks will always break down, because anti-choicers don’t have a problem with unintended pregnancy, and in fact, protests against contraception like this one show that they think the unintended pregnancy rate is already too low.
*Add to your list of Texas liberals who I feel embody the spirit of Texas—moxie plus a ribald sense of humor—better than bitter wingnuts ever could.