Charlotte Allen wrote a deeply problematic column on Slut Walks, Halloween costumes, and the need for women to stop confusing men into raping them by dressing sexy.
One of the many responses it inspired was this one, which contained some fascinating and important research on rape. Maybe it’s familiar to all of you, but it’s news to me– and I think it actually does call for some rethinking of various feminist claims (for example, about pornography making men *in general* not understand women’s sexual refusals). Here’s a bit of it:
Most rapes are committed by a single-digit portion of the population. They use the methods that produce the least evidence and are least likely to get them prosecuted: they use alcohol and fear rather than overt force, they target acquaintances rather than strangers, and they employ careful methods to test boundaries and select victims who are least likely to be able or willing to resist or seek redress. Each such serial rapist has an average of six victims.
What does that mean for Allen? Well, her theory is totally at odd with that. Careful, planning predators are not overcome with urges they can’t control. They don’t test and see, plot to isolate and intoxicate. That takes hours, or even days. That is the work of a cold, calculating predator. It means rapists are not just the average guy, and the average guy is not a rapist. It means that rape is not the result of miscommunications, and since it’s not the result of miscommunications, sending “mixed signals” isn’t the problem.
What is the problem? Well, in the first instance, the rapists are the problem. They need to stop raping people. But they’re not doing it by accident, so no program of education will make them stop. Instead, we as a culture need to clear the underbrush they hide in: the tangle of sexist crap and conventional wisdom that results in a practical inability to enforce laws against rape except in cases that fit a very narrow paradigm. Make no mistake, the culture is the problem.