Skepticism and the UVA rape story

Rebecca Traister has a great piece up at The New Republic about recent skepticism and backlash over Rolling Stone’s story about rape at UVA. Some of the skepticism is idle speculation that the story doesn’t ‘ring true’, but much of it focuses on the apparent journalistic lapses – the author (Simone Erderly), for example, didn’t discuss the case with alleged assailants. Traister comments:

These are serious charges: Journalists are supposed to seek multiple perspectives on the stories they report to try to present the fullest and fairest assessment of events; this is especially true when one source is alleging that a criminal act took place. It’s ironic and telling, though, that Erdely’s doubters have blown up their suspicions well beyond the available evidence, calling her story a “hoax” and comparing it to the fabricated pieces published by Stephen Glass in The New Republic and other magazines. It’s a massive leap in logic to move from a reasonable journalistic critique of Erdely’s reporting and disclosure practices to writing, as former George journalist Richard Bradley does in his blog post, “I’m not convinced that this gang rape actually happened.” It is symptomatic of exactly the patterns of incredulity and easy dismissal of rape accusations that keep many assaulted women and men from ever bringing their stories to authorities or to the public.

Leaving room for commentators to invalidate the rape allegations is part of what’s so bad about the possibility that Erdely was partial in her reporting. Journalistic errors undermine the story of gang rape and institutional lassitude that Erdely set out to tell—a story about a culture of sexual violence and the universities anxious to not make that culture visible from the outside.

The dismantling of Erdely’s story—both by anti-feminist agonistes and by those genuinely dismayed by possible journalistic error—would mean that Jackie’s story of being beaten and raped by seven fraternity brothers will be dismissed, and that the reading public will be permitted to slip back into the comforting conviction that stories like Jackie’s aren’t real, that rapes like that don’t happen, that our system works, and that, of course, bitches lie.

What we will all be allowed to happily forget is that there are plenty of real stories of rape: of violent rape, frat house rape, gang rape, date rape; that most rape accusers do not lie and that in fact it’s quite likely, statistically, that Jackie herself did not lie. But the most serious thing that we’ll be allowed to forget is the very point of Erdely’s story, whatever its strengths or flaws may be determined to be: The system does not work.

Update: The New York Times has weighed in (helpfully) as well:

Marc Cooper, an associate professor in journalism at the University of Southern California, said the magazine had not misled anyone or abrogated a duty in not contacting those accused, because they were unnamed. If the article had been written as a first-person account, he said, there would be no questions.

“I don’t think there’s nearly as much at stake as people think,” Mr. Cooper said.

Helen Benedict, a Columbia University journalism professor who has reported on sexual assault in the military, also defended the story.

“If a reporter were doing a story about a university accused of failing to address the mugging or robbery of a student, that reporter would not be expected to interview the alleged mugger or robber,” she said. “The piece might have been stronger with more than one source, but exposés of wrongdoing often start with one whistle-blower.”

Allegations of campus sexual assaults and rapes being mishandled by colleges have made headlines recently. In the Rolling Stone article, Ms. Erdely details other cases at the University of Virginia and elsewhere, giving examples of how even well-intentioned campus administrators can inadvertently discourage students making rape allegations from pursuing criminal, or even formal, complaints. More than a thousand Virginia alumni have posted comments online about sexual assault at the university in response to the article.

Many sex acts banned in UK porn

As well know, feminists can and do take a wide variety of positions on porn– I urge everyone to be very respectful of this fact in comments. I doubt, however, that there’s any feminist view which would support a ban on female ejaculation but not male ejaculation. For a list of banned acts, go here.

CFP: Why are there so few women in philosophy, and (why) does it matter?

Stockholm University, Sweden, April 17-18th, 2015

In most countries there is a lack of gender parity in philosophy as an academic discipline. In fact, philosophy fares much worse in this respect than all other disciplines of the humanities and social sciences, and almost all other academic disciplines as well. According to an American study by Paxton et al. (2012), there is a big drop in the proportion of women in philosophy between introductory courses and philosophy majors, resulting in the disappointing fact that women only make up twenty-one per cent of full-time faculty in philosophy in the US. Studies in the UK suggest a similar drop and a similar faculty situation (Saul & Beebee 2011), and there is no reason to believe that the situation is any better at Swedish philosophy departments. In fact, the judgment of Högskoleverket after having inspected all Swedish philosophy departments during 2003/2004 was that philosophy is still “an education by men for men.” In Sweden too, it is still the case that few women students continue to higher level courses, the proportion of women PhD candidates is conspicuously small and very few women philosophers enjoy full time employment at philosophy departments, and are thus to a much larger extent than men dependent on temporary positions.

Recently, the problem of lack of gender parity in philosophy has generated serious attention among several international philosophers, leading to new research – both empirical and theoretical – on the subject. We hereby invite philosophers (of all levels and any gender) interested in the topic to an international workshop hosted by the philosophy department at Stockholm University.

Key note speakers:

· Sally Haslanger (MIT, USA)
· Linda Martín Alcoff (Hunter College and CUNY Graduate Centre, USA)
· Cathrine Felix (Lunds University, Sweden)

Paper proposals should contain no more than 600 words (excluding bibliography), and clearly relate to the aforementioned topic. The deadline is January 12, 2015. Papers are preferably presented in English.

Please send in the following two documents as Word attachments to lisa.furberg@philosophy.su.se:

Document 1: Your name, first name, email address, institutional address, the title of your abstract.
Document 2: Your paper proposal including bibliography (max. 10 references) and title with all identifying references removed.”