Rape Culture and Due Process



Against the backdrop of the University of Texas online survey showing 15 percent of female undergraduates claim to have been raped,  consider arguments in an important new book, “The Campus Rape Panic: The Attack on Due Process at America’s Universities.”

The authors, KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor, do not argue that no female – or male – college student ever gets raped: not in these less than puritanical times!   Even well-known religious institutions  – need I name names? – come under scrutiny for the distinctly non-religious practices and appetites of particular students.

The authors’ point is that definitions of rape, due to new federal policies under Title IX of the Higher Education Act – so far unrevoked by the Trump administration — , have become unreasonably, and dangerously,  loose.   In their withering spotlight is the education department’s 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter holding colleges and universities liable for insufficient zeal in the pursuit and punishment of male sexual aggression.

The federal commitment to destroying “campus rape culture,” say Johnson and Taylor, derives from the writings of the feminist lawyer Catherine MacKinnon, who has mainstreamed the view that sexual harassment equals federally prohibited  gender discrimination.   Whatever “sexual harassment” means these days.

“Politically,” MacKinnon has written, “I call it rape whenever a woman has sex and feels violated.”   Which not only takes in a lot of territory but gives rise to rape hoaxes of the sort perpetrated falsely by Rolling Stone magazine a couple of years ago.

Too many universities, Johnson and Taylor argue, fearful of getting crosswise with the federal government,  instinctively take the side of female accusers.   Thus, according to the authors, the higher education establishment joins in “a systematic attack on bedrock American principles including the presumption of innocence, access to exculpatory evidence, the right to cross-examine one’s accuser, and due process.”

In The Weekly Standard, Alice B. Lloyd summarizes:  “The OCR [Office of Civil Rights in the education department] stipulated a minimal ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard to determine an accused student’s guilt:  He need only be  hair’s breadth more likely guilty than innocent to face expulsion. Presuming his guilt naturally fits the premised context of a battle against the ‘rape culture,’ an enemy in the eye of the beholder.”

How the government thinks throwing its weight around makes more desirable the cause of moral recovery is a bit hard to see.   The moral conflicts of the past five decades have brought us to the peculiar situation in which one can do more or less what one wants  — so long as one remembers not to trust anybody else!   It wasn’t like this at the start of the ‘60s, notwithstanding the eternal factor of, shall we say, male and female urgency at a certain age.

The restoration of moral understanding beats hollow the Big Brother approach to purity and love.  But Big Brother is watching us – you, most of all, Joe College.  So keep your lawyer’s phone number handy.

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