Diane Roberts: We’re back to blaming the victims for rape

And now the backlash: “Jackie,” the young woman at the center of the notorious Rolling Stone piece on rape at the University of Virginia, can’t keep her story straight.  Jameis Winston’s accuser is a gold-digger aiming to shake him down in a civil suit. Lena Dunham, whose memoir details a not-really-consensual encounter with a fellow Oberlin student who may or may not have been called “Barry,” made it all up.

Women lie. That’s the takeaway. Men are the real victims here.

Every once in a while the great American misogyny machine concludes that yeah, the boys got a little out of hand. Like that time two years ago in Steubenville, Ohio, when a very drunk teenager was stripped naked, dragged around and raped by two high school football players while their friends captured it on their cell phones.

But even then, many in Steubenville blamed the victim. She was drinking! She left the house without her burqa! Or something. When the two boys were convicted of sexual assault, some alleged journalists clucked sympathetically. CNN’s Poppy Harlow lamented how painful it was for her to witness how “these two young men that had such promising futures – star football players, very good students – literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart.”

Yep, it’s hard to blame football players for getting a little rapey. Ask Jameis Winston’s apologist posse. Sure, he had sex with that girl he picked up at Potbelly’s Bar. But that’s not his fault. You’ve seen those shorts college girls wear. They’re begging for it.

As for Lena Dunham, creator of the TV show “Girls,” the somewhat-coerced incident she describes in “Not That Kind of Girl” might not have occasioned much comment except that she characterized the guy as a “conservative.”

Now the National Review, Breitbart and other righty-types have declared jihad on Dunham. There was a Republican named “Barry” at Oberlin! He didn’t do it! Besides, who would rape Lena Dunham? She’s fat and ugly! She must be lying!

Seriously, Google “Lena Dunham.” This is actually what the Republican Id, the guys who don’t get onto the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, are saying.

Because we all know that a woman has to be young and attractive to be assaulted. Damn, y’all: is it still necessary to point out that rape is a crime of power, not sexuality?

America seems to be going backwards in so many ways. Yes, women have been secretaries of state, astronauts, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, army generals. But that doesn’t mean that gender inequity is over, any more than electing a black president means that racism is over. Too many people still assume that a vast number of women cry rape for some reason other than that they were, in fact, raped.

Rolling Stone screwed up. You don’t run with a single source. You don’t just nod when the writer admits she agreed not to contact the men accused of assaulting the source.

But whatever the shortcomings of the story – and they are manifold – it doesn’t mean there’s no rape problem. It doesn’t mean that “Jackie” wasn’t assaulted. Whatever the problems with her account, her friends agree something terrible happened to her. Traumatic experiences can mess up your memory.

But let’s say she invented the whole thing. What about the other women who report being raped in UVA frat houses? What about the admission of Nicole Eramo, the dean in charge, that men who admit raping women are not expelled? What about the Brown University women, incapacitated by a “rape drug” in their drinks, and assaulted at two separate Phi Kappa Psi parties this fall? Or the countless women on countless campuses who don’t report their rapes or, even if they do, run into a wall of indifferent cops and PR-obsessed university brass?

I hope the recent focus on campus sexual assault could help curb it, but that’s not at all clear. What’s clear is that rape shines a bright light on conservative misogyny. Conservatives are using Rolling Stone’s mistakes to delegitimize feminism itself.

Columnist George Will says rape survivors get the “coveted status” of victimhood – as if reporting a rape, with its attendant physical and emotional humiliations, is a fun thing to do. Editor and writer Matthew Continetti says the allegations of campus rape culture just prove the liberal “narrative” of racism and sexism is a “hoax.”

To the Right, it’s all a hoax: you know, Tawana Brawley. The Duke lacrosse team. I can’t wait to see how they use “Jackie” as a stick to beat Hillary Clinton.

Diane Roberts is a Professor at Florida State University. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Diane Roberts

Diane Roberts teaches at Florida State University. Her latest book, “Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America,” will be out in paperback in the fall.


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