rape culture

This recent Rolling Stone arti­cle about rape at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia is pret­ty upset­ting.

It’s just the lat­est in a string of hor­ror sto­ries over the past year about rape cul­ture, lack of empa­thy and denial, both gen­er­al­ly and on Amer­i­can cam­pus­es in par­tic­u­lar.  It seems hard to sep­a­rate the bru­tal­i­ty in the frat house, stu­dents’ misog­y­nis­tic ideas about social hier­ar­chy, neg­li­gence and mis­han­dling of com­plaints by cam­pus secu­ri­ty, and a sweep­ing-under-the-rug atti­tude by PR-mind­ed admin­is­tra­tors.  This is a per­va­sive val­ues prob­lem. As the arti­cle notes,

UVA’s empha­sis on hon­or is so pro­nounced that since 1998, 183 peo­ple have been expelled for hon­or-code vio­la­tions such as cheat­ing on exams. And yet para­dox­i­cal­ly, not a sin­gle stu­dent at UVA has ever been expelled for sex­u­al assault.

My first response was to try to pin the hor­ror safe­ly on the South.  The data, how­ev­er, don’t coop­er­ate.

A search for “rape at Princeton”—my alma mater, safe­ly up north and recent­ly ranked #1 in under­grad­u­ate edu­ca­tion for the nth time by US News and World Report—turns up an offi­cial fig­ure of 5 rapes on cam­pus last year.  Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad; it’s low­er than the CDC’s esti­mate of rape inci­dence in the US over­all (about 1/1000 of the pop­u­la­tion per year).  But how real is this fig­ure?  It seems that the same Title IX inves­ti­ga­tion now dig­ging into mis­han­dling of sex­u­al vio­lence com­plaints at UVA is also tar­get­ing Prince­ton, along with more than 50 oth­er Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties.  I’ve put the com­plete list at the bot­tom of this post, for the inter­est­ed.

I don’t know for sure why Prince­ton is on this list, but a piece in Jezebel from ear­li­er this year might sup­ply a clue.  It describes a rape sur­vey report con­duct­ed in 2008, which the Uni­ver­si­ty tried to bury, con­clud­ing that

One in six female Prince­ton under­grad­u­ates said they expe­ri­enced “non-con­sen­su­al vagi­nal pen­e­tra­tion” dur­ing their time at the Uni­ver­si­ty.

Sounds like rape to me—if nar­row­ly defined.  Assum­ing four years at col­lege and a stu­dent body of 5000 with the gen­ders even­ly split, that would amount to over 100 rapes per year.  Could this num­ber have gone down by a fac­tor of 20 between 2008 and 2014?  Real­ly?

Despite decades of lip ser­vice, it seems at first glance like noth­ing much has hap­pened for women’s rights since I went to col­lege in the 90s.  But in the next decade, gen­der and sex­u­al pol­i­tics may really—finally—start to change.  Let’s be opti­mists.  Per­haps the parade of absur­dist hor­ror we’ve seen in the past year (more cam­pus rapes, the Bill Cos­by scan­dal, gamer­gate, Mattel’s Com­put­er Engi­neer Bar­bie book, etc., etc.) her­alds a shift in the wind, a col­lec­tive sense that we’ve final­ly under­stood as a soci­ety that some­thing is very wrong, has been for a long time, and that we’ve had enough.  As The Guardian points out,

[...] it’s no coin­ci­dence that anti-fem­i­nist back­lash hap­pens most often when women’s rights are on an upswing.

Maybe we’re final­ly get­ting it.

The Title IX inves­ti­ga­tion list:

AZ Ari­zona State Uni­ver­si­ty
CA Butte-Glen Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege Dis­trict
CA Occi­den­tal Col­lege
CA Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia-Berke­ley
CA Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia
CO Reg­is Uni­ver­si­ty
CO Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado at Boul­der
CO Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado at Den­ver
CO Uni­ver­si­ty of Den­ver
CT Uni­ver­si­ty of Con­necti­cut
DC Catholic Uni­ver­si­ty of Amer­i­ca
FL Flori­da State Uni­ver­si­ty
GA Emory Uni­ver­si­ty
HI Uni­ver­si­ty of Hawaii at Manoa
ID Uni­ver­si­ty of Ida­ho
IL Knox Col­lege
IL Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go
IN Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty-Bloom­ing­ton
IN Vin­cennes Uni­ver­si­ty
MA Amherst Col­lege
MA Boston Uni­ver­si­ty
MA Emer­son Col­lege
MA Har­vard Col­lege
MA Har­vard University—Law School
MA Uni­ver­si­ty of Mass­a­chu­setts-Amherst
MD Frost­burg State Uni­ver­si­ty
MI Michi­gan State Uni­ver­si­ty
MI Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan-Ann Arbor
NC Guil­ford Col­lege
NC Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill
ND Minot State Uni­ver­si­ty
NH Dart­mouth Col­lege
NJ Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty
NY Cuny Hunter Col­lege
NY Hobart and William Smith Col­leges
NY Sarah Lawrence Col­lege
NY Suny at Bing­ham­ton
OH Deni­son Uni­ver­si­ty
OH Ohio State Uni­ver­si­ty
OH Wit­ten­berg Uni­ver­si­ty
OK Okla­homa State Uni­ver­si­ty
PA Carnegie Mel­lon Uni­ver­si­ty
PA Franklin and Mar­shall Col­lege
PA Penn­syl­va­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty
PA Swarth­more Col­lege
PA Tem­ple Uni­ver­si­ty
TN Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty
TX South­ern Methodist Uni­ver­si­ty
TX The Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas-Pan Amer­i­can
VA Col­lege of William and Mary
VA Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia
WA Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­si­ty
WI Uni­ver­si­ty of Wis­con­sin-White­wa­ter
WV Bethany Col­lege
WV West Vir­ginia School of Osteo­path­ic Med­i­cine
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