Saw a couple more good links this morning.
Thanks to a pastor friend for the link to Lauren Nelson’s very clear explanation of what is meant by “rape culture” and why we can’t stop talking about it yet. And reading that led me to her discussion of why, in this context, she’s chosen not to publish comments demanding equal time for a discussion of false rape accusations. She goes through the (always controversial and not terribly clear) statistics about both false accusations and unreported rape, and does so in a much more thorough and coherent way than I did in the comments on this post.
But the points I was trying to make there and the points she makes at the linked article are essentially the same: the underreporting of rape and sexual assault is a much bigger problem than false accusation, and bringing up false accusation every time someone says the word “rape” is almost always a way of silencing women who are trying to talk about what is happening to them. As Nelson demonstrates, the real rate of false accusation is probably pretty close to the rate of false accusation of crimes generally. Yet when someone claims to have been robbed, we do not immediately leap to The Dangers Of False Accusation. There’s apparently something fundamentally unbelievable about a woman’s testimony about sex that causes (some of) us to feel we need to bring a particularly scrutinizing eye to such testimony.
And thanks to my wife for pointing me to this installment of the Captain Awkward blog, wherein the Captain explains how to help men help their friends not be creepy, and also how to distinguish likely sexual predators in your midst from mere clueless awkward nerds. (Hint: the ones who touch sleeping women are the sexual predators.)
The column is slightly jokey, or at least funny, but there’s a serious point there: men have a role to play in policing their communities and enforcing norms. Men should feel empowered, at a minimum, to say awkward things to other men who are crossing the line. And to stop hanging out with men who repeatedly cross the line even after the line has been clearly explained to them.
Finally, there may be nowhere that such male norm-policing is more important than in the military. The epidemic of sexual assault in the military is shameful. Jokey quarterly briefings about sexual harassment aren’t cutting it. Male soldiers need to step in with other men and, where that fails, be willing to end other men’s careers. Nothing else will help. The legal system is in place to prosecute both sexual assault and the abuse of position it often involves. But if there’s a conspiracy of silence among soldiers, that legal system is powerless.
As my first sergeant used to say, “Do the right thing, soldier.”