Sometimes women lie about rape

Let’s make it a sexual assault two-fer today, thanks to recent Slate pieces.  Really enjoyed this Emily Bazelon article investigating the actual prevalence of lying about rape.  The preponderance of evidence suggests that a very substantial majority of rape allegations are basically truthful, but that doesn’t change the fact that, some of the time, these allegations are false.  And to admit as much does not diminish the horribleness of rape nor how seriously we should treat it as a crime.  It just means that, like everything, we should try and be as honest as possible and evaluate things on the best evidence.  Given our history with rape and the criminal justice system, it’s understandable that some would want to basically argue that women alleging rape should always be believed, but that doesn’t make it right:

Cultural unease about the issue of false accusations is understandable, given how the “crying rape” trope has been historically linked with misogynist stereotypes of women as devious, crazy, or both. The old assumptions about women’s propensity to lie about rape led to sexist laws that required women to be bruised, bloodied, and chaste to prove that they were attacked. Even now, this topic attracts woman-haters, such as the “men’s rights activist” who misidentified an Ohio University student as the accuser in the caught-on-video case last fall and suggested that even if he had the wrong woman, it was appropriate payback for calumnies against innocent males.

But “believe the victim” dogma, and the resistance to seeing false accusations as a real problem, can also create a dangerous environment. It is a climate in which a law mandating an impossibly vague “affirmative consent” standard in campus sexual assault cases can be defended on the grounds that false complaints are a nonissue. It is a climate in which an exoneration is often presumed to be a miscarriage of justice, like when, earlier this year, activists at Dartmouth were dismayed at a student’s acquittal even though his story of clumsy drunken sex was backed by substantial evidence.

And a great conclusion:

Our focus on getting justice for women who are sexually assaulted is necessary and right. We are still far from the day when every woman who makes a rape accusation gets a proper police investigation and a fair hearing. But seeking justice for female victims should make us more sensitive, not less, to justice for unfairly accused men. In practical terms, that means finding ways to show support for victims of sexual violence without equating accusation and guilt, and recognizing that the wrongly accused are real victims too. It means not assuming that only a conviction is a fair outcome for an alleged sex crime. It means, finally, rejecting laws and policies rooted in the assumption that wrongful accusations are so vanishingly rare they needn’t be a cause for concern. To put it simply, we need to stop presuming guilt.

We should be focusing on justice not vengeance.  And sometimes justice means acquittal.  Anyway, this article did particularly strike me after a recent series of alerts from NCSU:

This is an update to the Safety Notice that was sent out early this morning regarding the reported kidnapping & sexual assault from the Wolf Mart located at 2808 Hillsborough St. It has been determined that the incident did not occur and there is no ongoing threat to the University community. The description of the suspects and vehicle listed can be disregarded. Any inquiries about this incident should be directed to the Raleigh Police Department. [emphasis in original]

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On alcohol and sexual consent

I presume that most people who drink alcohol (i.e., most people) and most people who have sex (i.e., most people) have, in fact, engaged in sex while under the influences of alcohol.  And I would also posit that in a substantial majority of these cases what is happening is not a crime.  Yet, we keep hearing from some quarters that you cannot consent to sex when intoxicated.  But that’s not true and this Slate article makes a strong case for why it is particularly harmful to spread this untruth:

The key is to make clear exactly when it is a crime to have sex with a person who is too intoxicated to be capable of giving meaningful consent. Here’s the proper legal framework: Sex with someone who is too drunk to consent is a crime even if the perpetrator uses no violence whatsoever to force his way. It is a crime even if the survivor does not physically resist or verbally object. It is a crime even if she is not passed out but is conscious before and during the encounter. It is a crime even if she was not drugged or forced or tricked into drinking by the perpetrator but got drunk on her own…

There’s no similar line for determining when someone is too drunk to consent to sex. Instead, the question is whether, under all the circumstances apparent to the perpetrator, a reasonable person would know that the victim was too intoxicated to give a meaningful consent. Under that standard, the prosecution may win a conviction only by proving that the victim’s intoxication was extreme and verifiable. She has to be way past buzzed or tipsy. She has to be very drunk.

The cases and the literature on rape give examples. For example, a person who is falling-down drunk, too intoxicated to walk. Or unable to talk clearly or coherently. Or too uncoordinated to undress herself. Or sick drunk, slumped over a toilet vomiting or urinating on herself. [emphasis mine]

In conditions like these, there’s just no possibility of meaningful consent…

Okay, so here’s the why it’s a bad thing part:

Perhaps because it is illegal for the vast majority of their students to drink in the first place, many colleges do a poor job of explaining the kinds of circumstances in which it is unreasonable to believe that a drunk person is consenting. Some schools tend to issue sweeping warnings, such as: “Never mix drinking with sex.”

This sort of vague preaching is worse than useless. It fails to tell potential perpetrators when they are on the verge of crossing the line. And it may falsely suggest to potential victims that the law protects them against virtually all kinds of intoxicated sex, when it does not. For now, most cases of drunken sex will be—and, probably, should be—beyond the reach of the law. Young women need to know this. They need to know that the law treats sex after drinking as assault only in extreme circumstances.

Good to see some pushback on this unhelpful and potentially harmful approach to thinking about sex and alcohol.  Nobody should ever coerce another into having sex, nor, of course, take advantage of an extremely debilitated state (caused by alcohol or anything, for that matter) to have sex with another person, but that is no reason to criminalize the every day occurrence of people under the modest influence of alcohol having sex.

It’s not my fault I can’t remember– it’s my gender

My wife is often bemused and amazed at events from our life that I have forgotten.  Her theory is that my brain is so full of (largely useless) trivia, arcane knowledge, etc., that there’s no room left for family memories and life events that I completely forget.  My theory is that she’s just good at remembering that stuff; not that I’m bad.  Anyway, it turns out that, well, science.  Women are better than men at recalling autobiographical memories.  From New York magazine:

Researchers are finding somepreliminaryevidence that women are indeed better at recalling memories, especially autobiographical ones. Girls and women tend to recall these memoriesfaster and with more specific details, and some studies have demonstrated that these memories tend to be more accurate, too, when compared to those of boys and men. And there’s an explanation for this: It could come down to the way parents talk to their daughters, as compared to their sons, when the children are developing memory skills.

To understand this apparent gender divide in recalling memories, it helps to start with early childhood — specifically, ages 2 to 6. Whether you knew it or not, during these years, you learned how to form memories, and researchers believe this happens mostly through conversations with others, primarily our parents…

But the way parents tend to talk to their sons is different from the way they talk to their daughters. Mothers tend to introduce more snippets of new information in conversations with their young daughters than they do with their young sons, research has shown. And moms tend to ask more questions about girls’ emotions; with boys, on the other hand, they spend more time talking about what they should do with those feelings.

This is at least partially a product of parents acting on gender expectations they may not even realize they have, and the results are potentially long-lasting, explained Azriel Grysman, a psychologist at Hamilton College who studies gender differences and memory.

Anyway, interesting.  (It’s not my fault, Kim!)

Photo of the day

Recent National Geographic photo of the day:

Picture of a deer on a frost-covered path

Cold Encounter

Photograph by Nicolas Le Boulanger, National Geographic Your Shot

Hoarfrost settles on a moor along the border of Espace Rambouillet, a wildlife reserve near Paris, France, that’s home to deer like this stag and other wildlife. Having heard noises on the moor one day, Your Shot member Nicolas Le Boulanger returned early the following morning “to see the author of these sounds.” He had just arrived at the path when the deer appeared. “It literally jumped up in front of me as if to block access to its secret garden,” Le Boulanger writes. “We watched each other for five minutes, and I took hundreds of photos, but many of the others were missed due to the hoarfrost on the subject, my own shivers, and the rising morning mist that blurred the perspective.”

Supply, demand, and adjuncts

Is it wrong of me to read this Salon article about adjunct college instructors who are living on food stamps and putting together multiple teaching jobs to earn less than than minimum wage on an hour basis and just not feel bad?  I don’t.  Let me say that I think colleges use too many adjuncts and I think that they should pay adjuncts more.  But we are talking about people with graduate degrees willingly taking as little as $3000 per class (we pay $4000 in my department).  That’s simply what the market will bear.  There are a lot more people willing to teach college courses on the cheap than there actually are college courses to be taught, so you end up with adjuncts with very low pay.  If these weren’t the dynamics of this marketplace, adjunct prices would go up a ton.  It’s hard to fault colleges for paying qualified people (now, I would fault them for unqualified people) $3000 to teach a class if there are plenty of people willing to teach at that price.  Or maybe I’m missing something.

Well, there’s this:

The most telling phrase in Merklein’s words are “the school as a business.” Colleges across the country have transitioned from bastions of intellectual enlightenment to resort hotels prizing amenities above academics. Case in point: The ludicrously extravagant gyms in America’s larger universities are home to rock climbing walls, corkscrew tracks, rooftop gardens, and a lazy river. Schools have billions to invest in housing and other on-campus projects. Schools have millions (or in some cases “mere” hundreds of thousands) to pay administrators.  Yet schools can’t find the money to hire more full-time professors. If one follows the money, it’s clear that colleges view education as tertiary. The rigor of a university’s courses doesn’t attract the awe of doe-eyed high school seniors. Lavish dorms and other luxuries do.

Despite such execrable circumstances, professors trek onward and try to educate students as best they can. But how good can education provided by overworked, underpaid adjuncts be?

Actually, pretty good in my department.  And whether “run like a business” or not (okay, we are too much) it is hard to expect universities to ignore basic laws of supply and demand regardless of all the other things mentioned above.   In the end, if too many adjuncts are taking literal food-stamp wages they need to be doing something else other than adjuncting.

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