The murky Duke lacrosse/rape allegations story (here is a summary of developments from the New York Times) has what it takes to become this summer’s scandal – class, race, and, needless to say, sex.
The feminism angle is also fascinating. Cathy Young writes about the rape as a weapon aspect of the story:
Feminism has achieved real and important progress in the treatment of sexual assault victims. A couple of generations ago, a stripper at a party with athletes would have been viewed by many as fair game. That this is no longer the case surely makes us a more decent society.
But even some people who applaud this change believe that in some cases, the pendulum has swung too far. Many feminists seem to think that in sexual assault cases the presumption of innocence should not apply. Appearing on the Fox News show ‘The O’Reilly Factor,’ Monika Johnson-Hostler of the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault declared that her role was ‘to support a woman or any victim that comes forward to say that they were sexually assaulted.’ To O’Reilly’s question, ‘Even if they weren’t?’ Johnson-Hostler replied, ‘I can’t say that I’ve come across one that wasn’t.’ Feminist pundits discussing this case, such as Wendy Murphy of the New England School of Law, exude an overwhelming presumption of guilt.
To recognize that some women wrongly accuse men of rape is not antifemale, any more than recognizing that some men rape women is antimale. Is it so unreasonable to think that a uniquely damaging charge will be used by some people as a weapon, just as others will use their muscle? Do we really believe that when women have power — and there is power in an accusation of rape — they are less likely to abuse it than men? As Columbia University law professor George Fletcher has written, ‘It is important to defend the interests of women as victims, but not to go so far as to accord women complaining of rape a presumption of honesty and objectivity.’
If that’s the lesson of the Duke case, then some good will have come of it after all.
Naomi Schaefer Riley of Opinion Journal has also addressed the feminist angle:
The odd thing is that feminism may be partly to blame. Time magazine reporter Barrett Seaman explains that many of the college women he interviewed for his book ‘Binge’ (2005) ‘saw drinking as a gender equity issue; they have as much right as the next guy to belly up to the bar.’ Leaving biology aside–most women’s bodies can’t take as much alcohol as men’s–the fact of the matter is that men simply are not, to use the phrase of another generation, ‘taken advantage of’ in the way women are.
Radical feminists used to warn that men are evil and dangerous. Andrea Dworkin made a career of it. But that message did not seem reconcilable with another core feminist notion–that women should be liberated from social constraints, especially those that require them to behave differently from men. So the first message was dropped and the second took over.