The term “rape culture,” invented in the 1970s by radical feminists, seemed confined for decades to women’s studies programs and free-lance extremists. Now, as Cathy Young’s article today on this site shows, the term and the ideology behind it have been going mainstream, even at such prominent campuses as the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Wikipedia calls rape culture “a concept that links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society, and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, and even condone rape.” In other words, American culture approves and promotes rape. As Cathy Young reports, this idea is so strong at Madison that the editor of the campus paper isn’t sure she should print any letters disagreeing with it.
This is an odd time for a fringe notion to go mainstream. The Violence Against Women act, the only civil rights law to offer protection to just half of all Americans, has been reauthorized with tough sanctions and a good deal of cash for anti-rape programs. The armed forces and military academies are taking rape very seriously and heads are beginning to roll. The Obama administration (via the “Dear Colleague” letter that KC Johnson has written so much about on Minding the Campus) has had the effect of weakening or eliminating procedural protections of accused males on campus. This has made convictions easier and more common, even in cases when criminal justice authorities have dropped the charges as dubious or (in a few instances) openly declared them false.
How exactly are these steps expressions of America’s commitment to “rape culture”? Stupid ideas spread when people who know better refuse to confront them. This would include college presidents and administrators terrified of challenging their academically deprived and anti-male women’s studies departments, and it would include most of the mainstream news media, which have worked so hard to evade or botch coverage. So here’s to the short list of people who cover this subject honestly. That would include KC Johnson and Cathy Young, everyone at FIRE, and certainly James Taranto, whose article in the Wall Street Journal last Saturday had an immense impact. It was the first detailed inside story about the railroading of an innocent male student in a campus hearing. More honest journalism, please, and more courage from campus officials.