Thursday, April 30, 2015

The "Fact" That Never Changes

The invaluable Ashe Schow has a new post up at the Washington Examiner discussing how the bogus, unempirical, yet remarkably durable "1-in-5" factoid retains currency among Title IX rape inquisitionists. It occurred to me that there's a significant point to be made here: the figure has been around nearly thirty years. As Heather MacDonald pointed out in a City Journal piece I link to almost reflexively on this subject, the figure originates with a 1987 study by Mary Koss (PDF), which has remained unchanged ever since. Sometimes one even hears figures as high as 1-in-4, but seriously, this is what they expect us to believe:

To even come close to showing the actual reported and theoretical underreporting (68% of all rapes are not reported, per RAINN), the graph above required logarithmic scaling. (Data for actual rapes came from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting database.) Over that entire time, the overall numbers rose and fell, but the party line on rape is that it hasn't changed in nearly three decades. Of course, I'm being somewhat unfair in this comparison — the 1-in-5 figure represents a lifetime risk, though over which lifetime we're never sure. It's frequently sold as time on campus, which would mean at a four-year institution, a typical woman stands a 1-in-20 risk of being raped in any given year. 5% rape rates would make for the kind of panic that would shut down college campuses everywhere, and yet this does not happen, and indeed young women still eagerly attend college.

I wanted to remove the invariant 1-in-5 figure from the graph above to highlight something actually quite good:

The overall rape rate has gone down considerably and very nearly continuously since a peak in 1991. Even accounting for the RAINN-derived underreporting, we should expect to see similar changes in any real-world data collection that actually causes some variance — that is, if the individuals in question were engaged in something like actual science.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Hoya's Fainting Couch

The Georgetown The Hoya, having apparently fallen over on the fainting couch somewhere, issues its panic room instructions in the wake of Christine Hoff Sommers' appearance on campus to discuss her criticisms of modern feminism:

It is necessary and valuable to promote the free expression of a plurality of views, but this back-and-forth about whether or not certain statistics are valid is not the conversation that students should be having. Students should engage in a dialogue that focuses on establishing a safe space for survivors while at the same time tackling the root causes of sexual assault.
It goes on for blocks from there; the comments are actually remarkably lucid, from which I'll pull one mainly for brevity and clarity:
Wow! To paraphrase the fourth and fifth paragraphs: “Don’t consider those facts that undermine the premise of your view; just carry on to your foregone conclusion.” This is the kind of elite undergraduate education that parents spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for? Incredible!
Pity the poor Onion writers who find themselves woefully behind the times in matters such as these. It turns out that some of the protesters in the room at the time, at a public lecture with a video camera rolling, now wish to have their visages excised from the resulting footage. Predictably, the sponsors of the event reject this, while the university claims it may need to "step in" and force their hand:
The University claims that we must edit the video because students who asked questions did not agree to have their faces shown/voices heard:
What was the response from Clare Boothe Luce about the video? I see that is still up online. Please let me know asap as an edited version needs to be released without students who did not give permission to be taped.

If they are unwilling or unresponsive to the request, Georgetown will need to step in. Let me know!
But it stretches credulity that Georgetown and its students would not understand that the lecture was a public event. The video camera was in plain view, and audience members themselves appear to be taking video and photos. It could not shock any student that he or she was on camera.

In addition, the mission of the protestors at the event was clearly to gain attention. Perhaps we are receiving this request because the students were too successful at gaining attention, and are now embarrassed at the reaction to signs like “Trigger Warning – antifeminist.”
You truly can't make this stuff up.

Update 4/30: This, in the comments. Awesome.

A Rape, Or Not?

The Columbia Spectator has a look inside a reported sexual assault at that school, as recounted by an anonymous victim.
He cries as he pulls you closer. You stay and are sexually assaulted. Such an action requires the passive voice because it is a passive act. Rape is enacted on someone, not with someone. It may be uncomfortable for you to tell people you were raped, so instead you tell them you were “sexually assaulted.” That is what the administration calls it; it is the legally appropriate term, and it seems more academic, safely distanced from the experience.


You had told him no before, repeatedly, throughout the two weeks you dated. The night the assault occurred. The moment he held you below him. There was never consent. There was, however, the continued feeling of obligation to stay and the shock that caused your body to shut down, to become limp and compliant. Unprepared for abuse, you had no idea of what to do. So you lay there, stupefied. You were too afraid to move until he gave a last, too-hard thrust that jolted you from your inertness. You left. The pain stayed with you for the next week.

His perceived vulnerability, his stated mental issues: They are no excuse for what he did. To play both the victim of his own depression and the aggressor of sexual acts is not permissible. It is manipulation and blurring of consent that cause the victim to question, in that moment, their ability to leave their abuser.
The highlighted sentences strike me as being key to reading this as actual rape, but then, her "manipulation and blurring of consent" that makes me question it. It reads as though she might have been okay with this until he hurt her on that last thrust; she later writes that gay friends "[c]alling sexual violence “rough sex” makes it consensual", which, no; the point is more that she didn't say "no" clearly enough. More strangely, "Your female friends do not feel threatened by your rapist because he is homosexual", which implies to me he's actually bisexual. And why is she not kicking him out of bed? The mind boggles. (H/t @QuayBangz.)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Link Dump

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Snake Eats Its Own Tail

Well, then, huh.
University of Virginia associate dean of students Nicole Eramo on Wednesday publicly denounced a retracted Rolling Stone article that she says falsely portrayed her role in counseling a student who alleged that she was the victim of a fraternity gang-rape on campus.

In a letter to Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, obtained by The Washington Post on Wednesday morning, Eramo assails the article’s “false and grossly misleading” account about how U-Va. handled allegations of rape on campus. Eramo, who works with student survivors of sexual assault, had been characterized as callous and indifferent to what Rolling Stone described as a brutal campus rape, and other sexual assault cases.

“Using me as the personification of a heartless administration, the Rolling Stone article attacked my life’s work,” Eramo wrote in the letter, her first public remarks about the article since its online publication in November. Noting that the article has since been discredited and retracted, Eramo wrote that her name will now “remain forever linked to an article that has damaged my reputation and falsely portrayed the work to which I have dedicated my life.”
Reason links to a Volokh Conspiracy piece outlining the various parties who might have standing to sue for libel, and Eramo, as a public servant, is ineligible. That's unfortunate in this case, but her pleading is especially compelling, at least, to me. Here's someone who has, presumably, spent her entire career in the pursuit of actual sexual abuse, only to find herself labeled an indifferent abettor of gang rape.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Jameis Winston, The Wrong Poster Boy For Title IX

I mostly have avoided the Jameis Winston case, in part because I first encountered it due to a documentary that bore the field marks of the usual campus rape crisis hysteria, The Hunting Ground. But recent new evidence has surfaced as a consequence of a new civil suit that could effectively rebut Winston's version of events, and possibly, end his high NFL draft ranking:
The lawsuit—obtained by VICE Sports and embedded at the bottom of this report—contains two new bits of information that could prove damaging for Winston. The first is then-Winston teammate Ronald Darby's remorseful Facebook message after the assault—Darby is one of two FSU players who was present the evening of the assault. The second is that Kinsman's legal team has located the cab driver who took Kinsman to Winston's apartment the evening of the assault—something both the Tallahassee Police Department and state attorney's office had failed to do.
Erica Kinsman's accusations, published by the Washington Post in February, are that she was drugged and taken by cab to Winston's apartment, where he raped her before dropping her off near her home. Kinsman got a rape kit done immediately afterwards, and despite a positive match to Winston, the police never pressed charges. The case appears to have enough meat that writer KC Johnson, a professor at Brooklyn College famous for his coverage of the Duke Lacrosse case, observed that "Winston received preferential treatment from the Tallahassee Police". Title IX charges similarly went nowhere, which leads to a point about the overall value of Title IX sexual assault adjudication: if much of the impetus for creating a parallel, secret tribunal system bereft of representation for the accused is to stack the deck in favor of "believing" the "victim", it failed Kinsman spectacularly. It's hard to imagine a system in which a highly visible and popular student athlete would not have many advantages which would necessarily make prosecution difficult.

This, of course, does not apply to most men who would fall afoul of Title IX; as Johnson wrote, such cases "represent a tiny percentage of the overall number of students accused of sexual assault.... The typical student, instead, remains exposed to the guilt-presuming ideological environment of today's campuses." For them, Winston serves mainly as an example of the axiom that hard cases make bad law.

Fraternities, Sororities Hectored Out Of "Police First" Rape Investigation Proposal

Mischaracterizations in the press and subsequent backlash has caused the North-American Interfraternity Conference to abandon its proposal to engage university Title IX investigations only after the police and courts had investigated, according to Asche Schow in the Washington Examiner.
Newspapers across the country labeled the proposal and the North-American Interfraternity Conference as a "rape lobby" trying to keep sexual assaults from being investigated. That mischaracterization spread far and wide, even though the proposal was actually sensible: Let the professionals do their job, and punish based on actual evidence instead of a parallel kangaroo court system. That kangaroo system, by the way, has led to more than 100 schools being investigated for allegedly failing the accusers and more than 70 schools being sued for improperly punishing the accused.
Even a mild change yields this kind of hyperbole and overreaction. The use of Title IX to create a separate, secret, due-process-free proceeding is unconstitutional and immoral, and needs to go; a great deal of public education lies ahead.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday Links

  • Biology has a role in constructing gender? That's crazy talk! Leading off, a flawed but generally good essay on the social construction of sex at Pacific Standard by Alice Dreger. Excerpt:
    It makes me crazy that some of my feminist friends try so hard to stop their kids from being gender-typical. I have one such friend who has a fairy-princess daughter, and my friend keeps trying to keep her daughter butch, as if she owes this to Susan B. Anthony. I asked my friend, “If your son wanted to wear a pretty pink dress, would you let him?” She turned red and said, “Yes.” I answered, “Then why isn’t it gender-based oppression to deny your daughter a pretty pink dress?”

    ... People who think gender identities, gender roles, and sexual orientations are all socially constructed are the most naive biological determinists I’ve ever seen. They think all human brains are completely without structure when it comes to these things; we all have empty slates in our skulls at birth. No, we don’t! Really!
    She gets into some schizophrenic moments — "The expectation that men will be strong, insensitive, and hornier than women could also be described as a social construction" is more descriptive than "expectation" — but overall a great deal clearer and rational than most of the horrible feminist bilge that contains the words "men are taught to...".
  • Feminists askeered of Christine Hoff Sommers: Pretty much guaranteed that calls for a safe space would result when reform feminist Christine Hoff Sommers showed up at Georgetown to deliver a talk on the state of modern feminism, with ensuing "trigger warnings" and demands for a "safe space":

    Sommers attracts this sort of hysterical overreaction everywhere she goes, as for instance, her Oberlin appearance, which drew out this treacly and self-absorbed letter to the editor, titled (I am not making this up) "In Response to Sommers’ Talk: A Love Letter to Ourselves". Sommers' crime mainly consists of walloping the 1-in-5 rape victims myth, which apparently qualifies as being a rape "denialist" or "apologist", depending on the moment, i.e. a heretic. But what I did not realize is that the specific language has a hidden function, whether or not intended by the original writers: that of censorship.
    If you don't know how the game is played, the new magic word is "unsafe," because if you claim someone is making you feel "unsafe," that sets in motion Title IX protections. That is, if you want to censor someone, just claim not that you disagree with them or find them disgusting, but that they make you feel "unsafe;" then administrators are under legal peril if they do not act swiftly to restore your sense of chill.
    Which of course makes total sense: the point of these insane, childish restrictions is to suppress dissenting views, and if possible, call them names.
  • Becauze "zero tolerance" has worked so well elsewhere: Speaking of paranoia and overreach, Stanford will ban students found guilty of sexual assault as the default punishment. I can't possibly imagine how that would cause anyone problems.
  • When the police are brutalizing neocons, we know things will change: A terrific piece at the National Review on the "John Doe" investigations in Wisconsin that were going on while Gov. Scott Walker worked to limit collective bargaining power (not even entirely!) for public employee unions.
    “I told him this was my house and I could do what I wanted.” Wrong thing to say. “This made the agent in charge furious. He towered over me with his finger in my face and yelled like a drill sergeant that I either do it his way or he would handcuff me.”

    They wouldn’t let her speak to a lawyer. She looked outside and saw a person who appeared to be a reporter. Someone had tipped him off.

    The neighbors started to come outside, curious at the commotion, and all the while the police searched her house, making a mess, and — according to Cindy — leaving her “dead mother’s belongings strewn across the basement floor in a most disrespectful way.”
    Individuals given this "dangerous, heavily armed drug kingpin" treatment — i.e. the sort of thing that happens every day in black neighborhoods — all were Republican supporters of Wisconsin's Act 10, the bill that eventually reigned in collective bargaining for employee benefits. "Don't call your lawyer. Don't tell anyone about this raid. Not even your mother, your father, or your closest friends." Generally social conservatives are pleased to dismiss police abuse in places like Ferguson, MO or North Charleston, SC as either justifiable or atypical, when it is anything but. When the victims are conservatives, perhaps this will give impetus to restraints on police activity and law enforcement more generally from those corners.
  • Republicans vote to axe the death penalty in Nebraska: Utterly astonishing, but a good sign.
  • Women in STEM, Dueling Studies Dep't: Another great essay by Scott Alexander, talking about two utterly divergent studies on sexism and women in STEM. The takeaway seems to be that the two best-known recent studies on the subject, Williams & Ceci 2015 (PDF) and Moss-Racusin et al. 2012, which used similar methodologies but found utterly divergent results. Williams & Ceci have long been a proponent of the idea that sexism largely doesn't exist as a bias in academic STEM fields, as for example their New York Times essay last year, "Academic Science Isn’t Sexist". Neither strikes me as compelling to partisans of the other side (see, for instance, this piece at Slate attacking the W&C study).
  • Progressive Policies + San Francisco Real Estate = Gentrification: I wrote a little bit about this here whilst taking a jab at Model View Culture's apparent ignorance about the consequences of renting, but Coyote Blog has a great post up about how progressive policies drive real estate prices to the moon in that city while making rental units all but impossible to find. This is basically a function of three simultaneous and converging thrusts:

    1. Vertical caps (building upward).
    2. Population density caps (a function of #1, in part).
    3. Rent caps (rent control). This now, lately, extends to Airbnb and other short-term rentals.

    Rent control appears to be only somewhat in force there, as it is in Los Angeles, because how else are older, more established tenants getting evicted as per Model View Culture? According to this page, it appears rent control only operates if the property was built before 1979. (Am I weird to wonder if some landlords might hope their units get knocked down in an earthquake?)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Repost: A Dose Of Honesty: Jonathan Gruber's Retroactive Confessions

Previously posted on November 20, 2014 as a Facebook note, but I'm slowly migrating a lot of this sort of thing out here onto the blog for formatting and search reasons.

Americans owe Jonathan Gruber a considerable debt for his unintentional honesty about both the means of drafting that law, his role in it, and the endgame -- particularly the destruction of the medical insurance tax deduction, which occurred as a consequence of tying the threshold for the "Cadillac tax" to CPI inflation rather than medical cost inflation. That he was one of the bill's chief architects now is hotly debated by Nancy Pelosi, who suddenly has trouble remembering his name. But not only was he an "adviser", he was much more than that at the time:
Yes, Gruber was an adviser, as Obama describes him, but that significantly understates his role. In addition to the nearly $400,000 he received from the administration (more than Obama's senior staff earns annually), his work was cited repeatedly by the administration as evidence for the law, and Gruber participated in high-level discussions with the president himself about what policies the law should include.

When the bill was being scored by the Congressional Budget Office, Gruber was one of just three outside economists summoned toan Oval Office meeting with the president and CBO director Douglas Elmendorf to look for ways to adjust the law in order to receive a better score, according to The Washington Post. That discussion, Gruber later said in a 2012 PBS documentary on the creation of the law, "became the genesis of what is called the Cadillac tax in the health care bill." Gruber also visited with senior administration officials at the White House on several other ocassions [sic], according to visitor logs.
Gruber's most infamous moment might be expressing the contempt in which he obviously holds the electorate (the subterfuge he and the Democrats foisted on the public were necessary because of "the stupidity of the American voter"). Because he exposed the attitude rampant among Democratic apparatchiks toward their base, he had to be diminished, a process continuing in the press this week. Professional Team Blue flacks like the Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik does a particularly poor job of this, one which will be compelling only to Democratic partisans. He wails the standard wail these days "you don't understand insurance" when Avik Roy points out Obamacare is yet another transfer of wealth from the young and poor to the old and richer, following this up with a cynical tu quoque sermon about how bills become law. For a finale, he goes after the Republican straw men of "death panels" while ignoring the meat of real criticism, with a dash of "the Supreme Court has said" the law is Constitutional, conveniently forgetting that National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius was not the only challenge to that law.

In fact, the biggest threat to Obamacare at present comes from King v. Burwell, something noticed by the nearly as disingenuous Ezra Klein:
Gruber's initial comments, which emerged a few months back, appear to support the King v. Burwell case, which argues that subsidies can't flow through the federal exchanges that are being used in 36 states. These comments from Gruber are both truly bizarre, and, because they could give justices some justification for ruling for the plaintiffs, genuinely dangerous to the law.

On these comments, I'll pretty much repeat what I said when they first emerged. They contradict literally everything else we know — including from Gruber.
Which of course is the purest nonsense, but it's what Klein is telling his audience. In the land of Obamacare believers, it is not important what the law actually says, but what its supporters want it to say, even if they change their minds after passage. This is the kind of thinking that alcoholics and other substance abusers rely on: I deny reality and substitute my own. And for obvious reasons, it is extremely dangerous when put into positions of power. The situation is so bad that co-fraud Jonathan Chait was obliged to pretend that a telecommuting Gruber did not really "write" the bill.

Maybe all this will play with the law's believers, but I suspect it has less traction with independent voters.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Know Your IX And Their Orwellian "Fair Process"

Know Your IX, an activist website dedicated to the elimination of due process in campus rape cases, on Wednesday published an open letter to university presidents on their Orwellian "fair process". This requires not a little deconstructing.
April 15, 2015

To University Presidents:

We, advocacy groups run by and fighting for student survivors of gender-based violence, write to you about the importance of fair process in university disciplinary systems.
By starting with the loaded word "survivors", they have already established their victimhood cred. No one needs to investigate this, no one needs to consider the prospect whether such charges are true; they just are, axiomatically.

That this is the opposite of "fair" should be immediately transparent.
We come to this issue out of concern for all student victims who have been betrayed and overlooked by their universities,
Like "Jackie"? Like Emma Sulkowicz?
deprived of the chance to learn and thrive by administrative inaction in the face of assault, harassment, and abuse. Our movement has made great strides in the last few years, but there is much more work to be done. Across the country, colleges and universities still fail to support survivors and take meaningful action against students who harm their classmates and communities.
I.e., have not been expelled from universities even despite rigged and secret mediations. How else do they explain Paul Nungesser?
We recognize that, now that schools have finally turned their attention to violence on campus, we are collectively tasked with answering the hard questions about how disciplinary procedures should work, given the particular challenges and opportunities of the campus context. And, we know first hand, the success of these procedures will depend on their fairness to all parties involved.
Their understanding of "fair" is, shall we say, slightly compromised? Because, how does one reconcile "fair" with the actions of their signatories, No Red Tape and Carry That Weight, who recently engaged in the puerile stunt of projecting the words "Columbia Protects Rapists" on a campus building, long after Sulkowicz had been exposed as a fraud? Which "rapists", particularly, were being "protected" by Columbia?
We are dedicated to ensuring fair process for four primary reasons:

First, many of the same procedures criticized by accused students hurt victims as well.
I would love to hear examples of this. That they may be criticized for exactly the opposite reasons as sexual assault advocates — i.e. a total lack of transparency, inability to retain legal counsel during proceedings, and lowered standards of proof for what is in fact a criminal felony— tells me the lack of examples here are rather noteworthy for their delusional failure to grapple with the situation as a whole.
Second, the authorities to which student victims turn for support in the wake of violence will only be effective if they are perceived as even-handed and legitimate by all.
And as Ms. Sulkowicz has already demonstrated, if the authorities reject those claims upon investigation, then what?  "Perceived" apparently isn't even enough; the only person for whom those perceptions matter, in this telling, is the accuser. Moreover, the secret nature of the proceedings means two things, both inimical to actual justice:
  1. Actual injustices will remain hidden from the light of day. Imagine a world in which Emma Sulkowicz's claims were true, and Columbia had ignored her. We have no way to establish specific failures of law or evidence because the cases are sealed from public inspection.
  2. Fraudulent charges cannot be aired to clear the name of the accused for exactly the same reason.
So "even-handed and legitimate" cannot apply to secret tribunals.
Third, we understand our fight as part of a broader struggle for equality in education, and worry that barebones procedural protections leave room for discrimination, including on the basis of race and class, in investigation and sanctioning.
I would think more of these claims if they, you know, were actually willing to expose the results of these procedures to the light of day. Throwing a spurious "because, racism!" charge in the middle of this makes me think this letter is more about sounding the right, politically correct notes than actually engaging in any meaningful search for justice — especially when making it easier to convict will inevitably result in more minorities getting convicted, because that's just the way it works. At best, this graf is naïve; at worst, it is hypocritical, delusional, and even monstrous.
Fourth, as students whose educational opportunities have been imperiled and limited by violence, we understand too well the harm of unjust deprivations of the right to learn.
You mean like the law school whiners who can't handle learning rape law?  Just wondering how expansive their definition of "imperiled and limited by violence" really was.
There is no conflict between, on the one hand, our recognition that student victims of violence continue to face unconscionable barriers and administrative indifference, and, on the other, our conviction that schools must provide procedural protections for all students.
The insistence upon the soundly rebutted "one in four" figure on their "Basics" page establishes the authors as serial liars. (When even Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a liberal senator in a liberal state, is obliged to remove such calumny from her own website, it's a Sign.) It's a tipoff that an inflated sense of what constitutes "rape" and "violence" informed by hysterical moral panic that has only a tenuous connection to reality.
Some who advocate for accused students’ rights have done so at the cost of truth and justice, confusing student discipline for criminal law and perpetuating a myth that universities now favor alleged victims over respondents — a myth we affirmatively reject.
Does it really bear repeating that Title IX tribunals punish too much the innocent man wrongly convicted, while leaving the guilty one free to engage in predations elsewhere? What kind of perverse sense of justice countenances that? And why is it a "myth" that secret tribunals favor complainants over the rights of the accused? As the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management wrote last year,
We hate even more that in a lot of these cases, the campus is holding the male accountable in spite of the evidence – or the lack thereof – because they think they are supposed to, and that doing so is what [the Office of Civil Rights] wants.
This is entirely consistent with the approach KYIX favors, namely, that every person complaining is a "victim" and a "survivor". Moreover, "Jackie" and Sulkowicz are not rare; NCHERM mentions "complainants who genuinely believe they have been assaulted, despite overwhelming proof that it did not happen."
We can and must value procedural protections for both parties without losing sight of the mistreatment of campus survivors, and the very long way we have to go to achieve equity on campus.
The use of the loaded word "survivors" implies accusers are in fact victims before any investigation whatsoever. This betrays exactly the kind of biased, brainless approach used by the Red Queen: sentence first. The "procedural protections" here represent their total absence, pretty words that mean nothing.
Unlike some critics, we recognize that replicating criminal procedures and unequal evidentiary burdens on campus is not only unnecessary but dangerously counterproductive and contrary to Title IX’s commitment to equality in education.
I.e. there's no point in having actual trials if we already know the outcome.
And we want to be clear: We do not espouse an ideology of mandatory forgiveness, in which victims, most often women, are expected to “move on” and sacrifice their own healing for their abusers’ convenience and comfort.
Right, so someone like Emma Sulkowicz can indefinitely go on and slander a man who has not, in fact, raped her? Because she's a "victim", a priori? So organizations like No Red Tape and Carry That Weight can persist in slandering a university president (and all their Title IX administrators involved in sexual assault adjudication) with no apparent basis?
For the four reasons stated above, we call for colleges and universities to ensure procedural rights for both parties, the accused and the accusing student. Many of these rights are already afforded by the Department of Education. Procedural rights should include:
  • The right to timely and clear notice of the allegations, parties’ rights and responsibilities (under both school policy and law), procedural updates, and the final determination
  • The right to review all materials used in the investigation and hearing with adequate time to consider and respond
  • The right to guidance from a trained advocate
  • The right to submit evidence and recommend witnesses and questions for the other party to decision-makers
  • The right to be heard by neutral decision-makers with professional expertise
  • The right to a safe and sensitive investigation and hearing
  • The right not to self-incriminate if criminal charges are possible or pending
  • The right to an explanation for the final decision
  • The right to fair and proportionate sanctions
  • The right to internal administrative appeal
I notice here that there is no procedural right to discovery by the accused, nor a right to confrontation of the accuser, nor a right to public proceedings, nor a right to representation by the accused. But more importantly than any of this is the fact that under Title IX the university is policeman, judge and jury. We separate these functions in criminal law for the good reason that allowing one entity to determine guilt is to concede a host of evils and abuse. This is of no interest to KYIX because they insist that "Title IX is about civil rights, not criminal justice" on the grounds that, among other things, "they may fear skepticism and abuse from police, prosecutors, or juries". Which is to say, to achieve their ends, they simply must dispense with rules of evidence that interfere with their witch hunts, and the shortest path thenceward is declaring the matter a civil matter, rather than a criminal case.
Student survivors of gender-based violence still face unconscionable barriers to safe educations.
I.e. they can't yet just expel arbitrary male students upon the vexatious and unsubstantiated accusation of any woman.
Those who assault, abuse, and harass deserve to face sanctions.
What does Ms. Sulkowicz deserve by this standard? What about all the signatories to this letter, many of whom have abetted her behavior?

(Hyperlinks in the text below added by myself for reference and convenience. They did not appear in the original letter.)
For the integrity and well-being of our communities, including those harmed, our systems of investigation, deliberation, and sanctioning must proceed with meaningful protections for all involved.


Know Your IX
Carry That Weight
No Red Tape
Our Harvard Can Do Better
CalArts Sexual Respect Task Force
7,000 in Solidarity: A Campaign Against Sexual Assault
Phoenix Survivors Alliance at the University of Chicago

As of the time of writing, 57 lawsuits now pend over the risible "student discipline" which is supposed to stand in place of actual rape criminal proceedings. One of those appears to have been dismissed Wednesday, but the John Doe plaintiff will appeal.  Here, I am uncharacteristically an optimist. Not all of these suits will fail. More, one gets the sense that KYIX's open letter takes place upon a background of increasing awareness of the actual dangers of Title IX to innocent men. As the NCHERM letter (PDF) attests (emboldening mine),
We fear for the mental health issues impacting many students, but in particular for those whose reality contact issues manifest in sexual situations they can’t handle and campuses can’t remedy. We hate even more that another victim-blaming trope – victim mental health – continues to have legs, but how do you not question the reality contact where case-after-case involves sincere victims who believe something has happened to them that evidence shows absolutely did not? How do campus and community mental health resources help someone who is suffering from real trauma resulting from an unreal episode?
What Camille Paglia rightly called the "tyrannical surveillance of students' social lives" cannot continue. These policies harm too many, amid utter indifference to evidence and facts on the part of those advancing them. It is the hallmark of totalitarians.

Update: FIRE, who really should be on the legal section of my sidebar, also has a long-form response.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Pink Ribbon Effect, Or, The Commidification Of Charity

A friend about to have a double mastectomy let me know about this long-form rant on the state of breast cancer charities. I don't agree with all of it, and in particular, I haven't read up enough on some of her recommended charities at the end to know whether they're legit, but they generally go against my own recommendations of eschewing big charities, Nonetheless, the author talks about her own personal and very painful experiences with cancer and surgery, and how these have resulted in her own clarifying moment about the kinds of cheap symbolism sprouting around breast cancer particularly (emboldening mine, as always):
While I am beyond thrilled that breast cancer is no longer a taboo issue and that people are talking about it, the commercialism has gotten out of hand. There is nothing pink and rosy about breast cancer, yet it has been pink-washed to death. It is a serious disease that kills.

And while I do think we need more awareness and education (about metastatic disease, about how young women can develop breast cancer, about how women (young and old) DO die from this disease, about the importance of research, etc.), I don't think we need the kind of awareness that buying a jar of salsa with a pink ribbon on it brings. While I hardly ever see "awareness" products addressing the topics above, I can't go anywhere without seeing pink products. Heck, I just have to look out of my front window to see giant pink garbage totes. The stores are filled with pink as companies try to make a buck off breast cancer. If you look carefully at these products, you'll find that some of them don't even donate a cent to breast cancer awareness, support, research, etc. And oftentimes those that do make a very minimal donation -- and not always to organizations/programs where the money is well spent.

What is most unfortunate is that well-meaning people are willing to buy pink products, even pay a little extra, because they think they are helping to do something to "cure" breast cancer or to provide "hope" to breast cancer patients. Why is this sad? Because those dollars spent on pink flowers, pink shirts, or a pink box of crackers or spaghetti sauce could be going to research, our only real "hope" of beating this horrible disease.
 Which is, I think, the most important point: buy a t-shirt, and maybe the seller will eventually kick back some small fraction of the purchase price. Send money to a group that's actually doing research, and hopefully most of that goes to paying scientists to find cures. And never, ever forget that "awareness" is a self-licking lollipop: you're just paying for ad campaigns, at best. It's really not hard.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Least Crazy Thing At Model View Culture Explains How You Can't Become A Porn Star From Direct Contact

I've been overdue to check in at Model View Culture, that dipstick of feminism-in-tech lunacy which has previously demanded people stop declaring C the language of real men, and equated inexperience in and indifference to one's supposed career with sexism. Shanley herself, of course, is prone to similarly hysterical rants (this epic fist-shaking on Twitter is a low-water mark), so Eva Gantz' essay utterly flabbergasted me with its comparatively tight reasoning. She has made the discovery that you can't become a porn star simply by encountering one at a tech show! Whoa. Heavy stuff:
Even just the proximity of association with sex workers is too much to be borne. A popular article detailed Ann Winblad’s experiences of being a woman in tech a few decades ago. She mentions that one conference she attended had so few female attendees that she was forced to room with the stripper. Can you imagine? The stripper. I hear the intended message about her isolation from her male peers. But to treat a stripper a some sort of pariah is to push her down in an effort to be respected. If she’d been roomed with a woman in a different career path—say, food prep—she would hardly have been so outraged. The true discomfort in Winblad’s story stems from the idea that sex workers are dirty, unimportant, and worlds away from a respectable woman like herself.

A similar sentiment is echoed in Liz Keogh’s “I am not a Pr0n Star: avoiding unavoidable associations.” Keogh’s piece responds to the infamous CouchDB presentation “Perform like a Pr0n star,” which featured (you guessed it) softcore porn. In no way do I feel the presentation’s inclusion of nude women was warranted, and I agree that it had no bearing on the subject matter of the conference (Ruby). But Keogh’s argument rests on the idea that if women in tech are viewed even in the same space as porn performers men will instantly see them as porn stars, too. Not only does this insult the intelligence of men, but it also furthers the idea of sex work as contagion. “Don’t get too close, or it might rub off on you.”
I don't want to make too much fun of this line of thinking because it does not reflexively recoil at the idea of human sexuality — unlike the TechCrunch "Disrupt" event at which women were made "comfortable by removing any mention of sex work from the conference". It's positively refreshing, therefore, to contrast Gantz' relative clearheadedness against TechCrunch's Victorian prudery.

Hat tip to Maggie McNeill.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Origins Of Barbara Randall Kesel's DC Comics Stint

I'm acquainted with Barbara Randall Kesel personally, but knew very little of her published work, not being a huge comics fan. She tweeted something today that really tickled me, so I'm reprinting part of it, an excerpt from an essay at Women Write About Comics called "The Last Batgirl Story", in which we find out how she ended up at DC Comics:
In the early 1980s, a fan letter lamented the shallow depictions of female characters in DC comics and suggested that they hire female writers or artists to expand on said characters. Editor Dick Giordano casually, and perhaps innocently, replied in the editorial section of a comic that hiring women wouldn’t make a difference. He later received a ten page response from reader Barbara Randall (later Barbara Kesel) who countered his assumptions that women writers were unnecessary. Giordano responded to Kesel with a job offer, and Kesel went on to pen various Batgirl stories, including some mini adventures in Detective Comics, a Secret Origins installment, the Batgirl Special, and later, the wonderfully subversive Elseworlds Finest: Supergirl and Batgirl.
I've asked Barbara if she still has that letter, or if it's published anywhere.  Meantime, here's an expansion of her response on DC Women Kicking Ass:
DCWKA: I read that you got into comic writing after sending a letter to DC making suggestions about how they could write women better, do you remember what you said in the letter? Any stories that stood out as bothering you?

BRK: I should dig into my files someday to see if I can come up with the rough draft, but my letter was in response to a letter in the back of one of the Batman comics (maybe Detective?). The letter writer suggested that DC’s female characters were a little shallow, and maybe they should hire some female writers or artists. Dick Giordano’s editorial reply was that he didn’t think it made any difference, so I shot off a ten-page missive disagreeing, with examples. I had no idea he’d call and want to interview me for a job; I just wanted to read comics where the women didn’t embarrass me. When I was a kid, the lesson comics was teaching me was that boys got to keep their powers, but Wonder Woman and Supergirl had off-and-ons (and Supergirl had this OLD and UGLY boyfriend in the seventies! Eeyew!J) when she wasn’t hiding in an orphanage or a tree. I loved the idea of superheroes and being a hero, but not of standing around waiting for permission or instructions from the guy first.

Even saying that, though, it’s not just about having the women be good characters: it’s about ALL characters having personality and distinctive voices. I wasn’t just advising how to make the women better, but the men too. They can all be eye candy; they can all also be interesting on the inside. My point was that if the creators invested a little of themselves in their stories and maybe spent some time in the company of someone who was different, they’d make better comics. I still believe that. Comics, that unique blending of words and pictures that charges up both lobes of the brain, is a medium with incredible power to spark the imagination and touch the heart. I want to see that power used for good.
This is frankly the kind of attitude I adore and really needs to be praised, loudly.

Forgetting Covad: Bloomberg's Misbegotten Net Neutrality Counterproposal

I've been meaning to write a much more comprehensive reaction to the incredibly uninformed, misleading, and blinkered treatment that the normally reasonable Reason has provided lately on the subject of net neutrality. Their series "Don't Tread On My Internet" is full of the same sorts of half-truths and evasions that has polluted their coverage of this subject in the past, pretending that the competitive landscape is anything other than what it is (i.e. dominated by government-granted monopolies or cartels), ignoring (or minimizing) the Netflix vs. Verizon standoff while shouting simultaneously that net neutrality is "A Solution That Won't Work to a Problem That Simply Doesn't Exist" (the words of FCC commissioner Ajit Roy), and clanking on the actual history of the net and pretending that "net neutrality" was some arcane legal concept invented by an attorney rather than a legal description of the de facto operating principles of the Internet.

What I have been hoping for from them, and has thus far been conspicuously missing, is a legitimate framework for increasing competition among ISPs. Such a framework would have, as a starting point, elimination (or at least, dramatic reduction of) barriers to competition. For terrestrial carriers, that would mean loosening access to physical rights-of-way and easements; for wireless carriers, permitting of ultrawideband devices (say). Instead, we commonly see the sorts of proposals that came across my desk today from Bloomberg: the substitution of one kind of regulation for another, and then confusing it with a market. It's a confused piece, which is not much of a surprise given its tendentious apparent origins:
Most Americans get broadband Internet access from their local cable company. The competition from DSL—digital subscriber line service, provided by telephone companies over copper wires—is fading. And satellite Internet, which suffers from crippling speed issues and usage caps, is relevant only in rural areas with no cable service. The lack of competition has allowed providers like Comcast and Verizon to rake in billions of dollars more from consumers vs. what they could charge in a competitive market.

Net neutrality won’t fix that. The high prices and the service horror stories—the most recent of which is Comcast’s refusal to cancel service for a man whose house burned down—will continue because net neutrality is not ambitious enough.
I am unaware of anyone making the claim that net neutrality will fix Comcast's epic, horrible customer service. Moving on:
The one crucial step the FCC could take to get us [real competition] would be to mandate local loop unbundling. That is a policy that would force the cable companies to lease access, for a price determined by the FCC, to what’s known as the last-mile connection: the copper and fiber-optic cable, switches, and local offices that connect the main arteries of the Internet to individual homes and buildings.

We’d get competition in one stroke, as new entrants would vie to provide broadband access. That competition would lower prices, improve service, and also ease the concerns about discrimination that provoked the FCC’s net neutrality mandate in the first place. In a competitive market, if Comcast throttles Netflix, then people who love Netflix can pick up the phone and arrange service with one of Comcast’s competitors. Competition would discipline Comcast’s behavior more reliably than any net neutrality regulation.
It's surprising to read anyone make such a proposal today seriously, because it completely forgets what happened to Covad, Northpoint Communications, Rhythms NetConnections, and a host of other, smaller players who were in the DSL reselling business when that was briefly a Thing at the end of the 1990's and into the early 2000's. The idea was that Covad et al. would sell ADSL services at prices below the incumbent local telcos using the latter's outside plant, i.e. physical network. This made for a bad deal for customers — who now found themselves with two entities needed to make a connection work. Worse, each entity was competing with the other for some part of the transaction. The incumbent telcos also sold ADSL services, which meant they had an incentive to screw over the "competitive local exchange carrier" (CLEC), and their customers.

This meant that the "competition" couldn't in fact last very long, and it was only two years between IPO and bankruptcy for Covad. Of course, much of the problem came from debt incurred due to prior capital expenditure building their own network, but the CLECs wilted like spring flowers in the summer heat. It also didn't help that Covad wasn't actually an ISP, merely a middleman for physical hardware. Actual ISPs reselling services disappeared, leaving Covad customers hanging. The advantages of having the ISP also own the physical connection to customers became obvious, and Covad and its customers quickly became victims. It's amazingly hard to believe someone is now, only a dozen years after Covad's bankruptcy, again making such a proposal.

Amanda Marcotte's Fake Feminism Problem

I briefly wrote on Wednesday about a Vox poll showing only 18% of the population self-identify as "feminist". I was somewhat (positively) surprised to read Amanda Marcotte's reaction:
The sample was a little over 1,000 adults, nationwide. We’ve seen similar polling data in the past, so this seems to be a pretty accurate assessment. This sort of thing frustrates the fuck out of feminists, because, by definition, if you believe in gender equality, you’re a feminist. So why is there this disconnect?

One big theory is that a lot of people are, in fact, feminists, but they don’t know it, because they’ve been scared off by negative stereotypes about feminists promulgated by opponents of women’s equality. Call it the “I’m not a feminist, but” phenomenon and it’s certainly a big factor, but I don’t think it fully explains the situation. Another huge chunk of it is likely due to the American fetishization of individualism, which leads a lot of people to shun labels in an effort to show what special snowflakes they are.* This is why, for instance, a lot of people who self-identify as “independents” are actually consistent Republicans or Democrats. There’s also some truly feminist men who avoid the label, because they don’t want to be mistaken for one of those creepers who calls himself a feminist to get female attention and cookies, but who is secretly a pig to women.
I say "positively" because she's at least interested, even at a very superficial level, in why people might find the label "feminist" a pejorative, as many in the HuffPo/YouGov 2013 survey did. Marcotte backs away — as she must — from the self-examination that might conclude that public recoil from the label "feminist" is self-inflicted damage; claims that conservatives and others have successfully framed the dialogue only go so far in their explanatory power. "You only have yourselves to blame" is not a message that will go over well, especially when you think you rest on the side of the angels. As Ken White observed, most label-based analysis is bullshit, so arriving at a mutually agreeable definition of "feminist" and "feminism" is very nearly impossible. One of the standard responses to definitional difficulties is to cast feminism in uncontroversial terms:
Reluctance to use the F-word may be more about education and information than the word itself. When respondents to the 2013 poll were given the dictionary definition of feminist — "someone who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes" — 57 percent of respondents, including 67 percent of women and 47 percent of men, agreed that, yes, they were feminists.
But dig a little deeper, and you will discover that a great deal of what gender feminists propose is outright dangerous to men when it isn't being deeply insulting:
Scott Alexander, lifting from Nicholas Shackel (PDF), calls this a "motte and bailey" tactic (his example 3 here), a bait-and-switch in which the speaker claims one thing (feminism is the mere equality between the sexes) but substitutes other things entirely for them later (specific theories and proposals that are in fact quite controversial). Interestingly, Marcotte appears to at least partially reject such a motte-and-bailey; either you use the label and are a feminist, or you don't and aren't. That, at least, represents a weak form of honesty. I have little hope she or other dedicated feminist partisans will take the next step from there and look in the mirror.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Saturday Link Dump, Mostly Sexual Assault/Due Process Edition

More links for your Saturday enjoyment:
  • Added to the sidebar in a new section on legal matters: Community Of The Wrongly Accused, opening with a piece on the University of Illinois' remarkable discovery that it's much easier on the accuser if no hearing at all takes place:
    The University of Illinois is taking college sex hearings to the next level in order to protect rape victims. The school is "moving toward an investigation process that may not require a hearing so an assault victim doesn't have to testify in front of a large committee."

    Finally! A school with the courage to cut through the bullshit! This ingenious plan will spare rape victims the indignity of having impartial adjudicators consider their accusations with an open mind. It will also spare schools the bother of introducing evidence to actually prove the young rapists are guilty. And it will spare the young rapists the bother of putting on a defense to avoid a life-altering expulsion.
    I'm sure that this won't result in more lawsuits against the University...
  • A bit of good news from Scott Greenfield's Simple Justice blog comes in the news that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has taken down a sentence repeating the false-but-frequently-cited 1-in-5 rape victimization statistic. You may recall that Gillibrand was pleased to have the liar Emma Sulkowicz as her guest at the presidential State of the Union address in January. Sit down, Emma, you've had your fifteen minutes.
  • Leslie Loftis at The Federalist makes the case that Phi Kappa Psi has a good case for libel against Rolling Stone. There's a lot there, but the big takeaway seem to be that Phi Psi is suing mainly for honor, not monetary damages, which are capped at a very low $350,000 under Virginia law. I really hope they open a suit in New York, which does not offer such protections.
  • Here's another roundup of campus rapes that were less than they seemed, including several I've previously written about in this space, if only in passing (h/t @Anneeliz1).
  • And finally, another piece of good news from Mr. Greenfield: a woman refuses to act like a victim when discussing a (female!) law professor inadvertently pasting a porn site link into a mass email to her students.
    It may be that Tabo is still being a bit overly forgiving, in that it might not matter whether “he meant to do it,” as intent is a courtesy no longer in favor.  As I recently quipped on the twitters, “there’s a reason why they call it ‘mens’ rea.”  This was immediately misunderstood and seized upon as demonstrable proof of the patriarchy, rather than a joke.

    And that’s where Tabo’s refusal to condemn others, even though she has long enough blond hair to justify it, betrays her failure to appreciate her victimhood.  Does she not get it?  Is she a disgrace to her gender, a traitor to the cause?

    Or does Tamara Tabo just have a sense of humor, an appreciation of irony, an ability to laugh off a theoretical harm done by mistake, by dumb chance, rather than leap up to the podium and demand that we burn the witch?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Breeding Right: Genetic Diversity Among The Jack Russell Terriers And Collie Dogs

In my many transactions with dog folk, it is received wisdom that the AKC is evil, stupid, and willfully ignorant, refusing even the most basic precepts of genetics. I recently had cause to read some correspondence with Dr. Niels C. Pedersen of UC Davis on the subject of genetic diversity; one part of the discussion ran to the business of prior studies done on other breeds, and in particular, landrace dogs — in which group he included the village dogs of Southeast Asia and Africa, but also, amazingly, the Jack Russell Terrier.

Wait, what?

When comparing the heterogeneity of the BSD to that observed within the AKC breeds some caveats should be addressed. One may initially expect long established, well-defined dog breeds to be much less heterogeneous than reported here. While some breeds do have a low HE, such as the Boxer with a HE of 0.320, breeds like the Jack Russell Terrier have a high HE of 0.713 and overall their HE is higher than that of the dingo.
So, a breed that's got more genetic diversity than a wild canid with a large population and distribution? I leave for others to decide how that might have happened, but consider that the collie-descended dogs appear similarly situated; the Australian Shepherd is fourth (HE=.696) and the Border Collie is seventh (HE=.669) on this list, and both are in the top third (Table 1). It speaks to the surprising diversity of the breeds, and while it does raise my hopes for the English Shepherd, only an actual study will tell us about genetic diversity there. It certainly makes me wonder what the JRT people do to arrive at that result. Genetic diversity, of course, isn't a panacea for genetic disease (coff hip dysplasia coff collie eye anomaly coff), but it is vastly better than a dozen or more breeds I could name.

Update 4/11/2015: Patrick Burns has more to say about this.

The Princess Mary Sue: Sansa Stark's Surprising Defender

A Facebook friend alerted me to an amazing piece at, purporting to tell us all about the "powerful femininity" of ... Sansa Stark. My friend Linda and I share very similar views of what female agency is and what it is not, and so the core thesis of this essay elicited a gag reflex in both of us. Long on assurances and disturbingly light on actual badassery, the author informs us of why we hate Sansa:
Kristin Iverson at Brooklyn Magazine has a theory to explain why Sansa attracts so much hate, and it carries a note of bitter truth: “The problem with Sansa Stark is that she bought into a world that was nothing more than an illusion; she was born into a position of privilege that turned out to have a crumbling foundation. The problem with Sansa Stark is that she is just most of us, and so we hate her.” Viewers expect the women of pop culture to be iconoclasts, as Iverson puts it, but the fact of the matter is that surviving is iconoclastic in itself.
 That this couldn't be less true is almost beside the point; she's selfish, mawkish, and worst of all, deeply stupid. Arguably, no other Stark had more to do with her father's death than Sansa, who gives up Ned for the hope she can continue to be queen. Earlier, she lied to match Joffre's story about Arya and her direwolf Nymeria embarrassing and lightly wounding him, with the result that it backfires on her, upon which her direwolf Lady is assassinated to appease Cersei Lannister. Repeatedly, she pursues status and ease, and in doing so, has it backfire; most notably, her assumption that she would have any value to Joffre once her father was out of the picture was a very bad miscalculation. Arguably, the first intelligent (if highly dangerous) thing we see her do is to cover for Lord Baelish at the Eyrie.

So we do not hate Sansa for no reason; we hate her because she is willing to endanger those she loves in order to achieve her own selfish ends. Iverson comes in my estimation perilously close to identifying with Sansa as a sort of reverse Mary Sue, in which the writer identifies with a character written by another author. And here's why I think this might just be the case:
Sansa stands out by being a survivor. In her own way, she is perhaps a more of a parallel to the strong women of the real world than the other women on Game of Thrones. Most women in the real world don’t pick up swords. More commonly, hardship forces us into survival mode. In a world of abusive relationships, everyday sexism, and misogyny, we can’t just lop off peoples’ heads like Prince Joffrey does. Arya Starks of the world certainly exist, but there are many more Sansas quietly wearing their pretty dresses and pushing teacakes around on their plates as they maintain a façade, refusing to break character and betray themselves. Haters, it seems, have missed this nuance of her character, taking her seeming innocence and compliance at face value, when it’s clearly evident that she’s anything but either of those things—she’s just willing to fake it until she can reach safety and start dealing out some revenge.
I note here that the "pretty dresses" passage sounds disturbingly like ... oh, I don't know, a surprisingly traditional view of female risk aversion? And the unmistakable plaint of "everyday sexism" that I have to believe the author thinks makes her a perpetual victim -- presumably a few notches below death and disfigurement?
Compared to the other women of the show, Sansa is in some ways the strongest. She endures unimaginable torment and it’s sustained. She can’t easily escape her abusive situation. Instead, Sansa lives in conditions that would break some people, as at first glance they appear to break her, as Joffrey hopes they’ve done. Her ability to rally her resources for survival makes her an impressive and outstanding character, even if she doesn’t meet the oft-vaunted standard of a “strong female character.”
So, in other words, female agency doesn't actually consist of doing things, as Arya Stark or Brienne of Tarth or Catelyn Stark do (and must); it consists of mere survival. What, exactly, is "badass" about this? What actions of Sansa's are we supposed to be impressed by, especially when so many of them are traps she laid for herself? There's a lot of people on this show, even women, who endure a great deal. That does not make them "badass", or remotely admirable.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Self-Declared "Feminists" Decline In New Vox Poll

The number of people willing to apply the label "feminist" to themselves has dropped, if the latest Vox poll is to be believed. Only 18% of those surveyed were willing to adopt the label for themselves, which represents a 2% drop from a 2013 poll by Huffington Post/YouGov. It's almost certainly within the error bands on both sides, but still worth mentioning.

One more time: we don't get a choice in this. Hatefulness is not helpful, and neither blanket charges. We have to live with each other.

Two Three On Consent

Two posts on consent, which, despite reductive and childish bloggers, is not simple:
  • In which we learn that some women expect men to be mind-readers, and think they are themselves:
    I had said "yes," but I didn't mean it. I knew that he knew I didn't mean it. Five minutes of what felt like a silent eternity followed.
    She knew this how? Everything else that follows is a justification for her own inability to say "no". She never establishes coercion, and so we must presume this is the voice of regret talking.
  • An elderly man has sex with his Alzheimers-afflicted wife — and is accused of rape:
    Friends and family say that Donna Lou and Henry Rayhons, a member of the Iowa House of Representatives from 1997 until this year, were besotted with one another throughout their relationship. She often accompanied him to the state Capitol in Des Moines. He bought her dresses and acquired a bee suit so he could join her in her beekeeping.

    “He treated her like a queen,” Charity McCauley Andeweg, who clerked for Rayhons, told Bloomberg.

    But a few years into their marriage, Donna was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. She suffered headaches and forgetfulness, drove on the wrong side of the road and once put a single sock into the dryer instead of a full load of laundry, according to Bloomberg.

    On March 29, Donna was moved to Concord Care Center in Garner, Iowa, a five-minute drive from her home with Rayhons. Rayhons reportedly resisted the move and clashed with Donna’s daughters — both from her first marriage — over how she should be cared for at the facility.

    In May, Dunshee and Donna’s other daughter, Suzan Brunes, met with Concord staff and drew up a care plan for Donna, according to a state affidavit. At the meeting, the women and doctors concluded that Donna was no longer able to consent to sex, a fact Rayhons was informed of.

    But a week later, on May 23, surveillance video showed Rayhons spending about 30 minutes in his wife’s room. When he left, he was holding her underwear, which he dropped into a laundry bag in the hallway.
    And thereupon he was accused of raping his wife — who could not, at least by some legal definitions, consent to sex. (One wonders who might have launched such charges; the stepdaughters seem natural complainants, but the article gives no indication.) “… Accusing a spouse of a crime for continuing a relationship with his spouse in a nursing home seems to us to be incredibly illogical and unnatural, as well as incredibly hurtful.” Indeed.
  • Update 4/9: Here's the third piece I wanted to put on this post but kept forgetting where I left it. A really thoughtful essay at Elle by Christina Nehring, contrasting a murky dating situation with her own actual rape at age eight:
    "Shall I take you home now?" he asked. It was one in the morning. I had recently arrived in a city whose geography was still opaque to me. I was in the car of a man I'd met at a dinner and who'd invited me to drinks.
    "Yes, of course," I said, giddy from a goodly amount of rosé. Dozens of turns and traffic lights later, we pulled up in front of an unfamiliar apartment building. It was his home. Not my home.
    My heart plunged. I'd never spent the night with a man. But what to do? Confess I'd misunderstood the question? Show that I, an international college exchange student, was that uncool, that frigid and frightened? Plead, like an innocent, to go home, to my home? I twisted my face into a smile, kept silent, and followed my companion to his flat the way I pictured a cow heading to slaughter.
    ... [T]his was the 1990s. And this was Paris. Were it today and in the U.S., our first time together could readily be considered "rape."

Ellen Pao: No Salary Negotiations For You, Young Missy!

From The Libertarian Republic comes the hilarious news that Ellen Pao has banished all salary negotiations at Reddit on the grounds that women are more frequently likely to be lied to during such transactions, among other things. CNN/Money took it a step further with their headline asking whether negotiations are themselves a form of gender bias, which makes me wonder if they had ever seen True Grit, and particularly, this sequence:

That Pao here infantilizes women is bad enough, but she becomes a hypocrite at the juncture of her recently lost lawsuit, which is nothing if not salary negotiations by other means.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Weaponizing Suffering: Clinging To "Jackie"

New (to me) blog Jacobinism, back in December, when all we had was the WaPo and Washington Times reporting:
Herein lies the value of 'Jackie' as a pawn of gender warfare, and the reason why Marcotte, Valenti, and like-minded allies steeped in their reactionary cynicism were not prepared to give her up without a fight, no matter how ridiculous it made them look in the short-term. Contrary to their own pious and self-serving claims, the interest of these activists lies not in alleviating the suffering of women, but in manufacturing and instrumentalising it.
 Or, for that matter, weaponizing it. The rest of the post is just as well written; I just wish I could do as well.

Megan McArdle Responds To The UVa Rape Hoax

Megan McArdle breaks out the clue hammer on Rolling Stone, taking to task her former pupil (who knew?). There's a couple points here I want to highlight:
3. Privacy laws and the norms of survivor support groups created the illusion of institutional verification. Erdely first heard the story from Emily Renda, a rape survivor and alumna who now works on the issue at UVA. Renda mentioned the alleged attack in congressional testimony. Erdely seems to have assumed in some way that this meant the university had confirmed the attack. This impression was heightened by various privacy laws, which make it virtually impossible for the university to discuss specific cases. Erdely was operating under the assumption that the university knew this had happened and was stonewalling. In fact, Renda had the same information Erdely did: the story she heard from Jackie. The university did not have enough information to take action, but it also could not discuss these details with Erdely. The lack of disconfirmation seems to have been taken as positive proof that it happened, rather than what it was: a legal prohibition on sharing information. [emboldening mine]
In other words, because university Title IX rape procedure is sealed, it is also unverifiable — which makes the fabulist's life easier and the reporter's work harder. But the most interesting thing in McArdle's essay is the following bit of speculation as to why "Jackie" might have manufactured the whole tale:
Erdely's reporting suggests at least two reasons Jackie might have made it up: She first told her story to the school when she got in trouble for failing classes, and connecting with anti-rape groups on campus plugged Jackie into a social network that gave her a feeling of purpose and fellowship. Had Erdely tried harder to contact the friends whose behavior she maligned, she would have heard a third reason: Jackie had a crush, not returned, on one of the friends she called for help that night.
Yikes. Talk about spiraling out of control.

Monday, April 6, 2015

"Jackie's" Last Defenders

With yesterday's unapologetic (to those that mattered) retraction in full of the Rolling Stone UVa hoax story, I thought it would be useful to review some of the reaction from that cluster of modern feminism exhorting us to "believe" all charges of rape, regardless of merit. I first turn my attention to Shakesville, which once upon a time called the opinions of "Jackie" skeptics "[not] worth a smudge of dogshit":
Earlier this week, writing for the Washington Post under the headline "Rolling Stone whiffs in reporting on alleged rape," Erik Wemple said: "For the sake of Rolling Stone's reputation, Sabrina Rubin Erdely had better be the country's greatest judge of character. ...Rolling Stone bears a great deal of responsibility for placing the credibility of the accuser in the spotlight, thanks to shortcomings in its own reporting. Consider that: Erdely didn't talk to the alleged perpetrators of the attack."

Katherine Reed has written a thoughtful response [H/T to Jessica Luther] to this particular criticism, from the perspective of someone who covers sexual assault cases, and I encourage you to read the whole thing.
Unsurprisingly, Reed's "thoughtful" remarks include this graf:
I also understand the fairness argument when names are involved. But in this particular case, the names of the accused are not included in the Rolling Stone story.
In other words, Reed takes the position that, so long as no particular individuals are named as perpetrators, anything goes, i.e. the same position taken by Rolling Stone editor Will Dana. That Melissa McEwan confuses this with something like responsible journalism comes as no surprise; she continued in this vein for literally months, condemning in harsh terms anyone daring to do the actual investigation that Rolling Stone had not, or who shared Wemple's skepticism. From December 5, 2014 (emboldening mine):
Robby Soave, writing under the headline "Is the UVA Rape Story a Gigantic Hoax?" for Reason, does not find it credible that Jackie's friends could have discouraged her from going to the hospital or reporting out of self-interest.
If the frat brothers were absolute sociopaths to do this to Jackie, her friends were almost cartoonishly evil—casually dismissing her battered and bloodied state and urging her not to go to the hospital.
Failure to support a rape victim is something that could only seem "cartoonishly evil" to someone who has never survived an assault only to be met with indifference from friends, law enforcement, and/or even one's own family.
If "Jackie's" story were even remotely like true, in the real world, her friends should have immediately driven her to the closest emergency room. But of course, in McEwan's tortured cosmology, it's much more likely that they're monsters; she cannot imagine a good rape tale being false, ever. It's the same reason she justified Erdely's failure to contact the assailants on the grounds that "there was nothing meaningful they were going to add" to the story, never mind that their very existence would be a good starting point.

She does this sort of toe dance repeatedly, here, and here, and finally here, pretending that the Charlottesville police investigation and reporting from the Washington Post and Washington Times (which latter she does not mention) indicated that "Jackie" was anything other than a serial fabulist. (Mean old facts.) So at last, what does she take away from this? Why, of course, that Rolling Stone "threw Jackie under the bus" when they credulously and unquestioningly believed the supposed victim, just as McEwan demanded, and this now amounts to "victim-blaming". "Always believe" got Erdely to publish the story, just as it got her in trouble when "Jackie" turned out to be a liar. And I use that term without reservation, because who gives out multiple burner accounts to "friends" when trying to establish the identity of a supposed date? Why could no one confirm literally a single detail of "Jackie's" story?

The same approach, i.e. it's really Rolling Stone's fault for doing what I told them, pollutes Jessica Valenti's reaction at The Guardian, initially established by her December 9 piece in which she announces that
I choose to believe Jackie. I lose nothing by doing so, even if I’m later proven wrong – but at least I will still be able to sleep at night for having stood by a young woman who may have been through an awful trauma.
It's a "heads I win, tails you lose" argument that should invite derision and contempt from anyone interested in justice or actual facts. Surprisingly, Amanda Marcotte's followup is remarkably subdued in comparison; she's the only one of the three — to her credit — who calls "Jackie's" prevarications "lie[s]". Even so, she partially lets Erdely off the hook for want of "guidance and support". That said guidance should have been obvious — get on the phone with the friends, and track down and interview the alleged perps — is almost beside the point. It's nearly a monumental victory to cross the low bar of calling a lie a lie.