Words. Definitions. Feelings. Lies. Agendas. Sound and fury signifying nothing.
A new survey released Monday purports to prove that 1 in 5 women (or more) will be sexually assaulted while in college.
The survey, conducted by the Association for American Universities, included responses from 150,000 students at 27 colleges and universities, including many Ivy League schools.
Whether fault should be levied on the AAU for the study, for its methodology, or whether no study, no matter how sincere in its effort, could achieve a valid conclusion is unclear.
There are plenty of reasons to believe that the study was framed in such a way as to steer clear of some criticism, such as its broad definition of rape and sexual assault, intended to be sufficiently inclusive that no advocacy group could claim it left anything, anyone out. Then again, definitions accepted, no demanded, on college campuses defy any cognizable definition anymore.
Many people would truly like to see a viable survey to appreciate the depth of a problem that advocates claim is an epidemic. But to make that happen, it would require the use of words defined by something beyond subjective feelings. When someone says they’ve been raped, we’re constrained to ask what happened, because the word rape, a historically horrible crime, no longer has meaning.
And yet, the New York Times headline tells the story advocates want it to tell, that it was destined to tell:
1 in 4 Women Experience Sex Assault on Campus
And some women will tell you, with certainty, that this conforms with this experience, that they have been touched at some point in their college career in a way that they found undesired and sexual in nature. In the legal sense, and even in the commonly understood sense of the words “rape” and “sexual assault,” there is no nexus between the survey results and what, in fact, happened.
But we will never know.
There is no time in history when male students were more aware of the issue of sexual assault on campus. There is no time in history when female students were more militant about their sexual victimhood. There is no time in history where a woman will enjoy greater support among her peers for claiming victimhood. There is a strong incentive to falsify claims, to exaggerate conduct, to claim that the banal conduct that happens to everyone is sufficient to justify a lie in response to surveys.
Some will parse this survey, as they have past surveys when they were taken seriously as efforts to ascertain the existence and scope of a potential problem. We are past the point of trying. There is no possibility that a survey can be conducted that will produce a viable result.
This isn’t because of flawed methodology, although the methodology will almost certainly be flawed. It’s because the issue of campus rape and sexual assault is so deeply mired in gender politics that there is no possibility that trustworthy definitions will be used, or trustworthy responses will be obtained.
“[M]any news stories are focused on figures like ‘1 in 5’ in reporting victimization. As the researchers who generated this number have repeatedly said, the 1 in 5 number is for a few [institutions of higher education] and is not representative of anything outside of this frame,” the researchers wrote. “The wide variation of rates across IHEs in the present study emphasizes the significance of this caveat.”
More radicalized schools will see higher numbers, sometimes absurdly higher numbers suggesting Yale is more lawless than the Congo, because women there are determined to prove their point. No one asks a respondent to prove the truth of their response, and so when the political need to achieve an outcome is combined with no penalty for lying to do so, you get absurd results.
Next, the survey’s developers “specifically avoided” using the words “rape” and “assault” so that, as they said, “respondents would use a set of uniform definitions when reporting on the types of events that were of interest.”
Even if respondents could be trusted not to put their ideology ahead of truth, the language would doom any hope of reliability. When the wiggle room in rhetoric allows for willing sex to be categorized as “without consent” because the woman drank alcohol or smoked a joint with the man, initiated sex but didn’t utter the words “I consent” to her own actions, decided the week or month after she saw the guy with another gal that her consent wasn’t sufficiently enthusiastic, or was silently withdrawn mid-act, the definitions are rendered meaningless.
Nearly 60 percent of students who had responded to what researchers defined as sexual assault said they did not report the incident because they did not consider it serious enough. Vast majorities of students gave this as the reason for individual classifications of assaults, including harassment (78.6 percent), sexual touching due to physical force (75.6 percent) and sexual touching due to incapacitation (74.1 percent). These were the types of “sexual assault” most students said they had experienced.
The one number that can’t be sufficiently fudged is whether conduct was reported to colleges or law enforcement. And that the women who complain of rape and sexual assault couldn’t be bothered to report these alleged offenses speaks volumes as to the efficacy of any attempt to ascertain the seriousness of the problem. If they’re too trivial to bother with, then they’re too trivial to bother with.
There will be no study worthy of consideration, capable of answering the serious question of whether there is a problem (as so many concede, because it’s strategically sound to not appear to be a denier, and thus dismissed as a misogynist or rape apologist). That women insist that they are entitled to control their bodies by reinventing the problem as one of their feelings, an issue that will always elude definition, is now an integral part of the social fabric these survey seek to determine.
Do 1 in 4 women feel as if they’ve been sexually assaulted? That would likely be a fair characterization of the result. But the problem, the epidemic, isn’t that they’ve been subjected to sexualized harm, but that they’ve become so hypersensitive to their feelings that everything is now an offense to their feelings. And this will drive a wave of penalizing men for failing to meet women’s desire for control over them.
What this will ultimately produce in law, in reality, in gender relations and in the struggle for control over others, has yet to be seen. But this survey proves conclusively that we’ve gone beyond the point where any survey can produce results unbound by politics and the desire to achieve the sought-after proof that women’s feelings must prevail.
Maybe we will laugh at this ridiculousness one day, but there will be terrible harm to undeserving males in the meantime because of studies like this and the actions taken against men to vindicate women’s feelings.