People ask how Title IX ended up as the default mechanism to police sex on campuses through a system carefully designed to assure that anyone accused of sexual misconduct, whether real or imagined, is railroaded for the cause. There is the legal explanation, how Catherine McKinnon fought for decades to twist the system into the pretzel that would vindicate a radical feminist view of elevating fragile women over toxic masculinity.
But that fails to sufficiently explain why people let that happen. Do women hate and fear men that much? Are men that awful toward women? Is rape ubiquitous? How did we come to believe that men are raping women on campus constantly, so much so that such extreme measures are necessary, that even innocent men should be sacrificed to the cause of protecting women from regret or responsibility? KC Johnson provides an answer.
In an interview with ESPN, ex-Office for Civil Rights head Catherine Lhamon commented on a study showing that in Power Five conferences (Big Ten, Big XII, ACC, Pac 12, and SEC) male athletes are disproportionately accused of sexual assault. She noted that absent the high attention such allegations received, the campus sexual assault movement “would be largely nonexistent.” Lhamon added, “The capturing of the hearts and minds of the American public is what has moved this issue. The response of student communities to sexual violence among athletes has been really important.”
The narrative was in place among those pushed to create a system aligned with their personal feminist beliefs, but that didn’t mean they could get others to play their game. After, women and men still dated in college, still drank alcohol when they were blowing off steam from the pressures of studies and, occasionally, had sex. And everyone was pretty good with it, enjoying the normal company of the opposite sex without rancor. Hatred and fear hadn’t yet become a festering sore to burst open without warning or reason.
But then came the outlier cases.
Lhamon thus conceded that “the hearts and minds of the American public” were captured by highly atypical cases. If, in fact, the typical accused student was a Baylor football player, or ex-Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, perhaps Lhamon’s crusade—built on the assumption that university Title IX tribunals were tilted toward the accused—would have made sense. But the vast majority of accused students aren’t high-profile athletes from universities that make millions of dollars off some of their athletics programs—and thus have an incentive to whitewash allegations against athletes.
It had long been inherent in the myth that BMOCs like star athletes, would take what they wanted, do with it as they pleased. It was almost as if they were walking, talking rape machines, and so any allegation of rape against them was presumptively believed. Everybody knew these dudes felt entitled to women’s bodies. At least everybody said so. And if you happened to be an athlete, you not only had a target on your back, but no way to defend yourself from the accusation that everybody knew was true, facts notwithstanding.
And when someone like Jameis Winston “got away with it,” it couldn’t be because he didn’t do it, but because the system was rigged. And it was easy to believe the system was rigged, since a star athlete is a cash machine for universities, and someone the schools want to protect at all costs. What it revealed, to the insipid, was that the system that was supposed to protect them from discrimination in fact protected star athletes from rape.
Something must be done, people screamed. And other people seized the opportunity to manufacture the appearance of a system that enabled rapists to get away with it because Jameis Winston got away with it, even if he didn’t do it. But this was a lie, albeit a useful lie.
Lhamon surely knows this; her willingness not to have used her position to correct the public’s misimpression speaks poorly of her integrity.
The vast majority of men on campus aren’t headed for the NFL. Colleges aren’t bending over backwards to exculpate them from legitimate accusations. And Catherine Lhamon, hardly a fool, knew this. But KC suggests that she was merely unwilling to use her position as head of the DoE Office of Civil Rights to correct the myth, which “speaks poorly of her integrity.”
KC is too kind to Lhamon, as her silence was hardly so benign. She exploited the misimpression, she was the chief cheerleader of the lie, bolstering believers and fanning the flames of outrage. She didn’t merely fail to prevent misguided women from storming the castle, but let them, torch and pitchfork in hand.
As Lhamon confessed, in the absence of these high profile accusations against star college athletes, there was little hope of capturing the “hearts and minds” of the public. After all, people went to college and managed to graduate without getting raped. Women married, and their husbands weren’t rapists. Their fathers weren’t rapists. The other males in their circle of friends weren’t rapists. Yet, the myth was that universities were awash in rape culture, that women could barely make it home from the library without being raped. This had to be stopped. There had to be a process to deal with rape, because rape was everywhere.
Except it wasn’t. And the men whose lives were being ruined by the system Lhamon created to “fix” the misimpression that all men were rapists, and all rapes were being whitewashed by colleges like Jameis Winston’s, were the ones to suffer. The question was never whether rape was acceptable,* but what was rape in the new world order on campus? The question of how to stop BMOCs from getting away with it had nothing to do with the ordinary accused student, for whom the college cared nothing, from being railroaded and expelled to avoid the consequences of Lhamon’s wrath.
Once you win people’s “hearts and minds,” you can get away with pretty much anything. Except the victims weren’t big-name athletes, but regular students, and yet Lhamon was all too happy to exploit the lie to achieve her goal at the expense of innocent male students. And the unduly passionate public was willing to be misled by Lhamon into believing this was real, or at least real enough to destroy innocent men’s lives for the cause.
*For the benefit of the intellectually challenged, this is not to say that rape doesn’t happen and shouldn’t be addressed, but that much of what’s called “rape” in these proceedings is nothing of the sort.