I claim that rape exists any time sexual intercourse occurs when it has not been initiated by the woman, out of her own genuine affection and desire. - Robin Morgan
At one time it was a subject rarely spoken of in public; now it sometimes seems that some people talk of little else. Since the 1970s rape has become one of the most politicized issues of our culture, despite sex being arguably the least appropriate topic for politics imaginable. The politicization of what could be considered the most personal of crimes began in 1970 with the publication of Carol Hanisch’s second-wave feminist manifesto “The Personal is Political”; as I wrote in my essay “Politicizing the Personal”,
The only problem with [the essay] is, it’s a load of crap; usually, the personal is just personal, and declaring it to be political merely holds the door open for increasingly tyrannical intrusion into people’s private lives. The idea that “the personal is political” is borrowed from Marxist dogma and basically means that nearly any problem experienced by an individual woman is the result of “systematic oppression.” If she’s unhappy or has a screwed-up life it isn’t because she’s irrational, poor, uneducated, overly emotional, foolish or unlucky in the genetic lottery, or because she’s made bad choices, or because the world is intrinsically unfair and many people of both sexes are unhappy and have screwed-up lives; it’s because she is oppressed by the Patriarchy. This is, of course, a fundamentally defeatist, paranoid and narcissistic view which removes responsibility from the individual and places it into a social context that encourages permanent class warfare (or in this case, gender warfare). Since the two sexes are different by nature and will always be unequal in one way or another, this provided political feminists with a path to political power; women were essentially told that their situation was hopeless unless they supported the schemes of the feminist leadership in its brave and determined struggle against the Male Overlords.
Once one understands this, the reason rape was politicized becomes obvious: Feminists could claim that rape wasn’t due to the criminal inclinations or loss of control of individual men, but because of a supposed “rape culture” which permeates society and encourages all men to rape and all women to be reduced to an imbecilic state in which we don’t know when we’ve been raped until the feminist saviors enlighten us. Had this notion been introduced full-blown in 1970 it would have been rejected as the rubbish it is, but it came by slow stages. Remember, second-wave feminism was at first a movement of strong, independent, educated women; it was tied to the sexual revolution and its earliest adherents recognized that sexual shame is one of the chief ways in which patriarchal societies control women. The miniskirt was a symbol of that freedom (hence the short uniforms in the original Star Trek, which were a visual demonstration of 23rd-century sexual equality), and prostitutes were active in a number of early feminist groups like WHO (Whores, Housewives and Others, the “others” being lesbians). So when feminist leaders wanted to call attention to rape, they couldn’t tell the truth about it for fear that women would stop being so sexually independent; they therefore invented the myth that “rape is a crime of power, not lust” so women would continue to put themselves in danger. The fact is that old ladies who get raped are as anomalous as child prostitutes; the vast majority of rape victims are young, sexually attractive women in unsafe sexual situations. There’s even evidence that conjugal visits reduce the rate of prison rape, and that legalization of prostitution reduces the rape rate.
The “rape is a crime of violence, not sex” mantra soon permeated Western society, and one could write an entire essay on the psychosocial reasons it did; in a nutshell, it’s because the truth – that rape is a natural, though unfortunate, outgrowth of our sexual programming – is scary to men because it reduces them to the level of animals, and to women because it means there is always the risk of rape in heterosexual relations. By ignoring the 73% of all unwanted sex which isn’t forcible, people of both sexes could pretend there was no elephant in the parlor. But there were some people who didn’t want that elephant ignored because its presence advanced their political agenda; just as first-wave feminism was eventually taken over by narcissistic middle-class white women, so it was with the second wave, and a cabal of angry lesbians and rape or molestation victims soon coalesced to lead those selfish, shortsighted women around by the nose. Since the “violence not sex” model did not advance their goals it needed to be replaced, but the propaganda campaign had been so successful it could not simply be tossed out; hence “rape culture”, the dogma that neither men nor women could recognize rape when they saw it due to “cultural conditioning”. In other words an act both parties agreed was consensual sex might really be rape, not merely in a sort of academic sense but in a real and prosecutable sense.
The shift had already started in the ‘70s with radical feminists like Robin Morgan, whose wholly subjective “rape definition” forms today’s epigram. That definition in one form or another spread through the emerging neofeminist movement; not only did it conveniently eliminate the need for physical evidence, it also allowed neofeminists to define sex work as “rape”. But the weaponization of what was at first merely a farfetched radical axiom took some doing; as I explained in “Imaginary Crises”:
…the FBI reported that 8% of all American women would suffer an attempted rape at some point in their lifetimes, and since only about a third of all attempted rapes are completed that just wasn’t enough to create the necessary hysteria…[so] in 1982 Mary Koss of Kent State used… [Morgan’s] definition to design a questionnaire she gave to 3000 coeds, and concluded that 15.4% of respondents had been raped and 12.1% were victims of attempted rape. But that wasn’t the way the women saw it; only 27% of those she called “rape victims” agreed that they had indeed been raped, while 49% said the incidents were the result of “miscommunication,” 14% called it “a crime but not rape,” and 11% said they were not victimized at all. In true neofeminist fashion Koss ignored the women’s views of their own experiences and characterized their denial that they were raped (and the fact that 42% of them later voluntarily had sex with their “rapists”) as evidence that they were “confused and sexually naïve” rather than that her theory was wrong. Koss’ results were published in Ms. magazine in 1985 and quickly became gospel; the “rape” and “attempted rape” figures together added up to 27.5%, a fraction quickly abbreviated to “one in four” and endlessly repeated in pamphlets, articles, “rape prevention” and “sensitivity” classes and protest marches.
Though the worst cultural excesses of early ‘90s neofeminism soon abated, it had already infiltrated academia and government and therefore became far more dangerous despite the fact that fewer women believed in it. Morgan’s definition is one of the roots of “sex trafficking” hysteria (via the notion of all prostitution as rape), and as I explained at length in “Setting Women’s Rights Back a Century”, “…the catechism being preached to young American women [is]: You are NEVER responsible for your own actions. No matter how irresponsibly you act, no matter what you say to or do with a man, if someone later convinces you that you were ‘assaulted’, or if ‘authorities’ rule that you were despite your protests, then you are a helpless, powerless victim without adult agency or volition, no better than an infant.” In my column of one year ago today I discussed the firestorm which ensued when Camille Paglia suggested that maybe women should take more responsibility for their own sexual behavior around men, and twenty years later it’s still the same every time a man makes a similar suggestion (though less so if a woman does unless she’s a Republican). There’s a vast difference between blaming the victim in a forcible rape and holding young women as much responsible for their actions while drunk in bed as we would hold them for their actions while drunk behind the wheel. And until Americans as a group recognize this, the culture wars over rape will be as endless as those over everything else involving sex, thus effectively drawing attention away from the real issues…which is exactly what those in power want.