Heather MacDonald, a fellow at the conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute, had an essay in yesterday's Los Angeles Times railing against the "phony" rape epidemic on America's college campuses. MacDonald claims that the statistic used by many university rape crisis centers — 20-25% of college women will be sexually victimized — is grossly over-inflated. The statistic, she says, comes from a 1988 study commissioned by Ms., in which a researcher, Mary Koss, classified things as rape that the respondents didn't construe as rape themselves. Writes MacDonald: "One question, for example, asked, 'Have you had sexual intercourse when you didn't want to because a man gave you alcohol or drugs?' — a question that is ambiguous on several fronts, including the woman's degree of incapacitation, the causal relation between being given a drink and having sexual intercourse, and the man's intentions."
Interestingly, MacDonald doesn't fully parse the 20-25% statistic (Side note: It's been twenty years: Doesn't a new study seem to be in order? And does 20-25% sound like an over or under-estimation?) but instead descends into a Laura Sessions Stepp-like rant against drunk sluts. "In all these drunken couplings, there may be some deplorable instances of forced and truly non-consensual sex. But most campus 'rape' cases exist in the gray area of seeming cooperation and tacit consent, which is why they are almost never prosecuted criminally." Ah yes, the old "gray rape" defense! MacDonald ends on an even more damning note: "Young iconoclasts can take up another discredited idea: College is for learning. Fighting male dominance or catering to the libidinal impulses released in the 1960s are sorry substitutes for the pursuit of knowledge." If only young women were at the library studying on Saturday nights, MacDonald seems to be saying, then this rape nonsense wouldn't be such a problem!