For half a century, conservatives have been putting their readers to sleep with denunciations of the sexual revolution as a kind of anarchic free-for-all where men’s sexual impulses are gratified at the expense of women’s long-term well-being. But, as I have explained at length elsewhere, the current hook-up scene is no chaos of random coupling; it is a Darwinian competition between women for the attentions of a relatively small number of men. This mating system’s predictable output—possibly its intended output—is a large number of disappointed young women ripe for a message of resentment and revenge upon the opposite sex.
Power abhors a vacuum, and breakdowns of order prove no more than brief transitional phases leading to controls more oppressive than the restraints initially cast off. The sexual revolution did not usher in prolonged anarchy; it replaced a voluntary system of self-control according to principles equally applicable to all with the bureaucratically enforced “empowerment” of one sex at the expense of the other. Thanks to recent headlines, it is finally beginning to dawn on even the dimmest conservatives that the sexual revolution has not “liberated male sexuality,” but subjected men to an arbitrary and hostile regime from which none of them is safe.
There is nothing “ironic” about the cheek-by-jowl existence of a casual sex scene and a bureaucracy dedicated to punishing the men who participate in it: the former acts as a necessary feeder for the latter. The proof is that no feminist has ever encouraged young women behave in ways which would prevent their getting hurt in the first place. Feminists find the hook-up scene far too useful to shut down.
The failure of conservatives to understand the nature of the new sexual regime has, as Stephen Baskerville, professor of government at Patrick Henry College, demonstrates in the book under review, made them into its unwitting accomplices. Indeed, the new sexual-bureaucratic despotism could not have been constructed without their active participation. Back in the 1970s when the movement was getting started, feminists wrote tracts advocating the abolition of marriage—and, of course, they got nowhere. Eventually they realized they could quietly redefine fornication as rape and easily stampede naive conservatives into a campaign to punish the “rapists.”
Extremist ideologies break out of the margins to assume power when they create a new politics that existing elites fail to understand, or when they can deceive enough of the elites into believing that their agenda is compatible with existing values. This is usually accomplished not by the most extreme ideologues but by those who manage to co-opt, appropriate and distort the respectable values of the mainstream and use them to camouflage their innovations.
Feminism has been wildly successful because it learned how to exploit “the natural concern of every society to protect and provide for women and children.”
Like the sexual revolution itself, the feminist bureaucracy which now manages its fallout originated on America’s university campuses. Back in about 1970, piggybacking on the Black Studies movement, feminists began demanding and getting their own academic courses of study. Their success was due in part to a superficial resemblance between rising ideological movements and intellectual breakthroughs: in both cases, outsiders perceive an insurgent group which claims to represent a new way of looking at things struggling for recognition against an entrenched establishment. This also helps explain the success of the authoritarian ideological movements studied by Kevin MacDonald in The Culture of Critique. Only those with expertise in the relevant subject matter can reliably distinguish between well-promoted ideological fads and true intellectual revolutions. Hundreds of historians, scientists and literary scholars voted to institute women’s studies programs at their universities in the 1970s and -80s without any clear idea what they were doing.
The original, straightforward name “feminist studies” was soon cast aside in favor of the deceptively neutral-sounding “women’s studies” (and more recently by “gender studies”). From the start, however, such programs avoided the objective, scientific study of women or the sexes: women’s studies professors teach their students nothing about sexual genetics, fetal hormonalization, or empirically observable behavioral differences between men and women. Indeed, they advocate the suppression of such research. As two dissident feminist professors have phrased it, “Feminist research demands loyalty to an ideological agenda rather than empirical adequacy and logical consistency.”
Feminist “theory,” as it is grandly called, is a crude social determinism, and the reason feminists cling to it is obvious: insofar as sex differences are naturally determined, they cannot be changed to suit feminist preferences. But “theory” plays a distinctly supporting role in what is essentially a political movement driven, in Baskerville’s words, “by a hatred of restraint and authority, and a thirst for unrestricted freedom and revenge.”
Sexual radicalism adopts irreconcilably contradictory positions as needed: all gender differences are social constructions, but women have special “needs.” Women are oppressed by artificial gender roles, but those same roles make women more “caring” and “compassionate.” Men and women must be treated identically, except when men must be excluded from certain competitions so that women can win. Fathers should assume equal responsibility for rearing children, but custody (along with the power and money that accompany it) must go to mothers. Alison Jaggar proclaims unashamedly that feminists should insist on having it both ways: “…where women’s interests are being damaged by being treated either differently from or identically with men.”
Contradictions in the realm of logic are justified as furthering opportunism in the realm of politics. Miss Jaggar’s book, Living with Contradictions, is treated as a classic of “feminist philosophy.” Other feminists denounce rationality and science per se as patriarchal conspiracies to oppress women.
Despite the field’s scandalous intellectual inadequacies, as of 2014 there existed “more than 200 chairs for gender/queer studies, nearly all held by women, and around thirty interdisciplinary gender institutes,” all suggesting to the callow minds of students that feminism is a field of objective knowledge analogous to physics or French literature. It was from the midst of this resentment-driven ideological ghetto disguised as a scholarly discipline that the new rules governing sex originated, and it was in American universities that they were first applied.
Rape: Not What It Used to Be
For decades, feminists have assiduously promoted the lie that one woman in four (sometimes five) is raped while attending university. “Reputable scholars who investigate [such] claims,” writes Baskerville, “readily conclude that it is not simply exaggerated but a hoax.” At most, a lot of women, unprotected by traditional behavioral expectations, are learning the hard way that fornication is not the path to happiness.
When such cases were brought before ordinary courts of law, they quickly got thrown out. So universities began, under feminist pressure, to establish internal procedures to handle accusations of sexual misconduct. These do not have to abide by the principles that govern ordinary courts of law, notably the presumption of innocence. One attorney cited by Baskerville describes the result as
a disciplinary procedure where students nearly always lack lawyers, no legally trained judge oversees the process, testimony is not under oath, hearsay is freely considered, relevant evidence or even proper notice of the charges may not be given to both parties, students may be forced to incriminate themselves, and whatever “jury” is empaneled may not be of one’s peers.
Such travesties of judicial procedure are now legally mandated at all colleges which receive federal funding, i.e., at nearly all of them. During the Obama presidency, Assistant Secretary of Education for civil rights Russlynn Ali even issued a directive to university officials demanding that campus tribunals adopt a lower standard of proof for cases of sexual misconduct than required by ordinary courts of law. This directive, by the way, included no period for public notice, comment, and possible amendment, as legally required for federal regulations: “it was simply an arbitrary order issued from the pen of a functionary.”
Since rape (as traditionally understood) is such a serious crime, convictions have always required proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Now campus kangaroo courts are convicting men on the basis of a preponderance of evidence standard, the lowest standard recognized by law. As Baskerville points out, the only possible explanation for this change is that the authorities want not to punish more actual rapists, but to secure more guilty verdicts against men.
Why would an Assistant Secretary of Education for civil rights be pronouncing on how criminal cases are adjudged? Because American courts have ruled that rape and sexual assault are forms of discrimination. Such is the hold of liberal ideology over the legal minds of America that judges are apparently no longer able to imagine any other form of wrongdoing. So officially, rape is now wrong because it “discriminates against” women.
Some think the present system does not go far enough. Colorado Congressman Jared Polis advocates expelling all male students accused of sexual assault: “If there’s ten people who have been accused and under a reasonable likelihood standard maybe one or two did it, it seems better to get rid of all ten people.”
Indeed, feminist law professor Catherine MacKinnon does not think consent is a meaningful concept, and “has repeatedly suggested that virtually all heterosexual intercourse amounts to rape.” She is not a fringe figure; for many years, she was the single most cited feminist “scholar” in the world, and has repeatedly been called upon to advise the governments of individual states and Canadian provinces.
Susan Brownmiller, author of the standard feminist text on rape, called rape “a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.” On this view, whether a particular man is innocent or guilty of a particular act is not especially important; even the defendant who is innocent in a particular case is part of the same male conspiracy against women. As Baskerville notes, such assigning of collective guilt to categories of people is a typical mark of totalitarian regimes. It justifies us in considering feminism part of the larger phenomenon that has been called “Cultural Marxism.”
The new thinking is being written into law. California law now requires that to avoid a rape conviction, male university students must “demonstrate they obtained verbal ‘affirmative consent’ before engaging in sexual activity.” Not just obtain it, but demonstrate, in court, that they obtained it. Asked how innocent people are supposed to prove they received verbal consent, the California assemblywoman who authored the law replied, “Your guess is as good as mine.” The impossibility of acquittal seems to be the whole point of the law.
The madness has long since spread beyond university campuses. Washington state has formally shifted the burden of proof in all rape trials to the defendant. In North Carolina, naming the person accused along with the time and place is sufficient to secure a rape conviction. Baskerville found one case in Texas where police were ordered to hide exculpatory evidence.
Rape accusers remain anonymous, but the accused do not, even after the accusation is demonstrated to be false. The past sexual history of the accuser is not admissible as evidence, but that of the accused is. Accusers are exempt from polygraph tests, but not the accused. Even a history of false accusations is not admissible.
Might crime labs step in to defend the innocent men now abandoned by the legal system? Labs have been found guilty not just of mistakes but of deliberate falsification of evidence. The Washington Post, among others, has documented how feminist laboratory technicians doctor and fabricate evidence to frame men they know to be innocent.
The Innocence Project is a nonprofit legal organization which seeks to exonerate the innocent through DNA evidence. In twenty-six years of operation, they have freed 362 wrongly convicted men who had been made to serve sentences of up to 27 years. Many of these cases, perhaps most, appear to be rape convictions, but the directors refuse to reveal the numbers.
Police investigators typically estimate false accusations of rape as running between forty and fifty percent of the total. Deception is, after all, the natural weapon of the sex which cannot get its way by force. Motivations for false accusations include providing an alibi, seeking revenge, obtaining sympathy and attention, gaining custody of children, extorting money from celebrities and, in the gender-neutral military, avoiding deployment to war zones. Feminists vigorously oppose any prosecution of false accusers.
Confronted with proof of widespread malfeasance, public officials typically complain that the justice system is “overworked and underfunded.” This is clearly a self-serving argument; as Baskerville points out, “if they simply stop accusing innocent men, they would no longer be overworked and underfunded.” We may expect wrongful convictions to continue for as long as officials owe their jobs to ensuring that they do. Rape accusations are “a thriving bureaucratic enterprise that can create business for itself by encouraging hysteria.”
Refraining from casual sex does not protect a man, who may still be accused of “sexual harassment.” This expression, which first appeared in print in 1978, originally referred to the misuse of positions of authority to extort sexual favors. Of course, as Baskerville notes, such behavior has always been contrary to codes of professional conduct, and women have long been defended in such situations by male relatives: “nothing indicates the hysteria over ‘harassment’ is a necessary but excessive response to a real problem; from the start it was another ideological power grab, using sexual dynamic and government power to emasculate and feminize.”
It should also be pointed out that, in the words of dissident feminist Camille Paglia, “for every male harasser there are ten female sycophants using their sexual attractions to get ahead.” Baskerville cites survey findings, for example, that “two-thirds of British women admit using their cleavage to advance their careers.” Sexual harassment rules do nothing to discourage such behavior.
Like other ideological terms, “sexual harassment” soon fell victim to reckless verbal inflation, until it could be used to describe any male behavior to which a woman might object. The meaning can even be extended ad hoc to fit new cases as they arise. Obviously, it is impossible to defend oneself against a charge whose meaning can be expanded at will, nor can there be any presumption of innocence in such cases: “Because the crime is offending someone, the accused is guilty by virtue of being accused.”
At universities, the concept of “harassment” is now employed to forbid and punish criticism of feminism. “Antifeminist intellectual harassment” is said to occur whenever “the appropriate application of feminist theories or methodologies to research, scholarship and teaching is devalued, discouraged, or thwarted.” A man found guilty must
spend time learning about, and even leading, activities related to women at the college. He also undertakes… to write a letter of apology to the student [who accused him], expressing his esteem for her abilities and detailing what he has learned from his [anti-harassment] training. The trainer suggests that this letter (to be submitted first to the trainer for “review”) also be approved by the department chair and the university’s Equal Employment Opportunity office.
Baskerville notes the similarity to communist party discipline.
Accusations of sexual harassment are not usually tried in court. Instead, organizations such as schools and corporations are held legally liable for failure to act on female complaints. This forces them to assume the role of feminist policemen. Incentives dictate acting to minimize their own liability, not handling accusations fairly. “Universities tend to prefer the least expensive path to resolution of sexual harassment cases,” writes one dissident feminist, “and this often means settling out of court, usually by paying off the complainant, regardless of the merits of the charge.” Private companies best protect themselves through termination of the person accused.
The theory behind the sexual harassment movement is that men’s natural attraction to women is in reality an exercise of power over them. On this view, the teenage boy screwing up his courage to speak to the girl he has his first crush on is “really” exerting power over her. Here as elsewhere, however, feminists are inconsistent when it suits them. Common sense suggests that women’s newfound ability to destroy men’s careers by filing false or frivolous complaints of “harassment” against them is a dangerous form of arbitrary power, but feminists never recognize it as such: for them, only men ever have power—just as, according to the same way of thinking, only Whites can be racist. Yet at the same time they insist that female bosses be able to accuse male subordinates of something called “contrapower harassment.”
Also, the concept of sexual harassment is not applied to lesbians. Many women’s studies professors, e.g., are notorious for trying to seduce their students. They insist there is nothing wrong with such behavior. One writes: “It is because of the sort of feminist I am that I do not respect the line between the intellectual and the sexual.”
Feminists are now pushing the concept of “sexual harassment” on children. In Minnesota during one recent school year alone, over 1000 children “were suspended or expelled on charges related to sexual harassment.” The authorities express frustration over the stubborn tendency of little girls to enjoy the flirtatious attention of boys; they try to convince girls as young as six to issue the scripted threat: “Stop it! That’s sexual harassment, and sexual harassment is against the law.”