“It’s really time for people to understand that rape denialism is like Holocaust denialism: Broad refusal to accept reality.” – Amanda Marcotte
How do you judge what is, or is not, reality? Human beings are a rash species, prone to making capricious judgments based on little more than speculation. We tend to take the side of those with whom we already agree; our convictions follow the preconceived desires of our hearts–and as the bible says, the heart is deceitful above all things. In other words, we believe what we want to believe, regardless of its validity.
In her new book Not That Kind Of Girl, Lena Dunham makes an accusation that has set off a firestorm of speculation, and led some to question her version of the truth. Dunham alleges that during college, she was raped by a fellow student. She describes this student in rather vivid detail, dropping hint after hint as to his identity, calling him a prominent campus conservative, who had a wild mustache, worked at the campus library, had a deep voice, and wore purple cowboy boots. She mentions that he hosted a radio show called Real Talk With Jimbo–oh, and she mentions his name: Barry. As indicated by John Nolte in an exhaustive investigative piece on Breitbart, there is no indication that Barry is a pseudonym, despite Dunham using a pseudonym in a prior chapter in which she writes about someone else.
Nolte’s investigation explores Dunham’s allegations to their logical ends, but finds inconsistency after inconsistency:
“Anyone with half a brain and access to Google has already discovered that, during Dunham’s time at Oberlin College, there was a prominent Republican named Barry [referred to as Barry One for the rest of the piece] who was politically active and quite well-known…Dunham describes Barry as a ‘super senior’ with ‘one more semester to finish’ who went on to ‘graduate in December.’ That leads the reader to believe her rapist graduated in December of 2005. Barry One graduated in May of 2006. Among other sources, we verified that Barry One was still an Oberlin student through the archives of the campus newspaper and video of Barry One speaking at a school event in 2006.”
Nolte finds dozens of holes in Dunham’s story throughout his investigation by interviewing friends of Barry One, former members of the campus Republican organization, staff members at Oberlin College, and by pouring over archives. Near the end of his piece, Nolte notes that another news organization has also been investigating Dunham’s claims, and come to the conclusion that Barry One doesn’t seem to be the monster in the closet that Dunham alleges:
“…one particular name came up twice. His name is not Barry…A thorough, good faith search did reveal that this individual attended Oberlin at the same time Dunham did. If this is him, two individuals directly involved in Oberlin’s Republican organization did not know the man Dunham describes as Oberlin’s ‘resident conservative.’ We could find nothing about his political affiliation, and the only radio history we could find belonged to a family member. We were able to verify that this individual did not hold any kind of job at any Oberlin school library.”
Last month, Rolling Stone published a sensationalistic piece about a woman called Jackie who alleges she was raped at a fraternity party at University of Virginia. One would like to believe that given the sensitive nature of this story, Rolling Stone would have made some attempt at a good faith investigation, but Breitbart’s Sarah Rumpf notes that “the Rolling Stone writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, had not attempted to contact any of the men that Jackie claimed raped her.”
After Jackie’s story began to fall apart due to some diligent reporting, Rolling Stone issued an apology, saying in part:
“Because of the sensitive nature of Jackie’s story, we decided to honor her request not to contact the man she claimed orchestrated the attack on her nor any of the men she claimed participated in the attack for fear of retaliation against her. In the months Erdely spent reporting the story, Jackie neither said nor did anything that made Erdely, or Rolling Stone’s editors and fact-checkers, question Jackie’s credibility. Her friends and rape activists on campus strongly supported Jackie’s account. She had spoken of the assault in campus forums. We reached out to both the local branch and the national leadership of the fraternity where Jackie said she was attacked. They responded that they couldn’t confirm or deny her story but had concerns about the evidence. In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the alleged assaulters to get their account.“
Both of these stories emerging at roughly the same time has given me pause, and led me to wonder why we, as a society, are not ever allowed to question the alleged victims of sexual assault. Now comes my requisite disclaimer: I am not suggesting that rape doesn’t occur (that would be insane). I am not suggesting that accusations of rape–or even a large percentage of rape accusations–are false. I am not suggesting that we should not be sensitive to those who claim assault (because we must be, given the nature of the incidents). I am not suggesting that we put our faith in the account of the accused, rather than that of the accuser. I am not even suggesting that Lena Dunham, or Rolling Stone’s Jackie weren’t raped. What I am asking, however, is why must we believe, without question, accusations of sexual assault? Why must we simply take what someone says at face value because of the sensitive nature of their claim, when a false claim could do untold damage to the accused?
Barry One (as identified by John Nolte of Breitbart) is allegedly considering taking legal action against Dunham, as his reputation has been severely damaged by her claims. Though Barry One has contacted Dunham’s reps multiple times, Dunham has still done nothing to clarify her allegations. And although the statute of limitations is 20 years in Ohio, Dunham has allegedly not filed an official report, meaning a police investigation cannot proceed. If Lena Dunham were the champion of sexual assault victims, a position in which she has seemingly positioned herself, why would she refuse to aggressively pursue her alleged rapist? If she believes–as most do–that a rapist doesn’t simply stop at one victim, why would she not file a report? She writes about Barry’s alleged violent acts toward other women in her book, yet she has done nothing to bring him to justice. And throughout all of this, all she has gained is publicity. This leads me to question her allegations against Barry One, and her claim of rape entirely. But that is dangerous territory because we are not allowed to question the victim.
We all remember the 2006 Duke Lacrosse case, in which multiple members of the Duke lacrosse team were accused of sexually assaulting stripper Crystal Mangum at a house party. The story set off a national firestorm, effectively obliterating the reputations of these men. After an investigation, however, it turned out that Mangum’s story didn’t hold up. The case fell apart, and the nation looked the other way. Whoops! We all assumed these guys were guilty, and they weren’t! Oh well! No. Lives were damaged, men were presumed to be monsters; and all because no one dared to question the allegation of rape made by Crystal Mangum. The nation assumed that because Mangum said it, it must be true, because rape, you know?!
What is the origin of our inability to see accused rapists as innocent until proven guilty? Is it because the crime is so heinous that we don’t want to believe someone would make it up? Is it because we want to be sensitive? No, it’s because we have been conditioned to believe that questioning a woman who cries rape is misogynist. We have been beaten into submission by the modern feminist movement, which orders us to take every woman’s word for it, because men are pigs, and that’s that. And we have become so used to this BS notion that we just don’t seem to care anymore that when false allegations are made, lives are utterly ruined. No matter the end result, no matter if the accused is exonerated with flying colors, he will forever be tainted. People will always question. Did he do it? Because we cannot get inside the minds of other men, and women, that question will always linger. Allegations haunt exonerated men for the rest of their lives, and we’re just supposed to deal with it because questioning women means that we want them back in the kitchen, chained to the oven.
No one wants to be labeled as a misogynist, as a woman hater. So, when allegations are made, we immediately side with the accuser. There is no trial, there is no due process in the minds of the American people, there is just submission, submission to a philosophy which tells us that all men are evil, all women are good, and we dare not question any further. It’s not right, and it invalidates all the real sexual assaults, and rapes which occur every day in the United States.
Real crimes are happening, real rapes are being committed, and we don’t care to distinguish between what is factual, and what is false. That is a slap in the face of every woman who has been assaulted, and every man who is falsely accused.