It's frustrating to see the media responses to what is now considered to be false accusations of gang rape at Hofstra University. Of course, we still have no idea of what actually happened and whether the female student was raped but the media have already condemned this woman as a liar who "almost destroyed the lives of five innocent men". If these were, indeed, false accusations (which yet again, nobody knows for sure at this point and might never know), what made this situation possible? Who is to blame for false allegations in rape cases?
Take any article on the events at Hofstra, and the answer becomes obvious. It's the disgusting, puritanical attitude to sex that crucifies a woman for engaging in sexual activity that the dominant patriarchal worldview does not approve. How can a woman be expected to be honest about her sex life if female sexuality is not allowed any kind of freedom? If articles, TV shows, school classes, books, and news reports continue discussing ways of keeping female sexuality under control? If the punishment for escaping that control, albeit momentarily, is social ostracism and public derision?
I decided to conduct an experiment and entered the words "Hofstra" and "rape" into a search engine. The very first article that appeared as a result of this search was a piece titled "Hofstra rape case: Five questions stand out" by Joye Brown. This article goes out of its way to stigmatize women (not men, of course, just women) for engaging in any kind of sexual activity that is not sanctioned by the patriarchal discourse. The entire article can be summarized as the following perennial exhortation to women: "Good girls don't do such vile things!"
From the very beginning of the article, the author insists very strongly on how "ugly" and "despicable" the idea of group sex is: "They were involved in an ugly incident - sex acts being performed by multiple young men and an 18-year-old freshman in a college dorm men's bathroom... The men did nothing illegal but that doesn't make the behavior any less despicable." Brown doesn't explain what exactly is so despicable about this story. Group sex? Its location? That this happened on a college campus? Or just the facts that some people engaged in sex acts?
Later in the article, Brown talks of the woman's "incredibly poor decision to have sex with five men." Why is it such a bad decision for her but apparently a good decision for the men? Patriarchy can never accept the idea that women can want to have sex. This is why after engaging in any kind of sexual activity a woman might feel apologetic for what she has done. "I had sex because I wanted to" is not an explanation that our society is ready to accept from a woman. So we need to look for ways to justify our sex lives. Is it any surprise that some women might seek such a justification in rape allegations?
The collective hue and cry about the poor innocent men falsely accused of rape fails to acknowledge that these false allegations are the price we pay for controlling, marginalizing and condemning female sexuality.