Sunday, September 20, 2009

False Rape Allegations at Hofstra: Who's to Blame?

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.


Anonymous said...

The problem with a rape allegation is that it continues to tar the reputations of those accused, even in this case when it could not be proven. Perhaps, suspects should also be protected by anonymity, at least until proven guilty.
Bad decisions often lead to sexual activities; this is certainly an instance, for all involved.
Nice blog.

V said...

Strange story... Somehow it is difficult for me to believe that the fear of admitting one's interest in sex, and group sex in particular, in the face of the evil patriarchy could be the main motive for the girl to falsely accuse anybody (as you seem to imply by "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.".

In the eyes of the patriarchy rape is woman's own fault (she provoked them, went to the bathroom with five men, etc, etc, etc), so the woman truly oppressed by patriarchal ideas unlikely would report even the real rape, not speaking of the false one.

Speaking of "bad choice" arguments - well, out of the context of the rest of the paper, these would be valid arguments. I am pretty sure most women would agree it was a very dangerous choice. (As I understand the five did not include woman's boyfriend, so they were somebody whom she did not know that well. And, according to feminist statistics, 1/4 women get raped during their lifetime.) I also believe most women do not engage in group sex for reasons other than the fear that patriarchy would paint a little scarlet letter on them. I believe being in a monogamous relationship, fear of rape and absence of suitable partners are much more serious deterrents to fulfilling the M..MF fantasies, which arguably are quite widespread according to statistics.


Clarissa said...

Thank you, Anonymous.

V., I'm so glad you are back! Happy beginning of the semester to you. :-)

It seems like the woman in question has a boyfriend and didn't want to admit to cheating. At least, that's what the police said.

Anonymous said...

They know it is false because once confronted by the fact one of the falsely accused taped the whole thing with his cell phone she admitted she made it up because the video showed no rape or tying up and she knew she was caught in a lie.The reason was she did'nt want her boyfriend to find out so instead try to ruin people's lives for something they did'nt do!

Clarissa said...

Rape does not necessarily involve tying up, didn't you know? Also, if in some portion of the taped act (because only a small part was taped) the person SEEMS to be participating willingly, this doesn't mean that no coercion or intimidation took place beforehands.

Anonymous said...

"Rape does not necessarily inlvolve tying up,did'nt you know"Did'nt you know she claimed she was tyed up and kidnapped and the video which was of the whole thing and once confronted with by the prosecuters clearly showed consenual sex which she admitted it was.She made it all up when confronted by her boyfriend to have an alibi,not shame.

Clarissa said...

Still, lying about a part of the event doesn't mean that there was no coercion involved in the process. At the same time, if people weren't so ready to shame a woman for participating in such an activity, no one would have had to lie about any part of this event.

These 5 falsely (or not) accused men are paying for being part of a chauvinistic culture where they have more sexual freedom for the mere fact of being male.

A little inconvenience for them and a lifetime of sexual repression for all women. Somehow, I don't think the two are comparable.

Anonymous said...

She admitted she made it up because she did not want her boyfriend to find out,the tape proved it,she recanted the whole story!They faced 25 years in prison for something they did not do,had their faces on the national news,were kicked out of school,spent 2 nights in jail and have the stigma of this for the rest of their lives and would have had their lives and careers ruined and you call that a little inconvience.This has everything to do with someone who made up a awful lie and tried to ruin innocent men instead of admitting to cheating on her boyfriend.

Clarissa said...

Even if some one recanted, that is no proof the event didn't happen. But even if it didn't, my point is that these men (and all other men) spend their entire lives enjoying the benefits of having a lot more sexual freedom than women. But everything comes at a price. This is the price of having more sexual freedom that men sometimes have to pay.

Don't like paying this price? Think it's too high? Stop promoting the sexual double standards and start working towards sexual equality. Then things like that won't happen.

Anonymous said...

She made this up because she needed an alibi,and if not for that video 4 innocent men could have gone to prison for something they did not do!That is horrible,what she did was awful and wrong,and you can'nt admit what the police,prosecuters,falesly accused and by her own admission the accuser knows was a bogus story.The victims here are the falsely accused and the reason was she did'nt want her boyfriend to find out so instead of admitting the truth she tried to destroy innocent people's lives,that is reprehensible.Your making women out to be the victims in this when the only victims here were those four young men falsely accused of a horrible crime.