Duke and the Politics of Rape

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At this writing, the Bad Ship Michael Nifong is taking on water, and the passengers are looking for the lifeboats, yet charges against David Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann still stand. The Duke "Non-Rape" Case is now the Duke "Non-Kidnapping and Non-Sexual Assault" Case, but for the time being, Nifong still is trying to use the government court system as a vehicle to commit real kidnapping of three innocent young men.

But while the charges of rape are gone, one must remember that this case came about because of the politics of rape. In my lifetime, rape has changed from a crime against an individual to a crime against a class of people: women. The issue behind this sea change is the ongoing battle of individualism versus collectivism.

I will put it another way: The Duke "Non-Kidnapping and Non-Sexual Assault" Case cannot be separated from the downward evolution of American — and, indeed, Western — society since the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. The political and intellectual leadership of American society has embraced collectivist ideals for a long time — long before the 1960s — and we are seeing just how that embrace has changed the face of law.

If one reads not only the U.S. Constitution, but about anything that dealt with the founding of the United States, one can see that the intellectual centerpiece of those writings is the primacy and rights of the individual. People have rights, not because the state confers those rights upon people, but rather because people own those rights by their virtue of being individuals.

Yes, individuals gather together to form social institutions, but those institutions are a mechanism for holding a society together. They are not a replacement for individuals and the rights of individuals themselves. Instead, institutions provide a means by which individuals can enter into relationships based upon mutual advantage. That is, they are better off entering into those relationships than they would be if they did not.

Such a view of human society is quite different from the organic view that is part and parcel to collectivism. The collectivist mindset holds that people are to be viewed solely by their identity to a larger group. Thus, the interests of blacks begin and end only with those things that apply exclusively to blacks. Likewise, the same holds for women, and about any other kind of "minority" group that exists.

At the same time, the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s urged individuals to give up their "sexual inhibitions" and to enter into sexual relations with each other on a basis of mutual pleasure — and nothing else. Sex was not to be an apparatus by which couples strengthened the whole of their relationship, but rather something that stood on its own.

Now, men did not need to be encouraged to follow such a sexual viewpoint, but the effect upon women was greater. Whatever one might think of calls for feminine modesty and the like, the zeitgeist of the Sexual Revolution was that women should have the same sexual habits as men. That such a way of thinking would run into reality should not surprise anyone, but any person who objected by saying that such a loose standard of sexuality would demean women was accused of…demeaning women.

Such a sea change in thinking, which would have perhaps its greatest impact upon college campuses, meant that men could be more aggressive in seeking consensual sexual relationships, since women were on the prowl, too. The only part of the puzzle to solve would be making sure that the two prowling parties would be able to come together. The sexually aggressive male would meet the equally sexually aggressive female, and consensual sexual relationships would arise, making our society freer and happier.

Whether that has been the case, I will leave to others to judge. As long as all parties were clear on relationships being consensual, then there would be no problems, but as all of us know, things are not always so clear in Sexland. What happens when the aggressive young male with raging hormones meets the female who goes part-way into sexual relationships, but would prefer not to consummate the deal? One consequence is what we call "date rape," and it is a real and persistent problem, especially on the college campus.

(The daughter of a dear friend of mine recently was at a party in which someone slipped something into her drink. When she came to at about three in the morning, she realized that some young men had "taken advantage" of her. Although she clearly was raped, like many young women in that situation, she did not call the police or pursue any legal avenues. Today, this one act has caused much turmoil in that family.)

This reality also collides with the collectivism that many college professors embrace. If a man rapes a woman, under collectivism, he has raped all women. Because a woman has meaning only as part of a collective, to violate one woman is to violate the female collective. However, many of the leftist/Marxist professoriate also strongly embrace the Sexual Revolution, so how to bring these two sometimes-conflicting ideals together can be troublesome.

First, let me point out that many Marxists simply appeal to what Ludwig von Mises called "polylogism" to sort out the logical conflicts. They don’t worry about consistency; instead, they make sure that they shout louder than anyone else, and are the first to run to the barricades.

Second, they simply claim that they are changing the rules of sexuality. Sex, in their view, must be seen solely as a political action. Thus, when Gloria Steinem proudly declared that "the personal is political," she opened the door to the modern politics of rape. Not only is rape now a political crime against women, but non-political sex itself is also something to be criminalized.

As Catherine MacKinnon of the University of Michigan Law School has long written, all male-female relationships are manifestations of power (the powerful male dominating the less-powerful female), and so male-female sex also falls under the same scrutiny. Here is how her logic works: (1) male-female relationships are governed by power, (2) rape is a manifestation of male power over females, (3) therefore, all male-female sex is rape.

Within this Marxist paradigm, homosexual relationships — by definition — cannot fall into such categories of dominance, so — again, by definition — homosexual relations are governed by something other than raw power, which makes them legitimate. (Males cannot oppress other males, and females cannot oppress other females — by definition.) However, since most Marxists still are heterosexuals, something must give, and so they have given the poor, beleaguered male a way out of his rapist ways. If a male does engage in sexual relationships with a female, he must do so in a way that qualifies him as being Politically Correct in his actions, his speech, his beliefs, and in the way he approaches sex. Furthermore, he must be part of a group which is not on the outs with the Marxist/PC crowd.

Thus, we come to the members of the Duke University Lacrosse Team. As I pointed out in an earlier piece, these young men clearly did not fit within the PC paradigm as is demanded by the vocal members of the Duke University faculty. Therefore, any actions that they might take of a sexual nature — from consensual relations to having strippers at parties — must always be examined in a political fashion, and those politics declare the LAXers always to be rapists.

The political nature of the charges was seen not only in the demonstrations held on the Duke campus, but also by how the faculty and leftist students treated the evidence. In my afore-mentioned article, an article by Duke Professor Grant Farred that appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun declared:

All of which, of course, begs the crucial question: What is it precisely that that these three players, and the lacrosse team in general, are “innocent” of? Racism? Underage drinking? Hiring sex workers under a false name? Homophobia? The abdication of a collective team — what happened was not a “mistake” but part of an older and widely known pattern of lacrosse behavior — and larger institutional responsibility for declaring public what precisely it is that Duke University represents?

In other words, it did not matter whether Seligmann, Finnerty, and Evans actually raped or even touched the accuser, Crystal Gail Mangum. Other faculty members and students who wrote op-eds for the Herald-Sun also followed with the same theme: Guilty as charged.

Here is how the logical chain has worked: (1) the accused were part of the Duke Lacrosse team, (2) the lacrosse team consisted of Politically-Incorrect people, or at least people whose worldview did not coincide with that of Grant Farred and other Duke Marxists; (3) therefore, Seligmann, Finnerty, and Evans are guilty of rape.

Now, anyone with even elementary training in logic can see the numerous fallacies at work here, but with people like Farred, the use of logic itself is an act of racism/sexism/homophobia/rape. In the real world, it is like trying to reason with a child, although I will add that my children would demonstrate a little more consistent thinking.

Lest one think I am exaggerating, the following "analysis" comes from another Duke Marxist, Karla Holloway, who declares that all justice is collective in nature, and cannot be limited to the examination of whether or not one individual violated the life, property, and liberty of another:

In nearly every social context that emerged following the team’s crude conduct, innocence and guilt have been assessed through a metric of race and gender. White innocence means black guilt. Men’s innocence means women’s guilt.

Again, loosely translated, Holloway’s screed (which should be read in its entirety in order to be "fully appreciated") can be translated: "It does not matter of those three young men actually raped the accuser. By their political standing, they are guilty and should go to prison for the rest of their lives."

The "wonderful" thing about reducing rape to a pure political entity is that one can trivialize the word to make it mean what one wishes. Any sexual relationship that does not fall within the "matrix" that people like Holloway proscribe automatically is rape. Furthermore, according to these Marxists, the legal penalties that currently exist for rape should be applied in those cases as well.

Now, it does not matter that the legal penalties for rape, like the legal penalties for theft and murder, were developed in the context of one individual or set of individuals doing real harm to others. By politicizing these actions, or demanding that they be viewed only in a political context, these academics and their supporters are able to turn law upside down. Thus, in their political world, an action is seen as a crime only if its political ramifications are harmful to "the cause."

Likewise, if an accusation benefits "the cause," then the truth of the allegation simply is unimportant, since polylogists believe that truth is a "relative" thing, and that truth can only be commensurate with power. Thus, Mangum’s accusations against the three young men are to be taken as true because of the race and sex of the accuser and the accused. In fact, people like Holloway and Farred consider it to be racist that anyone even brings up evidence that demonstrates conclusively that no rape occurred.

Furthermore, not one — one — member of the Duke faculty that was part of the 88 signatories on the infamous advertisement that called the lacrosse players rapists has said anything about the recent revelations that Nifong engaged in what surely is criminal behavior in trying to hide exculpatory evidence, and then lying to a judge about it. That is because in their view, there was nothing wrong with what Nifong did because it was done in order to pursue "correct" political outcomes.

To use Holloway’s terminology, we need to view this entire sorry episode through the "matrix" of Marxist thought. The politics of rape being what they are, it is not surprising to me that much of the Duke faculty still is insisting that these young men be found guilty and sent to prison.

However, for the time being, Nifong is being forced to operate in the reality-based world, one in which things like evidence still matter. In that world, prosecutors and attorneys are not supposed to lie to judges or the rest of us. (That they often do so does not negate the fact that it still is considered legally unacceptable.) In that world, prosecutors must actually be able to demonstrate that a real live crime was committed, as opposed to the "virtual crimes" that we see from the bowels of academe.

Unfortunately, whenever Marxists and leftists take hold of a system of justice, injustice follows. From Stalin’s Marxist Show Trials to Nifong’s attempts to create his own set of show trials, we see how a political standard of justice works. It institutionalizes injustice in the name of justice.

December 27, 2006

William L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland, and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

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