The XX Factor

Feminism Prevents False Rape Claims

Emily, I agree with you that the feminist reaction to the Hofstra case was interestingly subdued, even from the beginning, despite the long and storied history of cops looking for any reason to dump even the most legitimate rape cases, which is the sort of thing that tends to rile feminists up. It’s hard to say why. For me, it was a gut thing. The cops seemed interested in taking the young woman’s claims seriously, and that’s all we really want. And the evidence demonstrated the girl was lying, so score one for the gut.

That said, I have to quarrel with your characterization of Laura Sessions Stepp as a traditional feminist who is making space to talk about consent-impaired situations that don’t necessarily cross the line into legal rape. Much of the “gray rape” Sessions Stepp talks about is plain old rape, but the victims don’t want to label it as such. And for good reason! Experience demonstrates that coming out as a rape victim and pursuing justice means that your basic goodness as a person will be questioned and you might as well kiss most of your friends goodbye. People think it’s catching. The story you linked from Moe at Jezebel is a good example. Moe initially characterized what happened to her as “gray rape,” but she’s come around to agreeing that it’s actually rape-rape .

But Sessions Stepp is far from a feminist. Believe me, I listen to her weekly podcast, Sex, Really , for the comedy gold that lies therein. Sessions Stepp promotes the idea that men and women’s sexual desires are fundamentally different, and that dating is about creating a tense swap where women provide sex to men, and men commit to and pretend to like women in exchange. She’s on a rampage against what she deems the “hookup culture,” and wants young women to start embracing the idea that it’s shameful to just have sex because you want to. In other words, she’s agitating for the return of slut-shaming.

There’s plenty of irony here, because attitudes like Sessions Stepp’s are the reason that you have false rape accusations in the first place. Amanda Hess wrote about this at length , but basically, women who aren’t ashamed of having sexual adventures like group sex-even ones that go bad-don’t use rape accusations to cover up their choices. It’s the women who are afraid they’ll be called sluts if it gets out that make up these rape stories. And so Sessions Stepp, and every yuckster who painted the accuser as a dirty slut if she did in fact consent, are contributing to the problem of false rape accusations.