The XX Factor

Why Are Women so Easy to Sexually Assault, Wonder the WSJ and Serena Williams

Crushing Maria Sharapova at the French Open, and crushing our hearts in the pages of Rolling Stone.

Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

James Taranto, resident troll of the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page, is at it again with a piece denouncing efforts to take sexual assault more seriously as a crime in the military—or, as he describes it, “a political campaign against sexual assault in the military that shows signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality.”

Political? That implies that there are two partisan sides to the question of sexual assault in the military: those who are for it and those against it. Criminalizing male sexuality? Only if you think that violating women is an inherent, immutable part of male sexuality, a claim that isn’t held up by the evidence that the vast majority of men haven’t raped anyone.

The evidence Taranto trots out for his claim that there is a “war on men” is a case in which two women accused a member of the Air Force, Capt. Matthew Herrera, of sexually assaulting them. A court-martial convicted Herrera of aggravated assault in the first case, but never mind that. Taranto employs a contradictory defense of Herrera, managing to imply both that the victims were lying and that they deserved to be assaulted because of poor choices, such as the alleged victim who “voluntarily accompanied” the accused to his bedroom and the alleged victim who was seen “asleep with her head on Capt. Herrera’s shoulder.”

He then proceeds to equate the choice to be alone with a man with the choice to force yourself on an unwilling woman:

It’s fair to say that Capt. Herrera seems to have a tendency toward sexual recklessness. Perhaps that makes him unsuitable to serve as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. But his accusers acted recklessly too. The presumption that reckless men are criminals while reckless women are victims makes a mockery of any notion that the sexes are equal.

Because that’s what Taranto really cares about: equality.

If all that the alleged victims were accusing Herrera of were “reckless” behavior, then this wouldn’t be an issue. They are, instead, accusing him of sexual assault. As for the “reckless” behavior of the accusers, here is how Taranto himself describes it: One woman drifted off while drunk in the back seat of a car that had a sober designated driver, and the other allowed herself to be alone with a man she was on a date with. Apparently, in Taranto’s world, women should treat ordinary socializing with men as a dangerous activity like skydiving without a parachute.

Taranto’s not the only public figure to go full “she was asking for it” this week. None other than Serena Williams had this to say to Rolling Stone about the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case:

Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: Don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously, I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.


But back to Taranto, whose deep concern that opponents of forced sexual activity are attacking “male sexuality” translates to rather less regard for female sexuality. When asked what’s wrong with “contemporary feminism” in a video accompanying the article, Taranto says:

Well, that’s too long to go into now, the question of what’s wrong with that, but in addition they wanted sexual freedom. Well, what is female sexual freedom? It means, for this woman, that she had the freedom to get drunk and to get in the back seat of the car with this guy.

And apparently this creates too much temptation for men to assault, which gets them in trouble at their jobs. For shame, women, for shame.