The XX Factor

Glenn Beck’s Skit Mocking Campus Rape Is Gross and Misleading, Even for Him

You’d think that “less rape at colleges” would be one of those lofty goals that manages to rise above partisan bickering. (Republicans and Democrats both have daughters, last time I checked.) But not for Glenn Beck and his staff at the Blaze, which just released a grossly sexist skit to ridicule White House efforts to reduce rape and other forms of violence and aggression toward women on campus. His knee-jerk opposition to anything the president undertakes seems to have compelled Beck to sign off on a segment that’s gross and misleading even by his own standards. 

The premise of the segment is that the Obama White House is exaggerating the incidence of rape on campus. Host Stu Burguiere kicked it off by attacking the 2007 Campus Sexual Assault report and the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, saving most of his ire for the latter. He mostly argued semantics, saying that researchers should only count something as “rape” or “sexual assault” if the victim explicitly calls it that. (The current methodology asks people about their experiences directly, and classifies any incidents that meet the legal definition for sexual assault as such.) As far as I can tell, the only reason to eschew the more exacting legal definition and revert to hazier methods of victim self-identification is to artificially suppress the number of reported assaults, since many victims still think it’s only rape if a stranger in the bushes does it. 

From there, Burguiere got even more creative. One of the questions asked in the NISVS was splashed on screen, reading, “When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever had sex with you?” (Emphasis mine.) Burguiere found this question hilarious: “News flash! I hate to say it, but it is possible to have consensual sex while drunk or high.” (Yep, it is. That’s why the study included the qualifier “unable to consent.”) “If you eliminate sex while drunk or high,” Burguiere whined, “you eliminate about half the sex in the entire United States.” Probably. Good thing no one is actually trying to do that, instead focusing their efforts on eliminating sexual assault while leaving consenting couples to their own devices.

To maximize the comic effect of the violent, humiliating abuse of women, Burguiere brought two men on camera, one dressed oh-so-hilariously as a woman, to act out “questions the study actually used to determine if a woman was raped,” according to Burguiere. The male character told the female character that he was an Abercrombie model. She responded by giggling and twirling her hair, in case you forgot that women are ridiculous. Burguiere then jumped in with a big red sign reading “RAPE!” “Whoa whoa whoa, stop!” he yelled. “That’s rape. Pressuring someone to have sex with you by telling them lies is the same as rape,” he said sarcastically. 

Gosh, that would be alarming if the NISVS did that, wouldn’t it? Good thing they don’t. The survey did ask people if they had sex because a person was “doing things like telling you lies, making promises about the future they knew were untrue, threatening to end your relationship, or threatening to spread rumors about you.” But the study didn’t classify this as rape or attempted rape—it put it in the entirely separate category of “sexual coercion.” Here’s the chart from the study itself:

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, as its name would indicate, aims to measure more than just rape. The survey covers a wide variety of abusive and violent behaviors, including stalking and domestic violence. The idea is to get a generalized view of how coercion and abuse play out in relationships, so questions about these milder forms of coercion are posed along with questions about more serious affronts. It’s dishonest to claim the NISVS called “telling lies” a form of rape. 

On the other hand, objectively reporting on a study doesn’t provide an easy opportunity to have a bug-eyed white guy with a big “RAPE!” arrow pointing directly at a man dressed as a misogynistic stereotype. 

Can’t let facts and accuracy get in the way of an arresting visual like that.