Sex Crimes

Campus Sexual Violence Has Worsened and Robin Thicke Is to Blame: Things That Are Not True

When bad things happen, activists shouldn't blame tasteless jokes or Robin Thicke songs.


Robin Thicke
Melissa Rose / Flickr

Like 66 other universities, Dartmouth College is under investigation by the federal government due to its failure to adequately handle and report instances of sexual assault on campus. Critics of these colleges contend that Dartmouth is one of the worst offenders—it has allowed rape culture to permeate the campus, depriving victims of justice and support, they say.

To address some of these concerns, Dartmouth is sponsoring a summit on sexual assault this week. General admission is $300 per person, or $100 per student—a steep price, given that the most useful thing such a summit could provide is a dose of reality. Dire pronouncements like the infamous 1-in-5-women-will-be-raped-during-college statistic are ill-founded and probably gross exaggerations, given that rape rates have fallen dramatically over the last few decades. Rape still happens, of course, and when it does, victims should keep in mind that sexual assault is not an academic matter akin to plagiarism or cheating on a test: it is a crime, and should be treated like one. Students who believe they were the victims of a crime should call the police immediately.

Unfortunately, there is little evidence that the summit's organizers and presenters are giving students the plain truth about rape. Inside Higher Ed published details of some of the early presentations, and the report is disturbing:

Outside the Q&A session, the bulk of Sunday's and Monday's presentations explored a more abstract concept than federal regulations: the media that students consume. Robin Thicke's song "Blurred Lines," with its raunchy music video, was a popular example of entertainment that the presenters said "normalizes acquaintance rape."

Sexual assault on college campuses is a public health problem that affects all of us," said Jean Kilbourne, a media critic and filmmaker. "We need to pay attention to the environment. Just as it's difficult to be healthy physically in a toxic environment, it's the same with sexual assault in an environment that is culturally toxic."

Kilbourne has been studying advertising and its messages for decades; she said she believes advertising has never been more problematic in its depiction of sexuality and violence. Women are constantly depicted as objects, as being in danger, or as disparate body parts, she said. Grown women are infantilized, young girls are sexualized, and men are often depicted as controlling and even violent. [emphasis added]

Really? Never? That seems absurd. Advertisements are a reflection of culture, and the culture of past decades was undeniably regressive when compared to modern attitudes about gender, sexuality, and violence.

One does not have to enjoy Robin Thicke's music in order to reject the notion that it promotes rape, or is a symptom of a culture that is growing more pro-rape. Rape has fallen 80 percent since the 1970s!

Perhaps it's their optimism denial that makes activists on this issue so difficult to take seriously. Or perhaps it's their seriousness. Observe this lesson from an aptly-named presenter, Gail Stern:

In Sunday's opening session, which focused on the telling of rape jokes, Gail Stern, who develops programs and curriculums about sexual violence, outlined many of the same issues discussed Monday. At one point, Stern stood in front of a large Venn diagram, with one circle labeled "things that are funny" and another labeled "rape." They did not intersect. 

Colleges must make it clear that rape jokes have no place on a college campus, Stern said, reminding the audience of some particularly egregious incidents, including a pro-rape chant that was shouted by St. Mary's University students during the college's annual "Frosh Week." It had been a tradition for five years. Colleges should also make sure that any artists, speakers and entertainers brought to campus aren't promoting similar messages, she said.

Colleges should not do that. If they vigorously protected students from ever encountering a potentially offensive work of art, or speech, or piece of entertainment, they would be daycares, not institutions of higher learning and critical thinking. In fact, public universities are actually obligated to permit students and faculty to air uncomfortable ideas and give provocative commentary. Private institutions, like Dartmouth, may resort to censorship in the name of feelings-protection if they wish, but the caliber of the education they offer will certainly suffer when professors are afraid to have unfettered conversations with their students.

Universities with bad track records of handling sexual assault can provide services to victims. They can give more accurate reports to the federal government. They can encourage students to behave responsibly (to that end, the policy most likely to further curtail rape would be a lower drinking age).

But when bad things happen, activists shouldn't blame tasteless jokes or Robin Thicke songs. They shouldn't expect that any good would come of outlawing them, either. 

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  1. Where’s the trigger warning?

    1. Right here.


  2. Rape is a public health problem? Here I thought rape was a crime, one that a person chooses to commit. I missed the part where there is a rape germ that can infect the unsuspecting, turning them into rapists, or victims of rape.

    1. Of course it’s a “health” problem as all “crimes” or behaviors that don’t subscribe to their political or social views are obviously caused by “health” issues (brain, body, genetics).

      Of course, the definition of rape can be expanded to how people wear socks or what music they listen to in order to prove that it is a mental health trigger.

      Additionally, it just proves that progressivism is simple reactionary views – men are genetically hardwired to be rapists but women/non-males are socially constructed to be “women”. If only these hypocritical tools didn’t have any political power or sway…

      1. It’s part of the progressive mindset to dehumanize all these things, to think think of them as diseases to be cured. It’s why they were drawn to eugenics, and it’s one reason they can so easily go fascist — it’s one step from thinking of human behavior as a disease to be cured, to thinking of humans themselves that way.

        1. I wonder if that’s why Godwin’s Law is so readily invoked by progressives? Or will simply blame the utter failure of socialism on the disease of “greed” and how communist countries failed because of too much capitalism?

    2. Rape is a health issue like gun violence is a health issue: they’re both useful topics in the service of political witch hunts.

      1. ^This. It’s a nice little Orwellian twist to this whole debate on natural rights – thoughtcrime and all that.

        The linguistic transference of something like “rights” to “mental disorder”. Only people who are insane would talk about individual rights in the face of public health.

        Ah, the good old “false consciousness” thing, eh?

        Or: Are we insane just for questioning this rhetoric?

        1. Even worse is that pro-2A groups deflected with their own public health crusade against mental defectives. Gun owners as a class aren’t the problem, it’s those lunatics who keep getting their hands on our guns. So let’s keep an eye on all the crazies.

          1. Yep – they opened the doors to their own possible demise there. When they say the problem is insane people, the prog/socialists will simply do what they intended to do anyway – brand all people who don’t agree as insane. If you believe in self-defense, you’re insane, therefore can’t defend yourself.

    3. Technically, isn’t “public health” justification for Federal intervention?

      Its no accident that terminology is used.

  3. Um, shouldn’t the local police department and DA be under investigation if rapes are going unreported and unprosecuted? Because, you know, THATS THEIR FUCKING JOB instead of the school’s.

    I swear, can’t we at least hold the right people accountable when there is a failing? Oh wait, those brave union cops in college towns are too busy to investigate rape allegations by shooting and tapering drunk kids with no clothes on or setting up surveillance cameras so they can watch kids undress.

    1. Did not former Penn State President Graham Spanier prove that universities are quite capable of handling rape accusations without involving prosecutors?

      1. Those didn’t involve male privilege so they didn’t count.

        I’m also certain that More often than not, this is about sex and regret, not rape.

  4. Are we talking about rape or are we talking about rape-rape here?

    1. I’m pretty sure we’re talking more about “walks of shame” in the morning and less about actual sexual assault.

      1. Because “shaming” is constructed by powerful male rape-regimes, it is rape, ergo, people who think that women who engage in such an activity are themselves rapists just for thinking thoughts that women: wear clothes, do things, drink liquids, have brains capable of making decisions.

        Hmm. I guess believing that women can be responsible for making their own decisions is sexist.

  5. Transformers: Age of Extinction Review: Think rape culture is a myth? Think again

    You already know that in order to be a good progressive dude, you have to boycott Game of Thrones because of its recent rape scene. But did you know you have to boycott Transformers as well? Not just the new one; even the LaBeouf trilogy has “rapey sexual politics.”

    1. Wait they go on and on about jailbait because the character is 17, even though the actress herself is not. Nevermind that 17 is not jailbait in the vast majority of states and countries. And Megan Fox was supposed to be jailbait in the older movies, she was fucking 20!

      Cue the citation of Texas’s Romeo and Juliet laws as a defence for statutory rape. Ha!

      Uh, no need for Romeo and Juliet laws for a 17 year old in Texas, that’s the age of consent. For fucks sake, it doesn’t even make sense by their own retarded standards.

      1. Wonder how they feel about Fast Times at Ridgemont High?

    2. Do you actually need a political reason for not watching Transformers now? Can’t you just say “it’s shit and Michael Bay is a monster”

      1. What the fuck is a “Transformers”?

        1. It is a piece of imperialist, racist, sexist propaganda meant to denigrate the people’s glorious revolution of liberation from the shackles of capital!

          While I may not have “seen” these “Transformers” I know intuitively that it’s just propaganda for the deregulatory, laissez-faire kapitalism of Bush.

  6. …they would be daycares, not institutions of higher learning and critical thinking.

    I hate to break it to you, but…

    1. ^Hahah, yeah. “Would be” should change to “continue the slide into fully becoming daycares.”

      I mean, when students say that things like grammar or math are racist, sexist, imperialist, etc., I think it’s basically just adult daycare.

      1. I mean, when students say that things like grammar or math are racist, sexist, imperialist, etc., I think it’s basically just adult daycare.

        Which students are saying that?

  7. I had an Australian acquaintance years ago who was firmly and honestly of the belief that conservatives were too literal and unironic to be funny, and he thought as a result that virtually all quality humor had to be from left of center people.

    I think the real key is that people who believe in something fervently are more likely to be ridiculous and absurd, and it falls to skeptics to be sarcastic and cutting. Being too committed to detachment and irony can itself be subject to cutting humor (a la hipster jokes).

  8. At one point, Stern stood in front of a large Venn diagram, with one circle labeled “things that are funny” and another labeled “rape.” They did not intersect.

    It’s Always Sunny would beg to differ.

    1. Also not accounting for creative acronyms:

      Really Acrobatic Pygmy Elephants

      Rarefied Actors Putrefying Eggplants

    2. “If I’m being s_____d, I’m being robbed!”

  9. Women are constantly depicted as objects

    As opposed to…subjects? Are we supposed to treat women as vague abstractions, emanations from the divine Mother Goddess Gaia that we cannot fully hold in our minds?

    as being in danger

    According to the Second Wave Feminists, women are constantly in danger of raped, raped with eyes, raped with words, raped by discrimination, raped by hurt feelings, raped by not getting the job, raped by not getting the grade, raped by not getting the car, raped by not being treated like one of the boys, raped by being treated like one of the boys, etc. ad nauseum.

    or as disparate body parts


    Grown women are infantilized

    You mean like women being too silly and simple-minded to go out and procure birth control without the intervention of Captain Save-a-Hoe, I mean, Uncle Sam?

    young girls are sexualized

    I agree. Put all of the little trollops in burqas for their own good, as well as for the good of men. You know, neither one can be trusted to control themselves.

    men are often depicted as controlling and even violent.

    Three words: Everybody Loves Raymond.

    *drops the mic*

    1. Yeah. Then again, those “everything is rape” people are the same that say working for anything less than a billion dollars a year is slavery.

      Basically, eternal trustafarians who wouldn’t know that a window opens without magical government or somesuch.

    2. “Grown women are infantilized”

      An infant is someone who can’t provide things for itself, and makes as much loud, incoherent wailing noise as possible until someone else gives it what it wants.


  10. Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be brief. The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guests – we did.

    But you can’t hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn’t we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!

  11. Speaking of ‘intersecting narratives’…

    …I totally think the Japanese Vagina-Kayak Artist really missed out on an awesome opportunity here to get involved @ the Dartmouth “Rape-a-looza” Festival, and do some quality Kibuki Theatre / Motion-Poetry about Rape using some of her new Vagina-Themed artwork. Taboos would have been reconsidered!

    We often acknowledge that the intrusion of federal law into every aspect of human life has had the net effect of making ‘everyone a criminal‘, and consequently reduced the respect most people have for Rule of Law in the first place…?

    (*most recently we noted how Obama unilaterally decided to postpone enforcement of ACA the small-businesses for those who ‘attest’ that the law would *never* have made them fire people in order to comply… effectively *requiring* people to lie in order to receive the proffered leniency… and further making a mockery of Federal regulations, when even their authors expect people to wink, nod, look the other way, and politely agree to play along with the charade)

    …well, now that there exists an entire sub-industry of people in the business of giving lectures on ‘Rape Culture’ and how Not To Laugh at It…. American Universities? Are now making *everyone an idiot*, forcing them to play along with this dingbat parade.

    I blame Millenials

  12. You can find more information about the Dartmouth Summit on Sexual Assault at…..-assault/.

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