Half of MIT Students Think It's Possible to "Accidently" Rape Someone (Thanks, Affirmative Consent!)



Whether rape happens on U.S. college campuses at rates similar to elsewhere in America or to rates in Tanzania and South Africa has been a major subject of dispute recently. Folks from President Obama to swearing 5-year-olds princesses have been citing a statistic that 20 percent of women on college campuses, or one in five, will be sexually assaulted while there—a stat that has also been routinely debunked. However, a new sexual assault survey from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)—one of the first schools to release broad data on campus sex crimes—seems to corroborate everyone's favorite sketchy stat. 

Or does it? Media are reporting that one in six female undergraduates at MIT have been sexually assaulted (with this translating in some headlines and social media shares to "one in six have been raped"). But the MIT survey suffers from the same issues that plague previous studies on campus sexual assault. 

First, the survey's methodology: In April, MIT emailed its sexual assault survey to all 10,831 undergraduates and graduate students. Students could then opt to take the survey or not. Ultimately, 35 percent of MIT students did. But whenever you have an opt-in survey, those who self-select to take it are not necessarily representative of a given population. Or, as MIT researchers put it, "response bias is expected in virtually any voluntary survey, particularly one focused on a narrow topic. … the rates based on those who responded to the survey cannot be extrapolated to the MIT student population as a whole." 

It's also worth noting that the definition of sexual assault—in both the MIT survey and previous campus sexual assault studies—is a broad one, including forced sexual penetration, forced oral sex, and unwanted "sexual touching" or kissing. Of course there are all sorts of levels of sexual assault, and just because something doesn't approach the level of forced intercourse (i.e., rape) doesn't mean it's not a serious violation. But let's be clear that MIT's "1 in 6" stat is decidely not about the number of students who are rape victims, nor is the much bandied-about "1 in 5" college women stat. 

So!, now that we've cleared up what the MIT study did not find, let's look at what it did, starting with intriguing student attitudes toward sexual assault. Contra the affirmative consent crowd, it doesn't seem that a lack of respect or enthusiasm for obtaining sexual content is a big problem: 98 percent of females and 96 percent of males agreed or strongly agreed that it's important to get consent before sexual activity. 

But students are confused about how alcohol and intoxication affect consent, which perhaps speaks to increasing progressive activism around the idea that drunk people can't give consent. Only about three-quarters of respondents said they feel confident in their own ability to judge whether someone is too intoxicated to consent to sex. And more than half agreed that "rape and sexual assault can happen unintentionally, especially if alcohol is involved." 

I just want to repeat that one more time: Half of the MIT students surveyed think it's possible to "accidently" rape someoneWhen you consider undergraduates alone, this rises to 67 percent.

This is what we get when people push an idea that rape is really often a matter of consent confusion or a drunken misunderstanding and not something that one person (the rapist) intentionally does to another. This is exactly what those of us opposed to affirmative consent standards mean when we worry about it muddying the waters of consent and confusing the definition of rape. About a fifth of female undergraduates and a quarter of male undergraduates surveyed agreed that "when someone is raped or sexually assaulted, it's often because the way they said 'no' was unclear or there was some miscommunication." 

When it comes to experiences of sexual assault since starting at MIT:

  • 1 in 20 female undergraduates, 1 in 100 female graduate students, and zero male students reported being the victim of forced sexual penetration
  • 3 percent of female undergraduates, 1 percent of male undergraduates, and 1 percent of female grad students reported being forced to perform oral sex
  • 15 percent of female undergraduates, 4 percent of male undergraduates, 4 percent of female graduate students, and 1 percent of male graduate students reported having experienced "unwanted sexual touching or kissing"

All of these experiences are lumped together under the school's definition of sexual assault.

When students were asked to define their own experiences, 10 percent of female undergraduates, 2 percent of male undergraduates, three percent of female graduate students, and 1 percent of male graduate students said they had been sexually assaulted since coming to MIT. One percent of female graduate students, one percent of male undergraduates, and 5 percent of female undergraduates said they had been raped. 

For undergraduates, most of these "unwanted sexual experiences" (the umbrella term MIT uses) occured while on campus, while graduate students were more likely to report incidents that took place away from MIT. A little under three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents said the perpetrator was a fellow MIT student. For women, all but 2 percent of perpetrators were males; for male victims, 35 percent of the perpetrators had been male and 67 percent had been female.

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  1. Before this (most recent) vast cohort of idiots that we have raised actually gets much in the way of real economic and political power, I should be dead.

    So, I’ve got that going for me.

    1. Seconded

    2. Unfortunately I’ll still be around. My only hope is the onset of senility.

  2. Here’s something you never hear a guy say: “Stop sucking my dick, or I’ll call the police!”

    –George Carlin

  3. These people actually believe there is no difference between drunken sex, and holding a knife to someone’s throat while your friends take turns with her? And these are some of the smartest people in the country?

    1. and holding a knife to someone’s throat while your friends take turns with her?


    2. It’s not that hard when you change what the words mean. Smart, forward-thinking young men and women that are raised to believe that rape means any sex that didn’t involve sober individuals and a 43-page consent form will naturally see no distinction between the two scenarios you mentioned.

      1. I was in school when this whole thing started. At the beginning it was needed. No really does mean no. It does not mean coy, it does not mean a playful tease, it means no. I’m glad the fratboys got that message. But then it escalated. By the time I had graduated, rape had been redefined to mean morning after regret. That was the mid 80s. Fortunately for the males not much traction was gained for the next decade. Then the next rape scare began, and the escalation continued. Being drunk was enough to constitute rape. Alcohol took away the female’s consent, but did not take away the male’s responsibility, a very odd legal concept. Now we’re up to notarized contracts. I highly suspect in-bedroom “chaperones” from the ombudsman office monitoring for continuous consent.

        In the meantime none of this counts out in the real world. College are separate universes with distinct legal systems. If this attitude ever escapes their insular confines we’re all in deep shit. Expect the human race to dwindle and die out as everyone is too afraid to even ask for a date.

        1. Don’t look now, but…California.

        2. Except it was never true that “no means no”.

          A research report in the May, 1988 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that undergraduate college women saying “no” but meaning “yes” was acknowledged by 39.3% of the women, with reasons being either practical, inhibition-related, or manipulative.

          A research report in the March 1995 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that 83% of token resistant women had more than one sexual intention during the episode, and the authors concluded that most token resistant behavior is a change of intention that is poorly recalled because of memory consolidation.

    3. Can you blame the confused nerds? Many of these kids aren’t the most socially skilled to begin with. They finally get to a college full of fellow geeks where they can get some lovin’ – and PC busy bodies redefine rape to include just about anything.

    4. No, they don’t believe there’s no difference. They’re concerned that the if they do the first one, they’ll be arrested and treated as if they did the second.

  4. Those poor bastards, they never realized what was being done to them.

    1. Accidental mindrape. Not a bad band name.

      1. Not a good band name. Mindrape is good. Mindrape Accident is okay (maybe a better album title).

        1. Not good, correct. Mindrape is a better band name but a better album title.

      2. Hmm. Reminds me of “Fuckface Academy.” I like it.

  5. I know I say it daily, but…

    The end is nigh.

    1. As the drunken, no-talent singer of an overrated band once said “The future’s uncertain and the end is always near.”

  6. You know, all of this sure does trivialize real rape, which is actual nonconsensual sex with screaming and fighting back and stuff. Or, in some cases, with a totally unconscious person who never intended to have or wanted sex. Not so much with the girl who had a couple of drinks and grabs at crotches who wants to recant the next morning.

    1. But ProL, progressive initiatives never have the opposite effect from what they are supposedly trying to do. Well, except for always.

      1. I dunno, gun control was pretty effective at keeping black people down.

    2. It does make forcible rape seem kind of retro and rebellious.

      1. Hey, I was raping before it was…never mind.

        1. All you know is ball…and good…and rape.

        2. Artisinal rape?

        3. Betty: Well, it’s been awhile since we had a little cuddle.
          Yellowbeard: I raped ya, if that’s what you mean.
          Betty: Okay. It was half-cuddle, half-rape.
          Yellowbeard: I’m sure I killed the last one I raped, it can’t have been you.
          Betty: Well, the afterplay was a bit on the rough side, but not fatal dear.


            Love that movie. Wish it was on DVD.

  7. I just want to repeat that one more time: Half of MIT students think it’s possible to “accidently” rape someone. When you consider undergraduates alone, this rises to 67 percent.

    Well, in their defense, most of them are virgins with Asperger’s. They don’t even know how the wing-wang goes in the hoo-ha.

    1. It’s a real bitch to be lusting after something you’re completely terrified by.

    2. Whoa! Slow down!

      The what goes in the where?

      1. Just put withered taint next to withered taint and you’ll figure it out.

  8. the rates based on those who responded to the survey cannot be extrapolated to the MIT student population as a whole.

    Half of MIT students think it’s possible to “accidently” rape someone.

    Just sayin’.

    1. Yeah, I noticed that switcheroo as well.

      1. You’re quibbling, but you’re right. I added “surveyed” after students.

        1. I wouldn’t say it’s “quibbling”. I mean, I agree with your point, but if you’re going to challenge the 20 percent study on grounds of external validity, then you can’t turn around and open yourself to charges of a similar error in statistical inference/generalization. Especially considering that the Proglodytes who will attack your article like an engraged swarm of Africanized honey bees imagine themselves to consistently occupy the moral high ground and, thusly, will assume the worst of intentions on your part.

          1. Oh, sure, but I said “survey respondents” in there a bunch of times, even in the sentence right before, so I think that’s implied. But you’re right, best to be safe.

            1. Best to be *accurate* I should say.

              1. They are the Demon Kings and Queens of misattribution and quoting out of context. Like the bushido of yore, you must never let your guard down.

          2. ^THIS

            I think these pieces often grant far too much credibility to the Moral Panic crowd.

            The data is Complete and Utter Horseshit and should be ridiculed as such. Pretending that there may be ‘minor problems with methodology’ and then treating the data as ‘significant’ is all wrong.

            This has been pointed out in other stories, but doesn’t seem to be consistently communicated.

            These “Sexual Assault” studies don’t just end up with ‘self-selection bias’ by accident. You’d think at a college like MIT that they’d understand ‘statistical rigor’. They do it intentionally. They want certain results and they do everything they can to engineer them.

            Are we really supposed to take seriously studies that include in the definition of “Sexual Violence“…

            “*STALKING = sent you unwanted emails, instant messages, or sent messages through websites like MySpace
            or Facebook?

            *EXPRESSIVE AGGRESSION = ?called you names like ugly, fat, crazy, or stupid? ?insulted, humiliated, or made fun of you in front of others?

            If I were a woman who cared about ‘Rape Prevention’ i would be fucking livid about how juvenile and dishonest the entire approach here is. Instead people seem to want to allow them their teacup-tempest, as though its the ‘polite’ thing to do.

          3. Um, I’m pretty sure we can’t say ‘africanized bees’ anymore. Not when talking about violent bees anyway!

            1. Bees of Color?

              What about Wasps? oh, but the protestants.

              Gnats? i suspect that’s oppressive of the Letter “G”.

    2. Extra-rape-olate? What kind of sickos are you people?

  9. It just sort of slipped in there, officer. I mean it wasn’t sex-sex.

    1. “She slipped and fell onto my erection!”

  10. 15 percent of female undergraduates, 4 percent of male undergraduates, 4 percent of female graduate students, and 1 percent of male graduate students reported having experienced “unwanted sexual touching or kissing”

    Aren’t these similar to the percentages of MIT students who have experienced wanted sexual touching or kissing?

    1. You may say that but i bet that Hilldog rode the fuck truck at some point during her time at Wellesley, or let some dorky MIT freshman lesbian grope her as an unofficial “welcome to college” at the Tower Court mixer

  11. Honest question: Back when I was in college some drunk girl at a party tried to make out with me after I specifically said I was in a comitted relationship because she wanted to see if I would actually turn her down. I did, but not until her lips made contact with my cheek through the use of force (in the F=ma sense). So according to the prefered definion these days, was I sexually assaulted?

    1. No. You are a man. You tricked her into doing that using your Jedi Patriarchy powers. You sexually assaulted her.

      1. awesome – and sooooo correct you are

    2. “See, you don’t know what rape is like. For years, I thought it was funny. ‘Oh, yeah. Rape’s so funny.’ Until you’ve been raped. You’re about to find out what that’s like, Hand Banana.”

    3. Sexually assaulted!?

      Dude, you were fuckin’ raped. She might as well have forcibly sodomized you with a whiskey bottle!

    4. Labioaggressed

    5. but not until her lips made contact with my cheek

      Wait, are we talking about facecheek or buttcheek?

      Please let it be the latter.

      1. I’ll just let you believe whatever you want to believe.

          1. Your parties are fun.

    6. Back when I was in college some drunk girl at a party tried to make out with me after I specifically said I was in a comitted relationship because she wanted to see if I would actually turn her down.

      Apparently, my wife and I have, not infrequently, sexually assaulted and possibly even raped each other.

      Is there a human anywhere who hasn’t had to turn a potential sex partner down only to have the potential partner then proceed to ‘assault’ them? Even for women who proposition men (and failing), I can’t see it being done without some sort of (unwanted) kissing/petting/fondling.

      1. In high school after weeks of telling this flirty blonde in the grade above me, that I was dating someone else (who she knew very well) she pulled this thing where she said “I know you’re dating someone else, but we can still be friends, right? Can I at least get a hug? Friends hug each other all the time?”

        So, we hugged, but it was all a ruse! The hug was just an excuse to get in close – the ole Trojan horse. Like a tricky minx, as we started to separate from the hug, she pulled me in close again except she kissed me.

        As a sexually repressed teenager with raging hormones and a thing for flirty blondes, I just gave in and we had a steamy make out session in the school parking lot at 1 a.m.

        But that wasn’t sexual assault, no matter how many times I had said ‘no.’ It was just two teenagers being idiots and making mistakes – and hopefully learning from them.

        1. the memory now firmly embedded in your spank bank

        2. Better days…

        3. Skimming this I read “flirty” as “filthy”. Still works.

        4. Much, much better days…

          Of course, she told everyone at the school what had happened, which I was pissed about. But it was a good thing in the long run because she was my first, and mentioned that I was “impressive considering it was my first time.”

    7. Back when I was a first semester freshman in college I got retar-, er, R-word drunk at a party and grabbed a girl’s butt. I woke up the next day, somehow remembered what I’d done, asked a mutual friend to let her know I wanted to apologize to her, met with her and apologized to her. She was pissed but appreciated the apology.

      And nothing else happened.

      1. Today it would have been the most heinous of criminal acts. So serious that the ad hoc college committee would have no choice but to sentence you to… suspension.

  12. This is what happens when you distort the dialogue the way proggies have, and this is the intended outcome. Everything is vague and nebulous so they can make anything mean what they want as it suits them. Anything can be a crime or not depending on if you are the right kind of person. After all, you can’t rule innocent men.

    1. I forgot…now all they have to do is dispense with the rule of law…due process and such; change the standard for evidence and….

      Oh, never mind.

  13. So according to the prefered definion these days, was I sexually assaulted?

    That depends. Was she hot?

    1. Eh, I wouldn’t have said no if I was single.

  14. Then again 80% of male MIT students think intercourse is a magical thing that only happens by accident when the right girl gets drunk and decides she wants it.

    1. You know, the real problem seems to be unarmed drunk women. I say arm them and chemically alter them so that they can’t drink.

      Problem solved!

      1. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a dick is a good guy with a dick.

        1. “Good, bad…I’m the guy with the dick.”

          1. “Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up! You see this? This… is my dick!

            1. “Well hello Mr. Fancypants. I got news for you, pal; you ain’t leading but two things right now: dick and shit. And Dick left town.”

              1. “Klatuu barada dickto!”

          2. “There’s two kinds of people in this world…those with hard dicks, and those that dig. You dig.”

            1. Sweet. I saw that movie relatively recently, but am a little foggy on which one. Hang ’em High?

              1. The Good Dick, the Bad Dick, and the Ugly Dick.

      2. “I’m going to get white girl drunk; that is, I’m going to the firing range.”

  15. Mens rea ain’t just a river in Egypt.

  16. ” Half of MIT students think it’s possible to “accidently” rape someone.”

    We decided to go streaking, but I was drunk and ended up running the wrong direction. Seriously how the fuck can supposedly intelligent people think this?

    1. Seriously how the fuck can supposedly intelligent people think this?

      You don’t know enough engineers.

    2. accidental rape = sex that is declared rape, but was believed to be consensual when it occurred. either in the sense cyto describes below (Person A goes too far and Person B doesn’t protest) or the delayed sense (Person A wakes up the next day with hangover and regrets and accuses Person B of rape because A had a few drinks).

      note that “accidentally” is ENB’s word. “unintentionally” was the original word.

      So, the short version is… they’re concerned that the sex they had last night (that they believed was consensual) will become rape or sexual assault this morning.

      Valid concern

  17. Do they know it’s also possible to retroactively rape someone?

    1. They are MIT students, if anyone can invent a rape-time-machine, they can.

  18. Uh accidental rape can and does happen. A guy goes too far with a girl when she doesn’t want to and she just doesn’t protest because she’s scared or something. People act funny. This isn’t the smartest headline ENB ever came up with.

  19. Why 1 in 20 female undergraduates and 1 in 100 female grad students? They’re only a few years older, so there can’t have been that big of a trend shift. What is so different about the populations?

  20. It looks like this is my lucky day! I’ll take “The Rapists” for $200.

  21. Please explain the quantifiable number of men who were forced to perform oral sex. On women? By women?

  22. As a mathematician who teaches elementary statistics i’m curious about the reasoning in this article. You start the article be stating the study has a serious non-response rate and thus there will be response bias. You state that you believe the indicated rate of sexual assault, definitions aside, is inflated. So it is likely the study is biased towards those who see rape as a prevalent crime.

    The problem I have is that you then proceed to quote the results of the portion of the study concerning attitudes towards the issues of consent. If you believe the study is biased why can you take the rest of the study seriously?

  23. This so reminds me of this epic scene in The Last Boy Scout:

  24. MIT used to have relatively high admission standards. Is that no longer the case?

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