Where are the men?
I am talking about men who live by a certain code, who know that rape is repugnant, that gang rape is vile and that so-called men who do these things are criminals. I am talking at the moment of the frat boys at the University of Virginia who are accused of raping a young woman. But I am also talking of all those who knew what was happening — at the time or afterward. They are not men, either.
The Virginia incident, first reported in Rolling Stone by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, allegedly took place at the Phi Kappa Psi house in 2012. The victim was an 18-year-old freshman. Rolling Stone gave her the name of Jackie. A fraternity member approached her with what we are told is a standard line: “Want to go upstairs, where it’s quieter?”
Seven men allegedly raped her.
We are told, in a really instructive Washington Post article based on the Rolling Stone piece, that there is a pattern to such incidents. The line — the bait — is usually a variation of the one used on Jackie: “Want to see my fish tank?” “Let’s go upstairs so we can talk.” Something like that.
Once the woman is isolated, again there is a pattern. The boy doing the luring, whom Rolling Stone called Drew, urges the others on. He tells the others what to do and, apparently, how to do it. He is the necessary leader for such an incident, according to social scientists who have studied such things. A “Drew” appears to be essential. Apparently, there is no shortage of Drews.
The Post story said that two psychologists, David Lisak of the University of Massachusetts-Boston and Paul M. Miller of Brown University, had studied more than 1,800 college men to determine the prevalence of rapists. They found that about 90 percent of college rapes were committed by serial rapists. On average, they had each committed six rapes.
So just a small percentage of college men participate in rape and they are responsible for a large number of sexual assaults. But the low percentage of actual sexual thugs is not necessarily good news. Whatever the percentage of actual rapists must be — let’s just say 5 percent — many others must know what’s happening. Some of the other guys at the Phi Kappa Psi house that night probably knew something was going on. Apparently, none of them intervened — Jackie, don’t go upstairs! Apparently, none of them confronted Drew and offered to knock his block off.
And then, how many learned about the rape afterward? How many heard about it that night or the next day or the next week? How many knew the names of the rapists and turned them in? How many mocked them as cowards, as unmanly types who actually fear women, or sex, or something. Where in God’s name were the men on the University of Virginia campus?
I have been a columnist for many years now. I write on a variety of topics, some of them requiring prodigious amounts of research. But I have been a man all my life and I don’t have to Google anything about that. And yet I don’t understand what I read about what’s happening on the campuses. How can rape thrive? How can a rapist walk to class the next day without other men confronting him? How is the rapist or the witness allowed to feel he has exercised some masculine privilege when, in fact, he has just violated the cardinal rule of masculinity? Be Respectful of Women.
Is this old-fashioned? Have I just geezered my way into irrelevance? Am I going to hear from the gaggle of bloggers circling, like vultures, for the one errant phrase? Will I be told that I just don’t get it. Well, I don’t. When I read that one out of five college women is a victim of attempted or actual sexual assault, I just don’t get it. Who are these creeps?
Why do other men put up with such behavior?
I know, I know. John Wayne is dead and Cary Grant, too. Men dress like boys and often act it, too. I was a college kid once myself, but some aspects of campus culture I do not quite understand (why would anyone binge-drink to get sick?). But I do know with dead certainty that a rapist is not really a man — and neither is anyone who lets it happen.
Richard Cohen is a writer with the Washington Post Writers Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.