Latest Target of the Men’s Rights Movement: The Definition of Rape
Lately, though, the movement has focused much of its attention on the issue of rape. As the nation grapples with rape in increasingly public ways—Obama’s January formation of a new task force to address rape on college campuses, the widespread publicity around the Steubenville and Maryville rape cases—the MRM is crying foul.
They claim that rape statistics are overinflated, that female-on-male sexual assaults are ignored or sneered at, and—above all—that false rape reports are a far larger problem than we acknowledge. And they’re taking action. In Canada this past summer, a men’s rights group plastered the city of Edmonton with posters aimed at young women. “Just because you regret a one-night stand doesn’t mean it wasn’t consensual,” the posters read. This fall, members of a MRM website took online vigilante justice against an Ohio University student they believed was falsely crying rape. (It turned out she was the wrong woman altogether.) The Occidental incident has sparked other, similar actions—this month, MRM websites called for a mass spamming of Dartmouth’s anonymous online sexual assault reporting form.
To dismiss the MRM as merely misogynist and extreme would be to ignore the fact that their beliefs are shared by a troublingly large percentage of the American population. And while the MRM’s rhetoric is ugly and often sophistic, they have identified a number of issues—consent, victim-blaming, and legal standards of proof—that have too often been presented in black and white terms, when the reality is much more complicated.