"She Said - She Said"
“She Said – She Said”
Who is responsible for date rape? Camille Paglia (2009) argues women
are responsible for their actions. Susan Jacoby (2009) insists
that most men and women behave in a civilized way. When asked if men
convicted of date rape, should be accountable for their actions, I look at the
question again. It does not say, “charged.” It says, “convicted.” A trial
allowed evidence from both sides and a judgment was made. In that
scenario, a man is accountable.
But, and I must be very clear here, Camille Paglia’s essay
is the strongest argument of the two. It addresses the whole situation.
It addresses the behaviors leading up to the occurrence. It identifies college
students as those who are most likely to be involved. It identifies college
campuses as the location where this most often occurs. It points out that
college administrators are not qualified to make a judicial ruling.
Have you heard the saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound
of cure?” Here is another one, “Prior preparation prevents piss-poor
performance.” Each one of these sayings tells us to put some thought into
what the troubling situation is or has the potential to be, and figure out a
way to either avoid it or deal with it, while preventing serious damage.
Paglia argues that the “only solution to date rape is female self-
awareness and self-control. A woman’s number-one line of defense against
rape is herself.” (p. 509)
“You’ve got to be kidding,” my inner idealist says. “Surely you don’t
expect a woman to be pre-cognoscente and predict how a man will behave
in this situation?” “No. I do not,” I answer. Neither do I think that she
should assume he is going to act with any sense of decency. The Rape,
Abuse and Incest National Network reports that as of 2007, 1 in every 6
women will be victims of an attempted or completed rape. That is 17.7
million American women. Consider those numbers. Are you going to tell your
daughter that it is ok to take the gamble and go out drinking with local
fraternity boys? No, that defies good judgment.
Susan Jacoby’s (2009) critique of Paglia’s (2009) essay starts with an
anecdote about a personal experience she had. Her thesis states that
civilized behavior trumps hormones. Refuting Paglia’s main point, she uses a
technique called reduction and absurdium. This allows her to uncover a flaw
in Paglia’s logic and carry it to an absurd conclusion. If men are not held
accountable for their sexual actions then, “few women would escape rape
and few men would fail to commit to rape” (p. 512) but then she lessens the
effect of that by acknowledging that there is a minority of men who “can’t
stand to take “no” for an answer.” (p. 513) However, Minnesota Men’s Action
Network reports “2/3 of college men surveyed said they would rape if
they thought they could get away with it.” That small minority that Jacoby
references, does not sound small anymore.
Jacoby summarizes Paglia’s essay, introducing her readers to the
date rape debate. She compares Paglia’s points and contrasts
them to her own. She also uses templates for disagreeing, which brings her
arguments to the reader in a more objective way, proving that she has
thought about this subject and is not having a knee-jerk reaction. Both
writers could have made their arguments stronger with the use of statistics
or clear academic references but they did not and I would be interested in
knowing why they made that decision. Neither conclusion delivers fireworks.
Paglia’s is stronger because it not only supports her thesis, but also makes a
call to action. Much like her essay, Jacoby’s conclusion relies on the reader
to make the civilized decision. This implies that if her audience disagrees
with her then they are somehow less than civilized. That may work for some
readers. However, I choose personal safety over an assumption about
someone else’s ability to be civilized. The need for law enforcement proves
that is the smarter argument every time.
Nadell, J., Lanagan, J., Comodromos, E.A.. (2009) The Longman Writer: Rhetoric, Reader, Research Guide, and Handbook. (7th ed.). New York, NY. pp 506-514.
Sexual Abuse Statistics (nd.) Minnesota Men’s Action Network. Alliance to Prevent Sexual and Domestic Violence. Retrieved on December 30, 2009. From http://www.menaspeacemakers.org/programs/mnman/statistics
Who are the Victims? (2009). Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Retrieved December 30, 2009. From http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims