Let's agree that something disturbing happened to that 18-year-old woman at Hofstra. Something she feels awful about. Any good, right-thinking feminist, and any good girlfriend, would encourage her to talk to a counselor about her story. The problem is that by going to the police and then recanting, she fit into a new story that backfires on her and on feminism in an ugly way. She becomes the false accuser, and the boys, like the Duke boys, become the victims. In these moments of recantation, all we can talk about is how wrong she was. And then we lose the conversation that happens at a level beneath the law: about how these late-night moments in a random bathroom that everyone regrets can stop before they start. I'm not sure how you do that. But I wish this was where we'd go, now that we know that whatever happened to this girl, it wasn't the legal definition of rape.Most of the terrible things people do to each other are not crimes. And we also do a lot of terrible — and often sexual — things to ourselves. I think, on the whole, women would be better off if they stepped up to the adult work of taking responsibility for themselves. The men in this incident were awful too, but ladies, say no to awful men. Don't let men define what good sex is. And certainly don't let them act out their idea of good sex and then decide that you wanted something nicer.
September 21, 2009
Emily Bazelon writes: