Monday, October 8, 2018

Why Research on Sexual Violence & Toxic Masculinity Supports Kavanaugh's Accusers (Nancy Chi Cantalupo)


No “Farce”: Why Research on Sexual Violence & Toxic Masculinity Supports Kavanaugh’s Accusers

By Nancy Chi Cantalupo

In 1985, just a few years after the sexual assaults alleged by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick, the Washington Post published an article entitled, “Campus Gang-Rape Report.”  In it, Dr. Bernice Sandler, known commonly as the “Godmother of Title IX,” discusses how, just from traveling to college campuses for her work with the Project on the Status and Education of Women for the Association of American Colleges, “without too much trouble, I gathered a list of about 50 of them where this had happened.”

In 1990, University of Pennsylvania anthropologist, Peggy Reeves Sanday, published Fraternity Gang Rape: Sex, Brotherhood & Privilege on Campus, which meticulously and nauseatingly details the 1980s campus party culture and the fraternity control of that culture, on diverse campuses throughout the United States.  In 1998, Bernard Lefkowitz published Our Guys: the Glenridge Rape & the Secret Life of the Perfect Suburb, a comprehensive study of four high school athletes’ gang-rape of a younger girl with intellectual and developmental disabilities in 1989.

My own research gathers insights not only from these studies, but more recent works like Dr. Michael Kimmel’s Guyland and journalistic accounts of sexual violence directed at girls and boys, young women and young men in both college and high schools. Although researchers like Drs. Sandler and Sanday focused on campus party culture, journalistic accounts show a very similar party culture at prep schools and among other privileged groups of teenage boys throughout the 1980s and beyond. In particular, it seems like competitions where high school boys sexually assault high school (and sometimes middle and elementary school) girls to “score” “points” with the other boys in the group come to light every decade.

After the documented commonness of gang rape in the 1980s, there was the Spur Posse in the 1990s, the Landon School (a big competitor to Kavanaugh’s alma mater, Georgetown Prep) “slampigs” contest in the 2000s, and, in this decade, St. Paul’s School’s “senior salutes.”  And no one who follows the Title IX civil rights movement will forget the viral youtube footage of Brett Kavanaugh’s fraternity at Yale, DKE, marching around the campus Women’s Center chanting “No Means Yes! Yes Means Anal!

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick’s accounts of being assaulted by Brett Kavanaugh or while Kavanaugh was present are completely consistent with the rape culture among highly-privileged high school boys and college men who belong to the kind of all-male groups to which Kavanaugh has belonged throughout his life.  In his September 27th testimony, Kavanaugh dismissed these accounts, particularly Julie Swetnick’s, as a “farce.”  Far from a farce, the culture of toxic masculinity and sexual violence in which Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick’s accounts place Brett Kavanaugh has been well-documented by social scientists and journalists. Indeed the accounts of all three accusers could appear as case studies in this research.

The “farce” is the expectation that, in the era of #MeToo, people will just forget about all of this evidence. 

Time’s Up on that, too!

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