NOW Demands Wall Street Journal Fire Columnist James Taranto for Promoting 'Rape Culture'

The National Organization for Women – that deeply principled hive of feminists who never supported the impeachment or resignation of Bill Clinton for lying in a sexual harassment case  – has demanded The Wall Street Journal fire columnist James Taranto for arguing against the bizarre notion that the drunker a woman gets, the more guilty a man is for being sexually involved with her.

Taranto was painted as determined to enhance a “rape culture” by daring to argue in his Monday "Best of the Web Today" column that it’s a “drunkenness double standard” to say a woman’s intoxication is an aggravating factor for a man accused of assault:

If two drunk drivers are in a collision, one doesn't determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver's sex. But when two drunken college students "collide," the male one is almost always presumed to be at fault. His diminished capacity owing to alcohol is not a mitigating factor, but her diminished capacity is an aggravating factor for him.

NOW’s press release energetically distorted Taranto’s point, implying the feminist idea that in any rape accusation, there is – verdict first, evidence afterward – a male rapist and a female victim:

In his Monday Wall Street Journal column, James Taranto stated that in sexual assault cases where both the victim and rapist are drunk -- both parties are equally to blame for the attack.

Taranto even went as far as to compare rape to a car crash involving two drunk drivers saying, "one doesn't determine fault on the basis of demographic details such as each driver's sex."

Surely this ugly kind of victim-blaming is beneath the dignity of The Wall Street Journal. Approximately one in four young women will be sexually assaulted during their college career - an alarming statistic that should spur all of us to seek effective policies to provide services to rape survivors and hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes. But Taranto seems determined to maintain or even deepen the rape culture that pervades campuses and indeed much of U.S. society. What does that say about The Wall Street Journal?

If NOW really cared about a "rape culture," they would have demanded an answer when Juanita Broaddrick came forward on national television in 1999 and accused Clinton of rape in a Little Rock hotel room. They accepted Clinton's dodgy talk-to-my-lawyer defenses to reporters. They've had no credibility for decades now -- if the accused rapist will preserve abortion rights, then there is no real controversy.

Let’s now go back to Taranto’s actual point:

As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education notes, at some campuses the accuser's having had one drink is sufficient to establish the defendant's guilt:

Stanford's definition of consent to sex imposes a concept that is foreign to most people's idea of adult consent and inconsistent with California state law. Stanford policy states that sexual assault occurs "when a person is incapable of giving consent. A person is legally incapable of giving consent . . . if intoxicated by drugs and/or alcohol." In other words, any sexual activity while intoxicated to any degree constitutes sexual assault. This is true even if the activity was explicitly agreed to by a person capable of making rational, reasoned decisions, and even if the partners are in an ongoing relationship or marriage.

In theory that means, as FIRE notes, that "if both parties are intoxicated during sex, they are both technically guilty of sexually assaulting each other." In practice it means that women, but not men, are absolved of responsibility by virtue of having consumed alcohol.

That is self-evidently unjust, yet it turns out to be a matter of high principle for many feminists. Last fall Slate's Emily Yoffe, the mother of a college-age daughter, was the target of a Two Minutes Hate for a post titled "College Women: Stop Getting Drunk," even though she offered the same advice to college men: "If I had a son, I would tell him that it's in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate."

Yoffe was also accused of promoting "rape culture." But NOW never asked for Yoffe to be fired. She wasn't male enough, apparently.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis