Bogus '1 in 3 Men Would Commit Rape' Study Discredits Itself in Opening Sentence, Goes Downhill From There

January 13th, 2015 3:17 PM

The feminist-leftist fever swamp is apparently thrilled to have learned of a North Dakota University "study" purporting to show that almost one in 3 college men would commit rape "if nobody would ever know and there wouldn’t be any consequences."

I'll get to the study's specifics shortly, but first want to note that the work, published in December, automatically discredited itself in its body's opening paragraph:


This "one in five" statistic was already discredited months before "Denying Rape but Endorsing Forceful Intercourse: Exploring Differences Among Responders" was published.

In June, columnist George Will demonstrated that the statistic could not possibly be true (bolds are mine throughout this post):

The administration’s crucial and contradictory statistics are validated the usual way, by official repetition; Joe Biden has been heard from. The statistics are: One in five women is sexually assaulted while in college, and only 12 percent of assaults are reported. Simple arithmetic demonstrates that if the 12 percent reporting rate is correct, the 20 percent assault rate is preposterous. Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute notes, for example, that in the four years 2009 to 2012 there were 98 reported sexual assaults at Ohio State. That would be 12 percent of 817 total out of a female student population of approximately 28,000, for a sexual assault rate of approximately 2.9 percent — too high but nowhere near 20 percent.

Will's reward for proving the obvious was to become a virtual pariah on college campuses, and to have his column derided as "hate speech."

Will was nowhere near the first person to call out the "one in five" nonsense. Just a few of the others appearing well before the study's publication included Caroline Kitchens at US News (Oct. 2013) Ashe Schow at the Washington Examiner (Aug. 2014), and Cathy Young at Minding the Campus (Jan. 2014).

Going even further back, when the conventional wisdom insisted that the statistic was "one in four," Heather MacDonald at City Beat pointed out that the one-year rate for all violent crimes in Detroit, one the nation's most dangerous cities, "was 2,400 murders, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants—a rate of 2.4 percent." One simply cannot get to a four-year rape rate of 20-25 percent from there.

Sadly for the real haters, Will's and others' math held up in official Justice Department statistics released in December:

A new report, ironically from the White House’s own Department of Justice, reveals that number is significantly lower than the media and the administration had reported previously.  Instead of a whopping 20 percent of female college freshmen and sophomores, the new, more expansive stats put that number at just 0.61 percent – or 6.1 per 1,000 students. 

Even more ironic, the study found that college females are less likely to be sexually assaulted than their unenrolled female peers. These findings are a serious blow to the feminist left’s assertion that an “epidemic” of rape grips college campuses.

The point of raising the bogus "one in five" stat is that is that by using it in the very first sentence, the North Dakota University researchers — Sarah R. Edwards, PhD; Kathryn A. Bradshaw, MA; and Verlin B. Hinsz, PhD — revealed that they are not dispassionate researchers, but instead are agenda-driven individuals who are not interested in facts, but are instead looking to reach desired conclusions.

In case anyone doubts, let's also look at this sentence from Page 189 in the study:

We believe that men exhibiting higher levels of hostility toward women will exhibit awareness that their behaviors constitute rape, and still endorse use of force given that the motivation of the encounter is to punish women.

Note that this is a blanket statement, and is expressed as something they "believe" instead of something they can demonstrate without exception.

The trio's bogus core findings are:

  1. 31.7 percent of participants said they would act on “intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse” if they were confident they could get away with it.
  2. When asked whether they would act on “intentions to rape a woman” with the same assurances they wouldn’t face consequences, just 13.6 percent of participants agreed. In other words, we are to believe that over half of the men in Item 1 didn't believe that to "force a woman to sexual intercourse" is to rape her.

The most obvious and potential problem in the study is that only 86 men were in it — seriously — and the study's core conclusions were based on just 73 of the 86.


  • The 86 men selected "all identified as heterosexual, with prior sexual experiences." Though the term "prior sexual experiences" is vague, if that term requires previous sexual intercourse, we have a big problem: Playboy, of all places, found that "40% of adults between 18 and 24 years old are still virgins" in 2011. It doesn't seem like a stretch to contend that this group would be quite a bit less likely to be interested in committing rape and getting away with it than those who were chosen. Even if the real percentage of virgins in the population is significantly lower, it's pretty clear that the researchers want their readers to reach conclusions about all men and not just "experienced" men — and at least five liberal sites, including "progressive" Think Progress, have taken the bait.
  • Let's also add a few percentage points for ineligible men who would have been excluded because they are part of the the small homosexual component (certainly under 4 percent, likely lower in North Dakota) of the male population.
  • Participants "received extra credit for their participation." That creates the possibility that they may have believed that they needed to tell the researchers what they wanted to hear to see their participation through to completion, and that not telling them what they wanted to hear might end their participation without credit earned.

There's another factor at play, which the aforementioned Ashe Schow brought up today:

Thirteen percent of the survey participants (nine guys) actually said flat out that they would rape a woman. People who have been pushing for universities to play court and condemn men based solely on accusations may read that number and believe 13 percent of men want to rape. Even in a world where college men take everything seriously, nine guys does not equal a mass epidemic of would-be rapists. A more sound reading is that nine college boys didn’t take the survey too seriously.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, an academic himself, reacted as follows:

If the researcher, Sarah Edwards, had done similarly shoddy and result-oriented scholarship about race she’d be drummed out of the academy. But shoddy research that makes men look like rapists is stylish now.

It will be interesting to see if more widely distributed establishment press organizations fall for the research trio's horrid work. I would suggest not betting against it.

Cross-posted at