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The debunking of Rolling Stone’s shamefully irresponsible journalism does not eliminate the need to deal with campus rape. Today the Witherspoon Institute’s online journal Public Discourse carries my article on the recent debate. I argue that we have unwittingly created a “rape system” on many campuses, through the transfer of authority over rape cases from police (who have the tools to protect both vulnerable women and the rights of the accused, and are accountable to the public for doing so) to universities (whose primary motivations are fear of bad publicity and fear of the Greek organizations that contribute to their donor and student recruitment bases). We have created a social space within which rape is not just tolerated, but actively protected by the relevant authorities.

Readers of this blog might be particularly interested in my argument that an obsession with “culture” is part of what protects the rape system. It’s easy to debate whether there is a “rape culture” and if so what to do about it. But such debates never result in action to protect vulnerable women - and this is not only a problem for the Left. Conservatives who blame hookup culture or our failure to civilize young men for facilitating rape may well be right—I think they are—but they have no feasible plans. Thus the debate over “culture” can actively distract us from urgently needed political action. One author’s piece was subtitled: “Calling in the cops is not enough.” That made me think: “Yes, but . . . why not try it anyway?”

In my article I propose a feasible plan for putting campus rape systems on a path to extinction. It involves breaking away from the false dichotomy between politics and culture, reclaiming politics as a sphere of cultural action. I’d be interested to hear what readers of First Thoughts have to say about it.

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