“Campus Rape Hysteria”

I came across this sign on the way to one of my lectures this past week. It irritated me, and I took this picture to show a friend later. But then one of my students came up to me after class and told me how she was being sexually harassed by another student in a particularly vulgar way. And I got angry. As anyone who is paying attention knows, Trump’s rise and election has emboldened the people who had previously been quiet about their misogyny, racism, and jingoism. While I can’t directly blame Trump for my student harasser or for this event, I can state without much doubt that discourse about sexual harassment and sexual assault has devolved over the last year. And if we don’t call it out, it will get worse. Here’s me calling it out. I’ve annotated the sign to point out all of its problems, obvious and not.

Do not rip!

I assume that this is meant as a warning to people who might tear down the poster. The warning is probably there because other posters advertising incendiary events have been torn down. Personally, I find ripping down posters to be counter-productive, because it allows, however feebly, the group who posted the poster to claim censorship. But when you call the problem of campus rape "hysteria" you're doing your best to enrage people. And when people are enraged, they tear down posters. And then you cry censorship. This would be good use for the term "false flag."


This word! The speaker the CSU brought to UCI for this event was a history major, so I assume he knows the origin and usage of "hysteria" and knows how using it to describe the campus rape problem is at best obnoxious and at work misogynistic. (If he doesn't know? That's not an excuse.) The word, used for its medical definition or its social psychological definition or its vague colloquial definition, is not appropriate whatsoever for how even the most radical feminists are responding to campus rape. Mass concern, even with protests, isn't hysteria. It's not moral panic either. Using "hysteria" is meant to make the problem of campus rape seem irrational, silly, and the result of women being overly sensitive and hormonal. Andrew Cavarno, the speaker, has claimed that he doesn't want to be incendiary with his work. Using the word "hysteria" makes that claim rather suspect.

Assault on due process

The problem of universities taking on the roles of law enforcement and criminal courts has been discussed and debated all over the country and in law journals and the popular press. Andrew Cavarno is neither an authority on the law or public policy or education. But he did organize protests at sexual assault rallies and at screenings of The Hunting Ground, events surely to be attended by rape and sexual assault survivors. The protesters' signs focused on the issue of "due process" and how Bernie Sanders and Harvard Law agree that schools shouldn't be handling rape cases themselves. Why would you protest a university disciplinary policy at an event full of victims? If it's not to upset them, then it's a pretty dopey strategy. It's like protesting the VA's increased budgetary and resource allocation for people with PTSD at a screenings of The Deer Hunter. But the protests got Cavarno press and attention, which was clearly the goal.

Andrew Cavarno

This guy is an odd duck. I'm 99.9% sure that he and his twin Steven played Owen Salinger in Party of Five. He was a big Bernie supporter but he's obsessed with disproving campus rape statistics and is willing to picket sexual assault rallies to get his message across. Comments on the articles about him indicate he has a bone to pick(et). He's stated that he's trying not to be incendiary but his protest choices and word choices say differently. And now he's touring campuses with his lecture on due process and rape statistics: The full title was "Campus Rape Hysteria: False Stats and the Assault on Due Process." Based on quotes from articles about his talk and on his comments in response to criticism, it seems that he's got an average undergraduate history major's grasp on statistics and social science research -- and a major entitlement problem. He seems to be particularly focused on surveys that show that many people don't believe that 1-in-5 women are sexually assaulted on campus. This is irrelevant to whether the 1-in-5 number is accurate, but quite relevant to how much stigma and shame and silence there is. He's also concerned about low response rates and how survey results are described. Of course, every study and every survey is flawed in some way, and when asking highly sensitive sexual questions, it's never easy to get as accurate a result as with, say, mundane questions about food preference. That's one of the reasons why the Obama Administration spent two years researching accurate numbers. The extensively detailed and clearly rigorous research from RTI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics was released in January, 2016. "Campus Climate Survey Validation Study Final Technical Report" is available in PDF form.

Conservative Student Union

When I first saw the sign, I assumed that the Conservative Student Union was the group that brought Milo Yiannopoulos to UC Irvine twice and handed out baby pacifiers at a "safe space" event. I assumed this because the name of the talk was basically trolling women who care about sexual assault, and the only reason anyone brings Milo to campus is to troll anyone with a modicum of decency. But the UCI Irvine Republicans did that. The CSU is affiliated with Young America's Foundation, which brings such winners like Ann Coulter, Dinesh D'Souza, and Oliver North to college campuses.

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