“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Physical Motion
I’m not going to argue physical science with one of history’s great scientists. But, in politics, the opposite reaction is not always equal.
For example, HimToo is the largely faux outrage response to the MeToo movement. HimToo has gained some momentum due to the controversy over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court. Some people mostly conservatives concerned that they were in danger of losing a crucial vote on the court rallied around Kavanaugh by drawing attention to what they claim is the serious societal problem of false accusations of sexual assault.
Let’s Get Serious for a Moment
Before delving into the lunacy of the #HimToo hysteria, let’s make two points clear.
- No person- man or woman- should go to jail for rape or sexual assault without a confession or guilty verdict at trial. This almost certainly means that people who are actually guilty of rape will escape criminal punishment. We all benefit from a justice system based on the principle of “innocent until proven guilty.” We should seek to preserve it.
- Anyone who knowingly makes a false rape allegation should be investigated and perhaps charged depending upon the circumstances. Certainly, anyone that files a formal complaint with law enforcement and/or testifies under oath should be charged and punished if the allegation was false.
What is #HimToo?
HimToo is a pretty confusing movement in many ways. Interpretations of it vary.
Is it drawing attention to the fact that men have also been sexually assaulted? Perhaps, victims of sexual assault could use it to identify their abusers.
However, the primary focus appears to be on men who are victims of false accusations of sexual assault. As is the case with a large number of conservative causes, fear- especially when unhinged from reality- seems to be a compelling motivator.
Donald Trump Jr., the father of three sons and two daughters, says that he is more concerned for his sons than his daughters, because “when I see what’s going on right now, it’s scary.”
Unwilling to allow his progeny to best him in a hyperbole contest, “the real Donald” also felt it necessary to share his views. In a public appearance on October 3rd, he claimed that MeToo was a real threat to men in this country…
“It is a very scary time for young men in America, where you can be guilty of something you may not be guilty of. This is a very, very — this is a very difficult time.”
When a reporter asked him how young women were doing, he replied…
“Women are doing great.”
The #HimToo Movement is Not New
You can find a lot of websites devoted to documenting false allegations of rape with a pretty basic internet search. Some are recent but a lot have focused on the issue of false accusations of sexual assault for many years.
For example, Alexander Baron has been blogging on the topic, and, has, apparently, compiled an extensive list of false rape allegations over a period of over 300 years.
Mr. Baron, as do a number of other HimToo bloggers, seems to be pretty sincere. Yet, my first thought upon seeing his extensive timeline is that if he were to compile a similar list of actual rapes and sexual assaults over the same time period, it would literally be the largest internet page in human history. (Good luck loading that one without crashing a few servers along the way!)
And the HimToo Movement Includes Some Extreme Views
Mr. Baron’s earnestness is matched by others who seem to lack his apparent concern for fact and documentation.
Witness The Return of Kings, with sub-pages on “Masculinity” and “Culture” and a target audience of “a small but vocal collection of men in America today who believe males should be masculine and females, should be feminine,” The Return of Kings (ROK) leaves little to the imagination.
ROK seems to believe that “masculinity is being increasingly punished and shamed in favor of creating an androgynous and politically-correct society that allows women to assert superiority and control over men.”
How to Overcome a False Rape Allegation
ROK includes a blog post on this theme. The post contains an image that could only be described as outrageously offensive to victims of sexual assault. I suspect that is the point.
I want to think this page is not serious, but… After all, the author concludes his post with the following:
I just don’t want another innocent man in jail over fabricated lies from mentally ill women. Never forget that feminists want to put every male accused of something into a personal shame spiral of hell. I hope that you can avoid it.
Maybe Return of Kings is not serious. But John Davis obviously is. His published Amazon titles include:
- False Accusations of Rape: Lynching in the 21st Century
- Women of the Klan: Foundations of Modern Feminism
We can safely assume that HimToo is generating some sales for Mr. Davis.
Lying with Rape Statistics?
As a lot of us know, many people don’t care about actual facts in the post-truth era. Facts, and “alternative facts,” give their claims a veneer of authenticity. But “post-truthers” really do not care if their facts correspond with reality. They only care if they can get others to believe them.
There are many problems with Mr. Kanin’s analysis.
- He determines the total number of “false allegations” based on the conclusions of the investigating officers. If the police did not believe the person who filed the complaint, Kanin labeled it a “false allegation.”
- He labels acquittals as false allegations. Yet, an acquittal does not make the original claim false. Rather an acquittal simply means that the case was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
- He only examines claims of sexual assault reported to the police. We know that most assault claims are NOT reported. So Kanin’s analysis is limited to a very small percentage of the universe of rape allegations.
In Mr. Kanin’s defense, he makes some effort- however feeble- to document his statistics.
Really Lying With Rape Statistics
Others simply fabricate and report their fake numbers without any corroboration or explanation whatsoever.
Here is a chart created by sirskeptic that illustrates this trend.
If I was creating a lesson plan on how to lie with statistics, this chart makes a great tool. Sirskeptic does not at any point offer any source for the information that he uses to create the chart.
Furthermore, even without sources, his assumptions are beyond absurd. Is it even possible to claim with a straight face that 50% of all rapes are perpetrated by women? But, the chart looks nice and can be passed around the web by HimToo supporters so that they can pretend that the “facts” are on their side.
Don’t Forget the Emotional Appeal of the Anecdote
As persuasive as statistics might be to some, most people are moved more by the testimony of those who come forward to tell their stories. Anyone watching Christine Blasey Ford testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings could recognize her emotional vulnerability. The real strength of MeToo comes from the personal stories of those who have come forward to talk about their experiences as victims of sexual assault.
So, of course, HimToo needs its heroes as well. Some have adopted Brett Kavanaugh as a symbol of the movement.
Pieter Hanson: HimToo’s Viral Hero
While Mr. Kavanaugh’s case is controversial, some people do have their reasons for sympathizing with him. But other potential heroes of HimToo have clearly not worked out as well. The most widely viewed HimToo viral moment illustrates this.
Her son might have made a compelling victim of MeToo. As it turns out, Pieter Hanson was very compelling as a victim of his own mother’s absurdity.
Bad Examples Are Not the Real Problem with HimToo
One of the biggest problems with HimToo is that, unlike MeToo, it is open to multiple interpretations. For example, some believe that HimToo should be used to highlight the fact that men are also victims of sexual assault.
Ms. Wallwin raises a great question. Nobody who is in touch with the real world will be terribly surprised by the answer. Men are MUCH MORE likely to be raped than they are to be falsely accused of sexual assault.
After providing a thorough overview of the data, Georgina Lee reports that… “a man is 230 times more likely to be raped than to be falsely accused of rape.”
For every “him” represented by HimToo, there are 230 “hims” that are better represented by MeToo. She concludes that, even if every single rape reported by a woman to the police was fake, there would still be more men raped than men falsely accused of it.
HimToo is Really Exaggerating the Problem of False Allegations
A woman is far, far more likely to be a victim of a sexual assault than a man is to be a victim of a false accusation. The statistics tell a story that anyone with common sense and any connection with other human beings already knows.
I wonder if any person can honestly say that they know more people who have been falsely accused of sexual assault than victims of it. This is something you’d pretty much have to know.
If you know men harmed by false allegations of rape, you should be able to name them. If you cannot, then you likely don’t know men that have been harmed by false allegations of rape. The damage from a false rape allegation is the public nature of it. Without a public accusation, there is really no harm.
Yet, the chances are very good that you do know a woman, and very possibly a man, who has been sexually assaulted. Many people- men and women- that have been raped will never tell you.
For many victims, talking about it doesn’t make their lives better; it makes them worse. So, you probably do not know about many of the sexual assaults perpetrated on your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, or other associates.
We All Know That HimToo is Exaggerating the Problem
Based on my own personal experiences, I have absolutely no reason to doubt the claim that 1/4 of all women have been sexually assaulted.
I could name more than a dozen people who have personally told me about their experiences.
I cannot name one person that I know who has been publicly accused of rape and exonerated.
That doesn’t mean that it does not happen. It just means that the former is considerably more likely than the latter.
Think about this; almost everyone could name more victims of sexual assault than men who have been falsely accused of it. Very few people could provide the name of every person they know who is a victim of sexual assault. But, almost everyone could provide the name of almost every person they know who has been falsely accused of sexual assault. And yet, almost everyone still knows more people in the first category than the second.
The statistics just tell the story that you already know. MeToo raises awareness of a societal problem that is much, much bigger than the so-called HimToo problem.
The HimToo hysteria is more like a parent watching a child being devoured by a wild animal and squealing about a mouse that scurried across their path.
False Allegations of Sexual Assault are Real
There are women- and men- who falsely accuse others.
Perhaps the most influential case of this was 2006 incident in which three Duke Lacrosse players who were accused of gang-raping a stripper that was hired to perform at a fraternity party. Stereotypes and prejudgment clearly influenced the case. An overzealous prosecutor and frenzied media led to a rush to judgment. Bad actors appeared throughout the case. The rich, white, college-aged men who hired the stripper were certainly not the worst among them. Leaving aside the question of their own poor judgment that night, they appear to have been falsely accused and treated badly because of it.
The Duke Lacrosse case is certainly not the only example of a false allegation doing harm. Earlier this year, a young New York woman was sentenced to a year in prison for falsely reporting that two University of Connecticut football players assaulted her. In 2014, Connor Oberst, the erstwhile frontman for the indie rock band Bright Eyes, was publicly, and falsely, accused of rape. His accuser issued a very public reaction admitting that her accusation was entirely fabricated.
The Duke Lacrosse Case and The Origins of HimToo
This Duke Lacrosse case is really more important than any other example, however. This case appeals to the kinds of people- rich, white, suburban, elite private school (dare I say cloistered)- that find it most convenient to want everyone, both men and women, to hush up sexual assaults. For many of these people, the Duke Lacrosse case illustrates why sexual assault allegations should be avoided- even if they are true.
This case and the media coverage of it clearly inspires the HimToo movement today. Brett Kavanaugh was just the middle-aged version of the Duke Lacrosse players: a rich, white, suburban, private school jock. The similarities between the two cases do not stop there either, considering the sensationalized media coverage and the political implications involved.
Indeed, the Duke Lacrosse case resonates with many of those who have become Trump’s strongest coalition of supporters. As Reeves Wiedeman noted last year in New York Magazine…
“Throughout the campaign, Trump supporters complained about ‘Duke-lacrosse-style attacks’ on their candidate and his circle.” Among the many examples in his piece, Wiedeman cites an alt-right journalist, Mike Cernovich, who claimed that “President Trump believes in the presumption of innocence, unlike Duke lacrosse hoaxers.”
The Statistics Matter and They Really Do Not Support HimToo
MeToo and HimToo can swap anecdotes about which group is more concerned with justice and protecting victims. Each side can produce compelling examples of innocent people. Each side can point to the human suffering that resulted from the trauma. And with the limited viewing time available to each of us, we can only listen to so many of the heartbreaking stories from each side.
Those who really want these to be equivalent problems can hone in on individual cases and conclude that each side has a point. But, that is about all they can do because the data does not support the HimToo movement- like at all.
HimToo does not want anyone to take a serious look at the data. Facts are important and facts help us evaluate competing claims. Facts help us decide which problems cause the most harm to the greatest number of people. HimTooers might try to cite “facts” to support their paranoia over false rape allegations. Yet there are far more studies- almost always more technically sound- that show that false rape allegations are exceptionally rare. More importantly, false accusations are far less common than real incidents of sexual assault.
Men Know This
One study found that almost 1/4 of men self-reported sexually aggressive behavior directed against women. #Howiwillchange is a lesser-known social media campaign that has been overshadowed by the MeToo versus HimToo controversy. But, it demonstrates that many men recognize that MeToo identifies a real issue.
Personally, I can’t help but wonder how many of the men behind the HimToo movement are guilty of sexual assault and are really just afraid that they will be exposed by MeToo.
Sexually aggressive men feel a sense of entitlement about what they are doing. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Violence Against Women found that…
“Most perpetrators endorsed several justifications, with the most strongly endorsed items being ‘She had gotten you sexually aroused,’ ‘She led you on, and ‘You thought she’d enjoy it once it started.’ The frequency with which these items were endorsed suggests that feelings of sexual entitlement are incredibly common among perpetrators.”
And many men, including many supporters of HimToo, are unapologetic about it.
These men feel entitled to use women however they wish and believe that women have an obligation to submit. These men are not concerned about false accusations; they believe that any allegation of sexual assault is false because men have a right to do what they are doing.
Return of Kings Community Beliefs
Am I exaggerating? Let’s look at the Return of Kings statement of community beliefs:
- “Men and women are genetically different, both physically and mentally. Sex roles evolved in all mammals. Humans are not exempt.”
- “Men will opt out of monogamy and reproduction if there are no incentives to engage in them.”
- “Past traditions and rituals that evolved alongside humanity served a net benefit to the family unit.”
- “Testosterone is the biological cause for masculinity. Environmental changes that reduce the hormone’s concentration in men will cause them to be weaker and more feminine.”
- “A woman’s value significantly depends on her fertility and beauty. A man’s value significantly depends on his resources, intellect, and character.”
- “Elimination of traditional sex roles and the promotion of unlimited mating choice in women unleashes their promiscuity and other negative behaviors that block family formation.”
- “Socialism, feminism, cultural Marxism, and social justice warriorism aim to destroy the family unit, decrease the fertility rate, and impoverish the state through large welfare entitlements.”
Most HimToo supporters probably disagree with some or all of these ideas.
But, given the misogyny prevalent among so many of the HimTooers, these beliefs are almost certainly more widely held than many of its supporters would publicly admit.
HimToo is Not Concerned With Justice
The real question then is whether the HimToo supporters really believe that the guilty should be punished.
It that was the primary concern, their focus would not be on the accusation. Their focus would be on the investigation. Investigations do not always produce clear outcomes.
Sometimes even the most thorough investigations leave us with nothing more than a “he said, she said” conundrum in which one really cannot say what happened.
But HimToo is not arguing that we need to investigate claims more thoroughly. HimToo wants us to believe that the damage of a false accusation is so severe that victims should remain silent unless they can prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
In other words, the victim should shut up unless the sexually aggressive behavior was so severe or so obvious a conviction is certain. If not, there is no point ruining another life over something that cannot be changed now.
HimToo does not value the lives of the victim and the accused equally. HimToo values the life of the accused more. The supporters of HimToo seem to believe that a person who would go public with a sexual assault accusation is already messed up. They do not want this messy business to ruin the life of another person- guilty or otherwise. HimToo is not about justice. HimToo is about power.
Powerful Men Want Us to Focus on False Accusations
What do Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, Bill O’Reilly, Roy Moore, Kevin Spacey, and Kobe Bryant (and I could keep going) have in common?
- Religion? Nope
- Political beliefs? Nope
- Race? Nope
- Sexual orientation? Nope
- Career field? Nope
- Proven innocent? Nope
The answer, of course, is that they were all powerful men. They got away with it precisely because they were powerful men. Many women believe that they risk much if they challenge powerful men and that they best remain silent.
They finally caught Bill Cosby but only after he victimized a lot of women along the way. Many people believe that Bill Clinton likely got away with a lot worse behavior than whatever he did with Monica Lewinsky.
I am routinely shocked that anyone can believe that Donald Trump is anything other than a misogynist. Seriously, which of the men named above can reasonably claim that they do not belong on a list with the others?
MeToo is About Protecting Victims From Abuse; HimToo is About Protecting the Powerful
This is where MeToo and HimToo come into direct conflict. The MeToo Movement believes that the only way to stop abuse is for victims to be able to tell their stories. People who do not abuse others do not have much to fear because they are very unlikely to be harmed by people coming forward.
But, those who are serial abusers have much to fear because MeToo can bring them down. And they are the ones who have the power to silence their accusers.
The point of punishment is to prevent similar behavior in the future. If we punish false accusers, people will be less likely to make false accusations. If we punish serial sexual abusers, people will be less likely to become serial abusers.
These outcomes are good. But, to achieve them, we should discuss allegations publicly, especially if those involved are in positions of power.
Lighting Strikes Are Bad But I Am More Concerned About Cancer
Yes, some people falsely accuse others of rape. This is not fair. I would like to see the false accusers punished. But, it is far more important to stop men in power from believing that they can routinely abuse those over whom they have power without facing consequences.
Lightning strikes people dead; women make false accusations of sexual assault.
People get cancer; men sexually assault women.
The odds that you know someone in the first two categories is about the same and are very slim. The odds that you know someone in the second set of categories are also about the same but much higher.
If you want to compare HimToo with MeToo, you should probably be as concerned about lightning strikes as you are about cancer. Maybe you really think we should be as concerned about lightning strikes as cancer. If so, I strongly encourage you to raise the point at your next holiday get-together.
Say something like, “I’m sick of all these whiny cancer victims. What about the poor victims of lightning strikes?” But, maybe you don’t want to reach that level of idiot. That’s probably a wise choice. But, if you can see that, you should probably also check your HimTooism at the door.
Let’s hope we can find a way to stop lightning from striking people dead. But, I would much prefer that we find a way to stop people from getting cancer. That’s not being political. That is adopting a measured reaction to the real world. Isaac Newton would approve.