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Emily Yoffe and Campus Rape, Part IV

Emily Yoffe, AKA Dear Prudence over at Slate, is still on the campus sexual assault beat. Her take on the matter has been pretty consistent — the mounting drumbeat warning of serial predators is overblown, and “a moral panic is clouding our ability to rationally assess the problem.” Aside from the Prudie stuff, her big thing used to be lighthearted fluff like the Human Guinea Pig series, or wacky stories about pet hijinks. She almost never used to write for the XX lady section at Slate, and now she’s pretty much joined Hannah Rosin there as resident contrarian. This shift in focus may possibly be somewhat related to the fact that her own daughter, an only child, started her first year at college last fall.

Yoffe the writer and Yoffe the person are definitely no fan of alcohol. Never liked it, doesn’t drink it, can’t really understand why anyone else does. In another era, I’d picture her as an enthusiastic vote for Prohibition. Her first big controvery-courting piece on solving the campus rape problem came complete with mega provocative title — “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk.” Ooooookay. If I was going to oversimplify the viewpoints of either side, I’d say one group says that serial predators, who are sober themselves, are deliberately using alcohol and drugs to incapacitate their multiple victims. Yoffe tends to see two equally drunk kids making noncriminal bad decisions, but a flawed system and the current hysteria turns one into a rapist and the other into a victim for life.

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Her latest entry on the subject is the second of two pieces slamming “The Hunting Ground,” a documentary on campus sexual assault. She really doesn’t like that film, and I’m guessing its makers aren’t too fond of her either by now. As she’s picking apart the facts as presented, she details her attempts to get a comment or a reaction from the director. “He declined to speak with me, but asked for a list of written questions. I sent him my questions by email, and he replied, ‘After careful consideration I respectfully decline.’” Not much of a surprise, since Yoffe’s thesis seems to be that he’s Sabrina Erdely, and his film is a soon-to-be discredited Rolling Stone article.

The idea is that in both cases, they wanted to make the biggest splash possible, so they picked the worst and most shocking story to structure their piece around. Unfortunately, they also abdicated any kind of journalistic responsibility for fact-checking or ever going beyond one person’s word for what happened. Note: after the documentary premiers at Sundance is TOO LATE. I guess everybody’s looking for the perfect victim, so what does it mean when someone puts their detective hat on and says that the victim’s story is “dramatically at odds” with the facts?

I may have started out with an actual point, but with all this background and stuff I’m kind of losing the thread. Maybe three paragraphs is pretty much my GT limit. You’ll probably have to read Yoffe’s whole article (three dang pages!) for a better idea of how this relates to anything. Sorry!

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