Can We Believe Women Now?

If you’ll recall, last year there was a horrible incident in which Rolling Stone botched a piece about a gang rape at UVA. They issued a retraction after it came out that details in the story were incorrect and that they did not have enough evidence to support the story.

After the retraction, many people felt the need to gloat or simply remind the world that this is why we shouldn’t believe accusations of rape. They come from horrible, lying women who just want to ruin the lives of poor, innocent women. Like so many people in minority groups or oppressed groups, one woman’s (anonymous) (not willing stated) experience was held up as the defining experience of all the people in that group. If we have one example of a woman lying about rape, then most rape accusations are probably lies, amirite?

So given the fact that Bill Cosby recent confessed that he had bought drugs in order to drug women and have sex with them, isn’t it about time that we recognize that all rape accusations are probably true? Shouldn’t we recognize that most men accused of rape are skeevy creepers who will blatantly lie in order to protect their reputations?

Oh wait, that’s not how facts work?

The general response to Cosby’s confession is telling. I have heard crickets from the sides of the internet that were up in arms to defend him, or the folks who were gleefully sharing the retraction from Rolling Stone. The think pieces that questioned the journalistic integrity of Rolling Stone for posting something without doing due diligence seem to be notably invisible in regards to those who spoke up in defense of Bill Cosby.

But there’s no double standard here folks, no cognitive bias. None at all.

Let’s just take a moment to remind ourselves that men don’t have to speak or behave for everyone of their gender. Everyone admits there are some rapists out there, even some rapists who lie or who have prominent positions. And yet we don’t think that all men or all prominent men are lying rapists. But for some reason when one person makes a false rape accusation we think all rape accusations are false.

Think about that.


Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at www.taikonenfea.wordpress.com

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  1. I always hoped that the, unfortunately silent, majority, like myself just assumed that the accusations against Crosby are true. If one woman claims rape, it’s probably rape. To me it’s as simple as that.

  2. Both accusations had initial plausibility. ‘Big show-biz figure uses power and prominence to exploit vulnerable women.’ and ‘Frat-boy assholes use alcohol and drugs to rape very young women.’

    So why the reluctance to deal with each in an evidence-based manner? Obviously Cosby was given outrageously high levels of benefit of doubt because…positive role mode, household name, personal connection with media that should be objective, financial clout etc.

    For UVA, other than the outright pro-rapist crowd, it is Rolling Stone’s unwillingness to let journalistic standards wreck an Important Story that is the real issue. The ongoing horror of frat abuses set the stage for an exemplary story. There is no shortage of legitimate incidents to report. But R.S. let their evidentiary standards go by the wayside.

    So perhaps, the ongoing reporting of ALL the stories, and the comparison and contrast of their nature, is the real Big Story about violence, rape, abuse, booze, and drugs on campuses. The deserved embarrassment of Rolling Stone should not influence or discourage real reporting about the real problem.

    1. Yeah, the problem with a false accusation is, let’s understand, at least some of those boys at UVA had raped girls before or would do so soon. But now it’ll be harder to convince anyone that a rape happened.

      The important story is that privileged men getting away with rape is Something That Happens Frequently, so frequently that we basically accept it. I mean, we all know it happens, but what are you going to do?

  3. I’m not fond of the false dichotomy that tends to come from this topic. Most accusations are true (just as most reports of any crime are true), and some are false. Believing that all accusations are true, or believing all accusations are false will pretty much guarantee that you will be wrong. If someone comes forth with an accusation, recognizing that person is probably a victim should make the moral action clear enough. If one turns out to be lying, that doesn’t change anything for the next time.

    When you have 40 accusations, it is certainly possible that some aren’t true, but you can be certain the person accused 40 times is a rapist. The odds that all 40 accusations are false are mathematically insignificant (ridiculously so). Claiming Bill Cosby is innocent is like claiming that the Moon is made of cheese.

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