The news: Caroline Kitchens, a senior research associate at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, thinks that women need to chill out and worry a little less about being roofied. Why? It's because feminists are just using fear-mongering to advance their "rape culture hysteria."
In this bizarre video uploaded Monday, Kitchens, who bills herself as a "factual feminist," argues in an uncomfortable deadpan that confirmed cases of drug-assisted rapes are quite rare.
"Calling date-rape drugs 'a myth' might not be quite right," Kitchens says, using animation reminiscent of Taiwan's infamous NMA parody group to make her case. "I mean, these drugs do exist and there are some cases in which women are drugged and sexually assaulted ... But a reality check is in order. Our fear of being drugged and sexually assaulted by a predatory stranger in a bar is not grounded in reality."
No, the real problem is all those drunk women who endure sexual assault at college fraternities.
"Most commonly, victims of drug-facilitated sexual assault are severely intoxicated, often from their own volition," Kitchens continues. "Paranoia over the date-rape drug causes us to misplace our anxieties. And feminists should be concerned that women are modifying their behavior on their girls' nights out in order to protect themselves from some vague unprobable [sic] threat. So why are we all so scared of roofies?"
She concludes that America's "cultural fear of date-rape drugs" is a modern form of "stranger danger."
The background: As Salon's Jenny Kutner admits, the odds of being successfully roofied are indeed pretty "slim." Research into drug-facilitated assault has indicated that parents do overplay the threat of being roofied as a way to avoid honest discussion about alcohol and sex with their kids.
But being roofied is not, as Kitchens says, something approaching a "myth." A recent CDC study estimated that of the nearly 22 million adult American women who have experienced rape, between 9 and 10 million of those cases were alcohol- or drug-facilitated rape.
Even the U.N. warns that use of drugs like Rohypnol and GHB to commit sexual assault is increasing internationally. And besides, the Center for Family Justice notes that even without actual "roofies," alcohol is the date-rape drug of choice, present in 90% of campus sexual assault cases.
The problem is actually one of reporting. Victim Rights Law Center senior legal counsel Colby Bruno told the Huffington Post that "because these drugs are engineered specifically to be out of a person's system within a matter of hours after ingestion, we don't really know how prevalent they are. Some victims report experiencing a blackout like they have never experienced before, but by the time they regain consciousness and go to the hospital, there is no trace of the drug in their system."
While the actual number of drug-related rapes is unknown, it's certainly common enough for women to be concerned. But instead of discussing the potential dangers that women face, Kitchens decides to take women to task for getting too drunk and exposing themselves to danger. Students Active for Ending Rape representative Tracey Vitchers further accused Kitchens of downplaying "the role of assailants at the expense of survivors by implying that if only young women would learn to not drink alcohol, that somehow the problem of college sexual assault would go away."
"However, young women drinking alcohol at college parties are not the problem," Vitchers said. "Perpetrators of campus rape and sexual assault are."
Why you should care: Jezebel's Anna Merlan sums up the problem nicely: "It's the same vicious old argument, in other words — don't get too drunk, girls, if you don't want to wind up raped! — buried under a new, laughably thin layer of purported 'feminism.'"
Indeed, Kitchens is at the forefront of AEI's attempts to co-opt feminism and the anti-rape movement with traditional conservative talking points. AEI's Christina Hoff Sommers called rape culture a "panic where paranoia, censorship and false accusations flourish," saying "conspiracy feminists" have "persuaded many young women that what they might have dismissed as a foolish drunken hookup was actually a felony rape." False accusations are, in fact, not common at all.
Kitchens herself wrote that efforts to fight against cultural norms that encourage rape "implicate all men in a social atrocity, trivialize the experiences of survivors and deflect blame from the rapists truly responsible for sexual violence." She thinks the bigger threat to rape survivors is the "thought police of the feminist blogosphere."
Kitchens isn't a "factual" feminist, she's a traditional social conservative who frets about the war on masculinity in schools, how modern feminist encourages "Maoist hazing" and Americans' "terrifying" views on the role of government. But with a snappy title and a brand of feminism that has little in common with what most feminists actually believe, Kitchens will probably have lots of success trying to deliberately sabotage the Left's fight against campus rape.