Rethinking Lisak & Miller – Checking the Math

Over the last month or so, I have received a lot of criticisms in personal messages and emails regarding the piece I published on the groundbreaking Lisak & Miller 2002 study.  In particular, many of the criticisms relate to the math done by Thomas MacAulay Millar in his piece, “Good Men Project’s Rape Faceplant, Predators and the Social License to Operate.”  Rather than continuing to respond individually to this concern, I figured it would make sense to post my response here as a quick blog post to further the discussion.

In his piece, Millar attempts to extrapolate the results of Lisak & Miller’s research to a larger population:

Let’s use Lisak & Miller’s numbers, with a population of a million men and a million women.  If 2% of the men are single-offense rapists meeting Lisak’s definition, and a further 4% are repeaters with an average of 5.8 victims, that implies that 20,000 of the men are single-offenders with 20,000 victims, and the 40,000 repeat offenders have 232,000 victims.  To oversimplify and assume that no women rape, no men are victims, everyone is either a man or a woman and there are no repeat victims, we then have 252,000 victims, or about a quarter of the population of women.  If we believe the various victim-report data, that’s about what we would expect.  So, while Lisak & Miller’s questions certainly will not capture every rape, they do capture the vast majority — they have to, unless she’s postulating a victimization rate much higher than the victim report data account for. If she’s saying that maybe half of all women are raped … well, you can say that, but where is the data to back that up?

If the reality of sexual violence were as simple as Millar’s “oversimplifications,” then his math would be spot on: The offenses committed by the men in Lisak & Miller’s study would account for 25% of women experiencing sexual violence, which reflects the common estimates of victimization rates.  Unfortunately, the reality of sexual violence is not so simple.

What does it look like to ACTUALLY stop rapists? First, we have to understand who the rapists are, and Lisak & Miller fall short.

What does it look like to ACTUALLY stop rapists? First, we have to understand who the rapists are, and Lisak & Miller fall short.

Millar’s oversimplifications are incredibly problematic if we are trying to understand the true nature of sexual violence.  To say that “no women rape” and that “no men are victims” ignores a few important realities: sexual violence happens in 14% of Lesbian relationships and 13% of Gay relationships, and approximately 8% of all men are raped by a former partner (both male and female).  Further, to simplify the gender spectrum by saying that “everyone is either a man or a woman” further hides the reality that as many as 50% of Transgender people , many of whom do not fit into the simple categories of “man” and “woman,” experience sexual violence.

Perhaps the most egregious oversimplification in its impact on estimates of sexual violence, though, is when he says “there are no repeat victims.”  In a review of the research on the subject, Classen, et al, found that two thirds of those who are victims of sexual violence will experience sexual violence more than once.  This is not one isolated study.  This is a review of the research, and TWO THIRDS of survivors are likely to experience sexual violence more than once!

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Racism, Appropriation, and The Harlem Shake

If you aren’t familiar with the Harlem Shake craze that is sweeping the internet, you may have been under a rock for the past week or two.

I’ll let Know Your Meme explain it to you:

Harlem Shake

“Harlem Shake”, not to be confused with the hip hop dance style, is the title of a 2012 heavy bass instrumental track produced by Baauer. In February 2013, the song spawned a series of dance videos that begin with a masked individual dancing alone in a group before suddenly cutting to a wild dance party featuring the entire group.

It all started with this video:

Now there are countless takes on the meme:

The strange thing about this meme is that not a single person in any of the videos seems to actually be doing the Harlem Shake:

And while it all seems like just a bunch of bizarre fun, not everyone feels that way.

The REAL Harlem Shake

Though you wouldn’t know it from the meme, the actual dance known as the Harlem Shake is not where one shakes around as if she or he is having a seizure while humping things and wearing a silly costume.  It is part of the rich tradition of dance and the arts in Harlem.  Dating back to 1981 and drawing upon an Ethiopian dance called the Eskista, the Harlem Shake has long been a staple of hip hop dance in this predominantly African American section of New York.

And some of the folks in Harlem aren’t too happy about the meme:

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Patriarchy vs Love: Time for Men to RISE

This week’s post comes from a dear friend.

Dan Mahle at the 1 Billion Rising event in Seattle, WA

Dan Mahle at the 1 Billion Rising event in Seattle, WA

Dan Mahle is a program coordinator, facilitator, and community builder living in Seattle, WA. He received his B.A. in Peace and Global Studies from Earlham College in 2008. He has been involved in a variety of non-profit organizations since then, including several youth programs that he helped to launch. His personal mission is to support people in uniting across lines of difference to identify common values & goals, build culture & community resilience, and share powerful stories through creative expression. When he’s not working, he can be found running, hiking, writing music, and eating tasty bowls of cereal late at night.

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One Conversation: A Call to Men

One Billion RisingI had an incredible conversation with a complete stranger today. He was an older guy who happened to stop by the 1 Billion Rising local event that took place in downtown Seattle. As I was walking toward the small crowd of mostly women who were holding signs and dancing, he stopped me with a loud, “Hey, what is this ‘1 Billion Rising’ thing?”

When I told him that it was a global movement to end violence against women, launched by Vagina Monologues playwright, Eve Ensler, his voice softened and his eyes darted away.

He started telling me about how violence had affected so many of the women in his life. He began tearing up as he shared that most of the women he loves have been victims of sexual assault and/or abuse. He recalled spending 15 years with his ex-wife who, despite endless medications, could not overcome the depression she felt ever since the day she was sexually assaulted. I could see the hurt and sadness in his face as he told me that he couldn’t find any way to help her. His mother, he said, had also been a survivor.

Suddenly staring firmly at me, he said, “Women shouldn’t be treated this way. They are the life-givers; we owe everything to them.” He was visibly shaken.

I looked back at him and asked, “So what can we, as men, do to begin to transform this culture of violence against women?”

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Why Saying “Men Are Slaves To Their Sex Drive” Is Insulting To Men

Everyday FeminismThis week’s Change From Within post comes via Everyday Feminism:

I love my friend Nathan, but we disagree about pretty much everything.  Whether about economics or politics, religion or vegetarianism, we argue.

It’s a part of our friendship, and it’s (almost) always respectful and ends with a hug.  I love that we can disagree so much and still laugh and enjoy one another’s company.

But sometimes it gets pretty heated, like when we talk about the nature of men and women.

We fundamentally disagree about the role of biology versus socialization, nature versus nurture, in influencing the ways that men and women tend to act.

In one of the chapters from his “blogsperience,” Confessions of a Diarrhetic: Lessons of Love, Life, and the Ocean, he puts it this way:

“Women are better at commitment than men. This is because each of the sexes has a different job when it comes to the genetic imperative. Men are wired to spread their seed. We want to grow as strong and wealthy as possible so that we can have a large harem and the tribe will survive . . . So [today] men cheat. I’m not excusing it; I’m explaining it. We want to spread our seed as often as we can. This is one of the many reasons men are so drawn to pornography, you can have a new girl every time you fire up your computer!”  (Even if you disagree with him, consider giving Nathan’s “blogspierence” a read or listen. It’s definitely a captivating story).

He goes on to explain that this is why straight men and straight women can never truly be friends.

The guy is always trying to sleep with the girl while the girl thinks it’s just a friendship.  And he’s not the only dude to make this argument:

And you know what?  These guys are absolutely right.

So long as we continue to live by and construct our relationships around oppressive, patriarchal understandings of sex and gender, straight men and straight women cannot be friends, and for that matter, gay men can’t be friends with any other men. 

If men believe that they have no control over their “biological imperative” to “spread their seed,” then every friendship with a potential “mate” will be defined by a constant game where the man is endlessly jockeying for position to sleep with his “friend.”

The problem with this line of thinking, though, is that it presumes that men are not, in fact, human.

After all, whether you believe it’s divine endowment or an evolutionary outcome, pretty much every human being is capable of rational thought and will power.

This separates us from the “natural world” because, in essence, we have the ability to rationalize our way beyond simple biological urges and will ourselves to act differently.

True, there are probably lots of ways that gender norms are influenced by our hormone levels or our evolutionary biology.

But to say that we are simply slaves to these fundamental drives is to say that our power of cognition is no more powerful than, say, that of my friend’s dog who humps everything.

I find this line whole “men are slaves to their sexual desire” bit to be an insulting trope.  And the men who are reading this should too!

After all, if we as straight men are incapable of being true, genuine friends with women, it simply reinforces some pathetic stereotypes about men.

Sexual Attraction Is Nuanced

Read the rest at Everyday Feminism…