In a recent article at Inside Higher Ed, Penn anthropologist Peggy Reeves Sanday announced that she was going to place the “Duke case in perspective.” What “perspective,” precisely? “The eye-witness accounts of campus gang rape I present in Fraternity Gang Rape.”
But first, she had a couple of questions she would be “leaving aside”:
(1) “whether a sexual assault took place at the party”;
(2) “whether the district attorney botched the investigation.”
This approach harkens back to Wahneema Lubiano’s April remarks that the Group of 88’s crusade would continue “regardless of the ‘truth’ established in whatever period of time about the incident at the house on
Sanday’s column could be confused with a parody of extreme political correctness:
- She spends almost two paragraphs on the McFadyen e-mail without ever mentioning it was a take-off from American Psycho. (Are the professors who assigned the book contributors to Duke’s “culture of crassness,” as well?)
- She says the players “didn’t give a moment’s thought to hiring two minority ‘exotic dancers’ to perform for them” without ever mentioning that the players didn’t, in fact, request “minority” dancers. (And was she present when the issue was discussed at the party, to know whether or not they gave a “moment’s thought” to the issue?)
- She writes that while she was “not surprised” that “the rape charges were dropped in the Duke case in light of the absence of DNA evidence,” it “is noteworthy that the sexual offense and kidnapping counts have not yet been dropped.” (“Noteworthy” in what way—as an example of prosecutorial misconduct?)
- She contends that “according to the dancer who did not take the drink the accuser was sober when she arrived at the house,” and “it was when they began their strip show that she ‘began having trouble.’” (Has Sanday decided to “leave aside” the accuser’s own admission of taking Flexeril with alcohol, or that Kim Roberts gave a much different account to Ed Bradley?)
- She concludes with fulsome praise for the “honesty” and “moral leadership” in the Campus Culture Initiative report.
Indeed, apart from the CCI’s report, nothing in Sanday’s column suggests that she has read anything about the case since late April. But she still pronounced herself qualified to put events “in perspective.”
Sanday’s name might sound familiar to those who have followed the case closely: her Fraternity Gang Rape, which “updates the incidences of fraternity gang rape on college campuses today, highlighting such recent cases as that of Duke University,” is required reading in Anne Allison’s springtime class, “Hook-up Culture at Duke,” a/k/a “Group of 88 for Credit.”
The arguments in Sanday’s book raise troubling questions as to Allison’s motive for assigning it. “Enough is known of the context surrounding the alleged gang rape,” Sanday writes, “to suggest that the activity is similar to what I describe in these pages.” Keep in mind that in every other case she describes, she alleges that a gang rape definitely occurred.
“However pathological the [players’] behavior might be,” Sanday adds, “it is necessary to understand its roots before effective change is possible.” And what are those roots? In the lacrosse case, like the other episodes she studies, “the event operates to glue the male group as a unified entity; it establishes fraternal bonding and helps boys to make the transition to their vision of a powerful manhood — in unity against women; one against the world. The patriarchal bonding functions a little like bonding in organized crime circles — generating a sense of family and establishing mutual aid connections that will last a lifetime.”
A brief search through webshots.com, a photo hosting service, shows that “spring break party” reveals 285,845 photos; “spring break drunk” reveals 60,341 pictures; “spring break beer” brings up 39,483 snapshots; and the number for “spring break naked” is more than 6,500. Youtube reveals thousands of videos of sexually tasteless activities over spring break. Is Sanday suggesting that each of these incidents resembles “bonding in organized crime circles”?
The lacrosse case, Sanday concludes, is clear-cut. “The debate shows a split between those who continue to blame the victim and those who are more likely to hold institutions and individuals responsible.” In other words, anyone who has concluded that the only crimes that occurred in this instance were committed by Mike Nifong is guilty of “continuing to blame the victim.” Evidence, it appears, carries no weight for Sanday.
And this is the book selected by CCI gender subgroup co-chair Anne Allison for her spring term class, where she has assigned her students to function as de facto snitches, to observe and report back on other Duke students, especially sports teams or fraternities, “in terms of the themes covered so far in class: gender, race, heteronormativity, power, everyday culture, image and prestige of Duke. Consider the role of alcohol in these cultures.” As Sanday makes clear, the facts are irrelevant in such a quest.