A final exam question for a gender communications course at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs is sparking controversy. According to a picture of the exam, a professor asked students the following multiple choice question:
All of the following are rape myths EXCEPT:
A. Women fantasize about being raped
B. Rape isn’t a big deal; it’s only sex
C. Rape in [sic] never interracial
D. Men just can’t help themselves
KOAA News 5 in Colorado reported that students were unsure how to respond to the question.
“All of them seem to be myths, none of them seem to be factual or anything that the book said was even a generalization because a lot of times when you talk about gender and communication there are generalizations that you have to make, but none of these seem to be valid ones,” Austin Lacost, who was in the class, told KOAA News 5.
“I've actually reached out to the professor and sent her an email as well just telling her that I wasn't quite sure what to do in this situation and at the time I gave her the answer I thought she was wanted just because I wanted to get a good grade on the final.”
The concern over this particular content first appeared on social media.
A university spokesperson indicated the school is reviewing the incident, saying in a statement:
“The University of Colorado Colorado Springs is aware of recent concerns involving a course titled Male/Female Communication.
Appropriate personnel are looking into the concerns and related issues.
We encourage any student who has concerns about a course or its content to first contact the faculty member leading the course. He or she may also speak with the chair of the academic department.
UCCS is committed to resolving concerns in a timely manner.”
The question seems geared toward option A being the correct answer since one can only surmise that options B, C, and D are definitely incorrect. Psychology Today reported in 2015 that recent studies show approximately 90 percent of women have sexual fantasies, but the numbers are far lower regarding rape scenarios and the question is subjective.
Still, in context of a college-level exam, what is the purpose of quizzing students to consider that some women might fantasize about being raped? Even if this were true for some women, according to studies, what does that prove?
If the point here is to teach (or even suggest) that a woman who fantasizes about being raped is somehow expressing a wish to, in fact, be raped, this is a self-defeating argument. Rape by definition is not consenting to sex or sexual acts.
Rape is also horrible in any context, and the Psychology Today report actually goes on to indicate that the theory that women want to be coerced into sex has been “thoroughly debunked.” So, perhaps there isn’t actually a correct answer to this professor’s exam question after all, and students from the class reportedly seemed unsure as well.
College students may think that going to a “secular” or government-funded university means that the lectures will be fact-based and content-neutral, but every person (including professors) have a paradigm and worldview.
Academic freedom does grant professors wide latitude for expression and teaching even controversial ideas, though the law in this and almost any area is of course nuanced. At publishing time, there is no indication that any action has been taken against the teacher. However, government or even employer action is not the only solution. Students always have options on what courses to take and what colleges to attend, and it is wise to be discerning about what viewpoints are being taught.
Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisorg) is a constitutional law and criminal defense attorney, a law professor at Colorado Christian University, where she directs the legal-studies program, a fellow at the Centennial Institute, and the author of The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution.