Certain feminists were almost gleeful Monday when they discovered a “study” that seemed to confirm their worldview that a large chunk of the male population just want to rape.
The biggest problem with that study is that the researchers surveyed just 86 men (who received extra credit for their participation) at a single university in North Dakota. And the answers of just 73 men were used for analysis because the researchers discounted missing data and one man whose answers confused them (he said he would rape but not use force to obtain intercourse).
This study of a tiny sample (the University of North Dakota, where the study was conducted, has a student population of over 15,000), found that one-third of analyzed participants (23 guys) had “intentions to force a woman to sexual intercourse.”
Thirteen percent of the survey participants (nine guys) actually said flat out that they would rape a woman. People who have been pushing for universities to play court and condemn men based solely on accusations may read that number and believe 13 percent of men want to rape. Even in a world where college men take everything seriously, nine guys does not equal a mass epidemic of would-be rapists. A more sound reading is that nine college boys didn’t take the survey too seriously.
The study is further tainted because it begins with a false premise — the often-repeated but thoroughly debunked statistic that one in five women will be raped during their college years. Researchers also “debriefed” participants after the study by “address[ing] rape myths.” Given the researchers' propensity to believe the one-in-five myth, it’s anyone's guess what sort of “rape myths” they were addressing and whether they were myths or just facts.
The study’s lead researcher, Sarah Edwards, an assistant professor of counseling psychology, told Newsweek that her study shows men would rape if it's not called rape. “The No. 1 point is there are people that will say they would force a woman to have sex but would deny they would rape a woman,” Edwards said.
This lead to pearl-clutching headlines such as Jezebel’s “1 in 3 college men admit they would rape if we don’t call it rape” and Cosmopolitan’s “Study: 1 in 3 men would rape if they wouldn’t get caught or face consequences.”
Cosmo brings up an interesting point, surely unintentionally raising a question that is more ancient than universities themselves and appears in Plato's Republic. How many people would break any law if they knew they could get away with it? How many seemingly just people could you get to say they would steal or even murder if there was no chance of being caught — if they were given a ring that made them invisible?
Which brings up another problem with the study: Saying you would do something bad if there are no consequences is not the same as doing those bad things. How many people say they’d love to tell off their boss but never do?
This is another case study in eye-catching, outrage-inducing headlines with no substance to back them up. The study’s note that this was “only a first exploration of this topic” and that future studies could further prove (or disprove) the findings indicates a possible desire for grant funding.
Edwards did not respond to a Washington Examiner inquiry prior to press time.