Monday, August 9, 2010

And You Want To Be A Senator

Rand Paul's college days at Baylor, according to a female acquaintance:

"He and Randy came to my house, they knocked on my door, and then they blindfolded me, tied me up, and put me in their car. They took me to their apartment and tried to force me to take bong hits. They'd been smoking pot." After the woman refused to smoke with them, Paul and his friend put her back in their car and drove to the countryside outside of Waco, where they stopped near a creek. "They told me their god was 'Aqua Buddha' and that I needed to bow down and worship him," the woman recalls. "They blindfolded me and made me bow down to 'Aqua Buddha' in the creek. I had to say, 'I worship you Aqua Buddha, I worship you.' At Baylor, there were people actively going around trying to save you and we had to go to chapel, so worshiping idols was a big no-no."

Nearly 30 years later, the woman is still trying to make sense of that afternoon. "They never hurt me, they never did anything wrong, but the whole thing was kind of sadistic. They were messing with my mind. It was some kind of joke." She hadn't actually realized that Paul wound up leaving Baylor early. "I just know I never saw Randy after that—for understandable reasons, I think."

This is rape culture in action. Obviously, Paul didn't actually rape anybody. But why the hell do you think blindfolding a girl and tying her up in your car and driving her around town and making her use drugs and worship weird gods will be a fun thing to do? The idea of making a girl do lots of ridiculous things against her will appears the big thrill here. It's not the kind of thing that good people get off on. I really hope women in Kentucky aren't going to vote for this guy.

Also: congratulations to Jason Zengerle for getting this scoop, but why isn't this the headline and the lede graf or whatever journalism people call it? Rand Paul's membership in a secret society that had wacky costumes is perfectly acceptable college hijinks, even if it was forbidden by the Baylor administration. In fact, I was going to give him some points for that, until oh my god you tied up and blindfolded a girl and made her do a bunch of things she didn't want to do. Creep.

23 comments:

Nicholas Beaudrot said...

To some extent, I am still a believer in the Drum Rule -- nothing done before the age of 25 counts against your fitness for public office, unless you're under ... I dunno, 32. There's probably some formula for this.

I also think I buy the bell hooks critique ... describing this as "rape culture" (in the sense of rape as sexual violence) dismisses other forms of violence/misogyny against women. But I think we're just vigorously agreeing.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Was the Drum Rule just for things someone says, or was it for actions too? I could see buying it for words, but deeds require a bit of a different standard. And when I think about the stuff I was doing in college, well, we did some wacky things, but we wouldn't have tolerated somebody who wanted to do this.

Regarding the bell hooks point, at the level of trying to understand what's going on, there's a very definite phenomenon of guys enjoying a woman's unwillingness to have weird things done to her. This needs a name.

Blar said...

I wouldn't be so quick to call it "rape culture" - maybe they did this sort of thing to guys too. Or would that just be homoerotic rape culture?

catjams said...

The conversations about whether he's made amends since, or whether 'everyone else' was doing it, can certainly be had (and have been going on elsewhere, with similar cases, for quite some time) -- but first, I just wanted to drop a note to say how good it is to see a male policy blogger naming rape culture as such when it appears. Policy is meaningless without an understanding of the people on either side of it. Kudos, dude.

Nicholas Beaudrot said...

Well, if you replace the girl in the story with a guy, what's the creep factor at that point? I suppose it depends on what the relationship between Paul and the kidnapee is. It could be some sort of frat-boy-esque prank, or it could just be really creepy.

That said, I think it's clear that if there are nine levels of creepiness, the debate here is whether this is like a 5-6 or a 7-8. It's definitely distinctly creepy.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Well, Rand and his male friend in fact did it to a girl. Moreover, the things that they did with her (blindfolding, tying up and driving her around in a car) have male serial-killer-preying-on-women overtones.

I have to imagine the girl having some pretty strong 'are these guys going to rape me?' fear. Any prank where you're okay with scaring somebody like that gets a special creepy bonus. That's one thing that would be different if they did it to a guy.

The woman discusses how she didn't talk to the boys again, so it seems they weren't close enough that it all could be in good fun.

chris said...

I got kidnapped in college, though it happened to a guy (me) and it was semi-structured not just random. with some light violence thrown in.

If anything, i would say it indicates a culture where rape is not ubiquitous. Because in such a culture, it would be obvious to even sort of stoned social idiots (they did end up libertarians) that what would be an obnoxious prank to a guy, would be rapey if you do it to a girl. Which comes down to talking more about how 'male' and 'female' work for participants playing the other half.

Petey said...

"Well, if you replace the girl in the story with a guy, what's the creep factor at that point? I suppose it depends on what the relationship between Paul and the kidnapee is."

Yup.

Look, I have no interest in giving Rand Paul the benefit of the doubt. Odds are that the incident actually was really creepy in a "perhaps rape culture" kind of way.

But it depends on the relationship between Paul and the kidnapee, whether or not the kidnapee freely consented to the kidnapping at the time, how the kidnapee felt about the events at the time, and how the kidnapee felt about it the next day and a week later.

To toss in an tangential but semi-relevant anecdotal data point, when I was a college frosh, I, along with a couple of accomplices, got a (male) friend in a car on the pretenses that we were going to a local grocery store. The friend had a test the next day he wanted to study for, so he was in a hurry.

We distracted the friend until we were on an interstate, drove him non-stop for two hours, with him protesting the entire way, and took him to a really good coal-fired pizzeria in a somewhat distant city.

The friend was happy as a clam by the end of the evening, and remains a close friend to this day. He recalls the kidnapping with great happiness. So I think of my youthful indiscretion as a bonding experience, not as a creepy kidnapping - even though it literally was a kidnapping.

In short, I'm of the view that youthful stunts are kosher if the stuntees feel good about them, and aren't kosher if not. As the prankster Buddha sez: if you combine compassion with skillful means, you can get away with pretty much anything.

Now, I haven't read the Zengerle piece, but Neil notes:

"The woman discusses how she didn't talk to the boys again, so it seems they weren't close enough that it all could be in good fun."

So that does raise the creepiness level of the Paul incident up the scale quite a bit.

Petey said...

And of course, Robert Gibbs is far creepier than Rand Paul.

As Ben Smith correctly put it:

"Gibbs' dig is a reminder that at the heart of this White House is a belief that Obama is president despite the Democratic Party, not because of it."

Donkeylicious needs to reevaluate its approach toward this administration if it truly wants to be donkeylicious...

Stephen said...

The question of what we would think of this incident if Paul's victim was male is irrelevant. Simply put, the USA does not have a widespread problem with men being raped. Yes, I know that it happens. But it's not the pervasive societal problem that female rape is.

The Slut Defense is still practiced in this country. A 14-yr-old girl in Florida is facing felony child porn charges for sending explicit photos of herself through texts and emails, yet not one of the recipients of these messages is facing any charge at all.

In colleges across the USA young women are viewed as little more than playthings for the guys. This is more of a problem, not less, at a conservative school like Baylor where they use the Bible to justify the attitude.

Petey said...

"Simply put, the USA does not have a widespread problem with men being raped."

2.5 million Americans are currently in prison. That's pretty far off the scale. I mean, we're better about capital punishment than China or Saudi Arabia, but we're not better about incarceration rates. And prison rape is the topic of jokes, not reform.

You're not in prison. Nobody in your social circle is in prison. You likely went to college. But 2.5 million of your fellow Americans, predominantly male, are currently in prison...

Stephen said...

Petey,

Nice to see that you're still true to form.

If ever there is a post about America's dysfunctional prison population, I'll comment on it. You might be surprised that your baseless assumptions about who I am, who I know and what I believe are wrong.

However, your comment is entirely irrelevant to the subject at hand.

Petey said...

"You might be surprised that your baseless assumptions about who I am, who I know and what I believe are wrong."

Well, by clicking through two links, I discovered that my assumption that you went to college was correct. I continue to assume that you are not in prison. And if folks in your social circle are in prison, then I played the overwhelming odds correctly, but still lost on that one. If so, I am in the wrong.

As to what you believe, I have no clue. I have no familiarity with your body of writing. I took issue with one very specific item on which you plainly had either your language or your facts wrong.

Instead of complaining that I don't know you, I aver your better response would've been a simple "touché"...

"Nice to see that you're still true to form."

If that's a compliment, thank you very much.

If it's an insult, don't feed the trolls.

Stephen said...

Fine, Petey, how about this:

1 in 6 US women have been sexually assaulted. Female college students are 4 times more likely than other women to be assaulted. The number for men is 1 in 33.

As for prison rape, a 2007 study by the DOJ found that 4.5% of prisoners were the victims of assault. Compare that to the 16% of women who have been sexually assaulted.

There is a rape culture in this country - all over the world, really - that targets women. Period, full stop. What happens in our prisons is monstrous and evil, but it's a result of a different set of issues.

Petey said...

"As for prison rape, a 2007 study by the DOJ found that 4.5% of prisoners were the victims of assault. Compare that to the 16% of women who have been sexually assaulted."

Well, my first thought was: touché, Stephen. But then I clicked through to your link. Here's the takeaway quote, with my additional bolding:

"4.5 percent of the state and federal prisoners surveyed reported sexual victimization in the past 12 months"

Given what should be obvious, I'd think we could agree that the actual rate is far higher than the reported rate. And given the 12 month time frame of the study, the number obviously goes even higher.

I don't think it's much of a stretch to say it's likely the actual prison rape rate approaches or exceeds the 16% number.

Now, you could counter by noting that there are more free women than imprisoned men. And I'd concur with that.

But none of this changes my original objection. You said:

"Simply put, the USA does not have a widespread problem with men being raped."

I think this is just flatly untrue.

Compared to other economically advanced countries, the USA has a far higher incarceration rate, along with a significantly worse prison system. In other words, the USA really does have a widespread problem with men being raped.

It just happens that prison rape doesn't generally touch the educated class, while the rape culture around women touches all levels of society.

Stephen said...

Given what should be obvious, I'd think we could agree that the actual rate is far higher than the reported rate. And given the 12 month time frame of the study, the number obviously goes even higher.

I don't think it's much of a stretch to say it's likely the actual prison rape rate approaches or exceeds the 16% number.


I was hoping you'd have the sense to avoid this line of argument, since it's commonly understood that sexual assault is an underreported crime. The first link I posted claims that 60% of all sexual assaults are not reported; even if a much higher percentage of prison rapes are not reported, a free woman is far more likely to be sexually assaulted than an imprisoned man.

Since you're being nitpicky, I will be as well. If, for men, the main danger of being raped is strongly correlated to serving time in prison - and it is - then it should be obvious that we do not have a 'widespread' problem of men being raped. Prison rape is a symptom of our dysfunctional prison system, and it, along with other abuses our prisoners suffer, could be greatly reduced by a few straightforward policy changes.

Women, however, are in danger of being sexually assaulted in bars, in their homes, in cars, in parks and on the street. They are in danger from members of their own family, their boyfriends - and exes - and strangers. And the danger exists largely because men are still being taught that women are simply objects that exist for their amusement.

Nothing I'm saying is intended to downplay the problems in our prisons or to suggest that we don't need to make major changes to our entire criminal 'justice' system. Rather, I'm just trying to point out that an orange is not an apple.

Petey said...

"Prison rape is a symptom of our dysfunctional prison system, and it, along with other abuses our prisoners suffer, could be greatly reduced by a few straightforward policy changes."

But it's been that way for forty years, and given that it doesn't touch the educated class, it'll likely be that way for forty more years.

My viewpoint is that you have to either reform the prison system, or you have to dramatically reduce the prison population. Pick one of the two. The status quo is, to quote the motto of our side-thread, a widespread problem.

This country seemed to get along fine for most of its history putting a far lower proportion of its citizens in jail. Other developed countries currently seem to get along fine putting a far lower proportion of their citizens in jail.

When prison populations rise to the absolutely gargantuan size we have, their problems become social problems. Either clean 'em up or scale 'em down. The status quo is form of cruel and unusual punishment on a mass scale. The status quo is a means of social control, (of the educated over the non-educated, of course). The status quo is problematically widespread.

-----

But on the main topic of the thread, given today's developments, I'll just copy 'n' paste myself from above:

"it depends on the relationship between Paul and the kidnapee, whether or not the kidnapee freely consented to the kidnapping at the time, how the kidnapee felt about the events at the time, and how the kidnapee felt about it the next day and a week later."

So today lowers the creepiness level of the Paul incident back down the scale quite a bit. If the KY-McConnells had nominated Trey Greyson, they had a 100% chance of holding the seat. But even with Paul, they've still got an 85% chance. If Bunning could win that seat in '04, then even Paul should be a shoo-in in '10.

Harry Reid's got an outside shot because Angle is an idiot. Paul is wrong on the issues and a scumbag, but he's got a triple digit IQ, and thus should be seen by KY voters as an upgrade on Bunning.

And the funny thing is that Bunning still has a higher IQ than Robert Gibbs.

But I'm sure the bloodbath this November was all worth it. After all, the wise men Josh Marshall and Nate Silver tell us it was all worth it.

Neil Sinhababu said...

Stephen and Petey and a big argument in the comment thread! Reminds me of old times.

Maybe I should get into this... post on John Edwards' favorability numbers or something.

Petey said...

"Maybe I should get into this... post on John Edwards' favorability numbers or something."

I'd settle for a post about Robert Gibbs, noting how the Cossacks work for the Czar, and wondering how Democrats should best function when their Party is led by someone working against the Party's interests.

John Edwards' favorability numbers was the topic of the day in 2007. How Democrats should operate under a Joe Lieberman Presidency is the topic of the day in 2010...

cj said...

Obviously you didn't see where this has been debunked.

Neil Sinhababu said...

It hasn't been, as far as I can tell.

Neil Sinhababu said...

And what's more, Rand Paul's campaign doesn't seem to be denying the substance of what she said. They're just getting mad at the media for reporting it.

Petey said...

"And what's more, Rand Paul's campaign doesn't seem to be denying the substance of what she said."

This is true. But it is also true that she seems to be going out of her way to emphasize that what took place was not against her will.

The story is not debunked. But some of the more extreme conclusions you reached about the story in your original post indeed seem to have been debunked.

All that's left is the story that Rand Paul is a pretty weird guy who may come off as unsavory to some of the KY electorate that would normally vote Republican. And that's not even a new story...