A University of North Dakota study purports to show that one out of every three men would rape if they could get away with it.
As you may surmise, there are quite a few issues with the study.
The first is that the study’s sample was quite small: 73 men from one university (UND) who, for what it’s worth, were given extra credit for participating.
Second, 13 percent — nine men — said flat-out they would actually rape a woman.
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.
Examiner writer Ashe Schow is quite skeptical: “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.”
Further, the margin of error in the study is quite significant.
Using the 73 person figure,
… the margin of error rises to 11.44 percent for a typical North Dakota university and 11.47 percent for all U.S. male college students. A margin of error that size means that Edwards’ finding that 31.7 percent of respondents (23 guys) would rape if they could get away with it could actually be closer to 20 percent or 43.17 percent.
This range, according to the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark J. Perry, is “so wide it really can’t be taken seriously.”
Also, as noted, the study begins with the highly questionable statistic “that just won’t … die”: one in five women will be sexually assaulted while in college.
Professor Edwards believes that statistic.
“I think people are more interested in ways to rationalize away results of a study like that because it helps them deal with the emotional impact of hearing such statistics,” Edwards says. “It’s emotionally easier to try to rationalize than take in the results, and really think about what this means for all of these women, at these universities, as well as women all over the U.S., who experience sexual aggression in college.”
See also Katherine Timpf’s piece at NRO.
IMAGE: Nicoel Mitchell Duff/Flickr