Patrick Henry College’s Faith & Reason Lecture: Rape, Domestic Violence, and Child Abuse Denialism

[Trigger warning for rape, assault, and sexual harassment denialism]

This past Friday, Stephen Baskerville delivered Patrick Henry College’s annual (and mandatory) Faith & Reason lecture (you can read the full text here). Baskerville has been a professor of government at Patrick Henry College since 2007. Patrick Henry College, as you may remember if you are a regular reader, was founded by Michael Farris (founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association). Farris’ desire was to educate a generation of young people to go into politics, media, entertainment, education, and law to “retake” those public arenas for conservative evangelical Christianity. Queer PHC and Patrol have already covered Baskerville’s lecture; I highly recommend both treatments.

In his lecture, Baskerville argued that the current “war” being waged against Christianity in the United States is an outgrowth of the sexual revolution, and that evangelical Christians are not properly aware of the full extent of this problem. He argued that the “militants” heading up the sexual revolution have created new “gender crimes” designed solely to discriminate against and falsely imprison white males (presumably white male Christians, but to be honest Baskerville seems a whole lot more concerned about white males in general than Christians in particular). Again, you can read the whole thing, but what I want to highlight here is the center of the talk.

Since the inception of their Revolution—and well beneath the media radar screen—militants have been creating a panoply of new crimes and expanded redefinitions of existing crimes—all involving sexual relations. While it is very likely that the Sexual Revolution has also increased incidences of real sex crimes, the new gender crimes are very different: They play on the fear of sex crimes, but they redefine these politically to include not simply acts but heterodox political beliefs. The reality of the witch hunts thus bears no necessary relation to what is suggested by the inflammatory language and jargon:

  • “rape” that includes consensual relations and in most instances is no more than that;
  • domestic “violence” that involves no violence or any physical contact or threat of it;
  • sexual “harassment” that can mean anything from simple flirtation to unauthorized opinions about morality or politics;
  • “child abuse” that is routine parental discipline, or homeschooling, or concocted altogether to win advantage in divorce court;
  • “bullying” that involves criticism of the homosexual agenda or other differences of belief and opinion;
  • “stalking” that is forcibly divorced fathers trying to see their own children;

And much more.

Baskerville starts by claiming that those carrying out the sexual revolution have “redefined” a variety of terms. He then explains how these terms have been redefined—and fails in every count. No one defines rape to include consensual sex. No one defines domestic violence to include neither violence or threat of it. No one defines sexual harassment to mean “simple flirtation” (and I’m a bit up on definitions of sexual harassment, as I recently sat through a sexual harassment seminar for graduate instructors at my university). As for child abuse, I’d like to know how Baskerville defines “routine parental discipline,” because I suspect we disagree on that count. And for bullying and stalking, Baskerville strikes out yet again. No one defines these terms the way he does. He’s creating a strawman that doesn’t exist.

And there’s a reason he’s doing this.

These new gender crimes have been created not despite the new sexual freedom but as the inseparable corollary to it. The new crimes operate in concert with the new freedoms and smoothly combine expanded sexual licensee with diminished civic freedom, and indeed, state repression. This is why Jones can write that “Sexual revolution is a form of political control.”

Baskerville very much wants to argue that sexual freedom goes hand in hand with diminished civic freedom, state repression, and political control. Baskerville’s argument is that sexual freedom leads to men being forcibly divorced (his term), falsely accused, unjustly imprisoned, and leeched dry financially (via child support of course). Sexual freedom, he says, dethrones men and places women and children under the protection of the state, creating a behemoth political operation feeding off of male impotence and the coercive power to dictate every detail of people’s lives. Not surprisingly, this argument isn’t completely new. Much of it is actually a reincarnation of the arguments made by the antifeminists of the early twentieth century, who argued that giving women the vote would dethrone men from their place of authority over women and children and replace them with the state, which would act as women’s guardian and protector. (You can read more about this in Kim Nielson’s Un-American Womanhood.)

What’s most interesting about Baskerville’s formulation is that, delivered at an evangelical Christian college in the early twentieth century, it combined early-twentieth-century antistatist antifeminist arguments with essentially every MRA talking point in the book, creating an odd synthesis between “what did you think would happen” and “bitches be lying” that isn’t completely internally consistent. You see, Baskerville is a rape denialist, a domestic violence denialist, and a child abuse denialist (among others). Baskerville could simply argue that rape, domestic violence, and child abuse are results of the sexual revolution (or of feminism), a common argument in Baskerville’s camp, and to some extent he does. However, he is also arguing that as commonly reported and prosecuted, rape, domestic violence, and child abuse are nearly universally trumped up, false, and mere pretexts for divorcing, prosecuting, and imprisoning innocent men. And the enemy here, of course, are those evil, deductive, temptresses—women.

How does this happen? Baskerville explains:

The crime usually begins as some new sexual freedom demanded in strident terms as necessary to liberate women from some form of “oppression”—though crucially, the new freedom is also enticing to men, especially young men with strong libidos and few responsibilities. This then degenerates into a corollary criminal accusation against (usually) the man who takes the bait by indulging in the newly permitted pleasure.

Baskerville follows this by offering examples. Because this post is lengthy, what I want to do is first quote all of the examples, and then go through quoting each again and responding to it in particular. Feel free to skip to my conclusion after reading Baskerville’s examples if you don’t have the time or interest to read my response to and analysis of each.

  • Recreational sex in the evening turns into accusations of “rape” in the morning, even when it was entirely consensual. (This is especially rampant on college campuses.)
  • Demands for access to workplaces, universities, the military, and other previously male venues (accompanied with equally strident demands to engage there in female-only activities, such as pregnancy or breastfeeding) invite accusations of sexual “harassment” against the men when relations inevitably develop (and often turn sour), regardless of who initiates them.
  • Cohabitation and “no-fault” divorce are demanded to liberate women from “patriarchal” marriage but quickly generate accusations of male abandonment (even when the woman ends the marriage), as well as domestic “violence” and “child abuse,” in order to procure custody of children and the financial awards they bring.
  • The proclaimed right to raise children outside wedlock and without fathers to protect and discipline them soon turns into demands to prosecute adolescents and even children for “bullying” one another and eventually for more serious matters.
  • Defiant declarations that women do not need men for financial support quickly give way to demands to arrest and incarcerate without trial men who do not provide women with adequate income in the form of alimony or child support.
  • Assertions that women do not need men for protection soon produce hysterical outcries for intrusive police powers, innovative punishments, and expanded penal institutions to punish ever-proliferating and loosely-defined forms of “violence against women,” even when no physical contact or threat of it is involved. (Homosexuals are now mimicking this strategy.)
  • The demanded right to engage in homosexual acts and public displays translates almost automatically into the power to arrest or otherwise stop the mouths of preachers, “bullies,” and anyone else who objects or ridicules or offends the “feelings” or “pride” of homosexuals.
  • Demands to legalize prostitution feed hysteria to find and prosecute unnamed “sex traffickers.”
  • (My favorite, given our setting in higher education:) Demands for unisex bathing facilities in university residences lead to . . . —well, any young man lacking the intelligence to detect the trap awaiting him there may not belong in a university in the first place.

The basic thrust of this list is, as I stated, an odd amalgam of “what did you think would happen” and “bitches be lying.” Baskerville’s primary argument seems to be the latter, as he argues that rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and child abuse accusations are not reflections of reality but rather tools women use to control and manipulate men. Of course, Baskerville is wrong on all counts. Rape is real, sexual harassment is real, domestic violence is real, and child abuse is real. Oh, and while we’re at it, all of these things happened before the sexual revolution too, they were just more frequently ignored, justified, or swept under the carpet.

I’d like to point out that Baskerville’s lecture is heavy on “bitches be lying” and light on scripture. At a university as Christiany as Patrick Henry College, this is a bit surprising. It’s as though the Patrick Henry College leadership feels that teaching its students that accusations of rape, domestic violence, and child abuse are probably simply lies made up by conniving temptresses somehow became more important (or more effective) than sticking to the more common tactic of quoting Paul and asserting that women’s role is as nuturers and homemakers, not leaders or breadwinners. Is the Patrick Henry College really more interested in bending the knee to MRA talking points than to the Christian holy book?

Response and Analysis

1. Recreational sex in the evening turns into accusations of “rape” in the morning, even when it was entirely consensual. (This is especially rampant on college campuses.)

One in four college women will be raped or suffer an attempted rape during their time college. False rape claims are rare, and they are stiffly prosecuted (and given that women reporting rape are sometimes intimidated by the authorities into stating that their claims were false, it is likely that false rape claims are even lower than the official statistics). Baskerville is also ignoring the fact that very few rape accusations result in jail time for the accused, and that making a rape accusation is no piece of cake—it can mean going through hell and back. But note that, facts aside, Baskerville is arguing that rape is today a tool women use to control men.

2. Demands for access to workplaces, universities, the military, and other previously male venues (accompanied with equally strident demands to engage there in female-only activities, such as pregnancy or breastfeeding) invite accusations of sexual “harassment” against the men when relations inevitably develop (and often turn sour), regardless of who initiates them.

With this bullet point, Baskerville completely denies the actual reality of sexual harassment. Instead, he says that women make sexual harassment claims when “relations” develop in the workplace, university, or military and then “turn sour.” Never mind that sexual harassment is actually a thing, and that if a man is sexually harassing a woman (whether they previously had any sort of relationship or not) she has the right to demand that it stop. I actually think, though, that Baskerville is combining two arguments here, and isn’t sure which he’s actually going with. On the one hand is sexual harassment denialism—in which sexual harassment does not actually exist and women make sexual harassment accusations in order to control or punish men—and on the other hand is the “what did they think would happen when they asked to join the military” (or university, or workplace) argument.

3. Cohabitation and “no-fault” divorce are demanded to liberate women from “patriarchal” marriage but quickly generate accusations of male abandonment (even when the woman ends the marriage), as well as domestic “violence” and “child abuse,” in order to procure custody of children and the financial awards they bring.

Baskerville is against no-fault divorce, and one phrase he uses a lot in his writings is “forcibly divorced husbands.” He doesn’t like that women can divorce their husbands without their permission. How he cannot realize that being unable to divorce your husband without permission when there is domestic violence or other abuse is a recipe for disaster—or that being forced to be married to someone you don’t want to be married to must be its own kind of hell—is beyond me. Freedom of association only works one way. You can choose to associate with someone, but you can’t force them to associate with you if they don’t want to. Divorce is a part of that. Baskerville himself was “forcibly divorced,” and it sucks that his life hasn’t turned out the way he wanted it to, but he did not have any right to force his ex-wife to stay married to him against her will.

Beyond this, Baskerville’s basic argument appears to be that things like domestic violence and child abuse (note his scare quotes) are generally just made up by vindictive or conniving women. It’s true, sometimes women do make false accusations in divorce court, but judges there are used to having to sort through this sort of he said she said, and it’s not like men are totally innocent here and never make false claim of their own. Baskerville, however, appears to assume that women are lying if they report domestic violence or child abuse. And that’s rather terrifying. What’s bizarre is that Baskerville sees women as horrible conniving beings willing to do anything to get what they want while men are wholly innocent, just, and upstanding. According to Baskerville, women lie and deceive, but men don’t. And that, I suppose, is why Baskerville thinks men should be in charge and be granted authority over the women in their lives.

Finally, as a side note, anyone who thinks women are getting rich off of child support needs to take another look at how much it costs to raise children.

4. The proclaimed right to raise children outside wedlock and without fathers to protect and discipline them soon turns into demands to prosecute adolescents and even children for “bullying” one another and eventually for more serious matters.

I had to read this a couple times to fully understand it and I’m still not sure I have it. I think Baskerville is saying that children become bullies and eventually (presumably) juvenile delinquents because they grow up in homes without fathers “to protect and discipline them.” Presumably in Baskerville’s world there weren’t bullies or delinquents before there was divorce, there are no bullies or delinquents from two-parent households, and fathers are always only a good and protective influence on children. What I’m still trying to figure out is why Baskerville puts bullying in scare quotes. Perhaps it’s because anti-bullying initiatives are equated by people like Baskerville with alleged attempts to criminalize those who believe that “homosexuality” is a sin?

Now it indeed is true that children growing up in single-parent households are more likely to be labeled delinquents than children growing up in dual-parent households. The thing is, in order to study the impact of divorce itself on the likelihood that children will be labeled delinquents we would need to compare children growing up in single-parent households with children growing up in dual-parent households that would have divorced but were legally prevented from doing so. But we have no way of doing that. When we compare the outcomes for children from divorced households with the outcomes for children from non-divorced households (or the outcomes for children in single-parent households with the outcomes for children in dual-parent households), we are comparing apples and oranges. And we’re not controlling for variables, because things like family income also affect the likelihood of children being labeled delinquents, and family income has nothing to do with fathers being able to “protect or discipline” their children.

And as yet another side note, this kind of rhetoric may contribute to the abortion rate, as unmarried or single pregnant women are well aware that if they carry their pregnancies to term they will face decades of the sort of blaming and shaming people like Baskerville regularly throw at single and unmarried mothers.

5. Defiant declarations that women do not need men for financial support quickly give way to demands to arrest and incarcerate without trial men who do not provide women with adequate income in the form of alimony or child support.

Baskerville misses the entire point of child support. Whether you are a mother or a father, raising a child on your own is expensive, and it only makes sense to ask the other parent to chip in. It’s not about gender. It’s about valuing children. (And again, anyone who thinks women are getting rich off of child support needs to take a look at what it costs to raise children.) And alimony? Alimony stems from the idea that if a wife was a homemaker, she was contributing to the family and to her husband’s career (and we know this is true, because men whose wives are homemakers have the highest earning potential), and that she was sacrificing her own earning potential to do so. (And for the record, women can pay alimony too.)

6. Assertions that women do not need men for protection soon produce hysterical outcries for intrusive police powers, innovative punishments, and expanded penal institutions to punish ever-proliferating and loosely-defined forms of “violence against women,” even when no physical contact or threat of it is involved. (Homosexuals are now mimicking this strategy.)

Once again I do not think Baskerville is sure what he is arguing. Is he saying that women need men for protection, and that when they’re not under the protectorship of a man (whether father or husband), they naturally find themselves threatened and endangered at the hands of men in general? Or is he saying that women today are falsely claiming that the are in danger and demanding expanded police presence while their claims of violence against women (again, note the scare quotes) are totally trumped up and involve neither actual violence nor the threat of it? To be honest, I don’t think he can say both and maintain any sort of internal consistency.

Whichever it is, what Baskerville is doing here is disgusting. If men were such beasts that they couldn’t help but be violent against women, and if women’s only alternative was throwing themselves at the mercy of a male “protector,” I would proudly don the “man-hating” feminist label. If, on the other hand, Baskerville’s argument is that men are perfect saints who don’t lift a finger to harm women and that any woman who so much as asks for a restraining order should be assumed to be lying . . . I just don’t even.

7. The demanded right to engage in homosexual acts and public displays translates almost automatically into the power to arrest or otherwise stop the mouths of preachers, “bullies,” and anyone else who objects or ridicules or offends the “feelings” or “pride” of homosexuals.

No one has jailed a preacher for teaching that homosexuality is sin. Can we pop that little myth now? In fact, I have yet to hear anyone say that preachers shouldn’t be able to say that homosexuality is sin (just as, believe it or not, they are still allowed to say that interracial marriage is a sin). And as for bullying (note Baskerville’s scare quotes), when LGBTQ teens stop committing suicide as a result of anti-gay or anti-trans bullying (or being murdered for their sexual or gender identities), I’ll reconsider Baskerville’s suggestion that LGBTQ rights activists are all worked up about people hurting their “feelings.” Until then, not happening.

8. Demands to legalize prostitution feed hysteria to find and prosecute unnamed “sex traffickers.”

I . . . what? I get the feeling that Baskerville is talking about things he knows very little about here. First, sex traffickers are real. No scare quotes needed. Second, the reason many activists working against sex trafficking want prostitution legalized (and not all do) is that legalizing prostitution would help protect women who are trafficked (as it is, they are generally punished as criminals rather than given aid as victims) and help prosecute those who traffic in women (as their victims could report them without fear of being jailed themselves). Is Baskerville arguing that a feminist defense of prostitution (again, he’s unaware that there is serious disagreement among feminists on this score) has led to sex trafficking? I’m not sure, but if so he’s very, very wrong (not to mention extremely ahistorical).

9. (My favorite, given our setting in higher education:) Demands for unisex bathing facilities in university residences lead to . . . —well, any young man lacking the intelligence to detect the trap awaiting him there may not belong in a university in the first place.

Interestingly enough, one reason most feminists do not (to my knowledge) support a move toward unisex bathrooms is the fear of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Once again, Baskerville is flipping this around. In Baskerville’s world, it is men who should live in fear of rape (or rather, false rape accusations), not women. Women are conniving and deceitful; men are innocent and upstanding. (As a side note, the discussion of unisex bathrooms generally has to do with how to best accommodate transgendered individuals, who may not be allowed to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity, or may choose not to use them out of fear of harassment or worse.)

Concluding Thoughts

Baskerville follows his list of examples with this paragraph:

Radical ideology has thus transformed our government into a matriarchal leviathan that operates like a massive, bureaucratic version of . . . Potiphar’s wife. We have not eliminated a “gender stereotype,” as we were promised; we have merely politicized it—in this case that of the temptress, the seductress who lures men into a “honeytrap” by offers of pleasure before springing a trap that today can mean decades in prison.

And there it is. Baskerville views women as “temptresses” and “seductresses” who “lure” men with the offer of “pleasure” and then “trap” them with a decades-long prison sentence. What a sad and twisted little world Baskerville lives in.

The extent to which Baskerville has taken the whole lot of MRA talking points and folded them into his evangelical political conservatism is at once impressive and sickening. The fact that he’s doing this at Patrick Henry College, and that Patrick Henry College endorsed his lecture, is also saddening to me. Yes, I know, Patrick Henry College is often laughed at as that crazy little conservative evangelical homeschool college, but I considered attending there. Further, it’s one thing to hear the typical and familiar antifeminist arguments the Patrick Henry types make—that God has called men to lead and women to submit, etc., etc.—and it’s another thing entirely to hear the Patrick Henry types trading in full-scale rape, domestic violence, and child abuse denialism (things I wasn’t generally exposed to growing up). It somehow feels much more insidious and dangerous—but maybe it’s just the blunt honestly slipping through the whitewashed exterior. Whatever it is, it’s not pretty.

I want to draw attention to what Baskerville does here: He takes sexual freedom and argues that it actually means statist tyranny. What the words mean matter, and Baskerville knows it. He is is faced with a generation of young people that is increasingly shrugging their shoulders at things like gay marriage, a generation of young people that finds anti-sodomy laws incomprehensible and at odds with basic American values, a generation of young people that takes no-fault divorce for granted, and he has to find some way to convince them that these things are bad things. This year’s Faith & Reason lecture was an attempt to do just that—and apparently, Baskerville felt that MRA talking points would be more persuasive than scripture references. Which is, I think, the weirdest thing about this whole story.

P.S.—There will be more coming on Baskerville’s child abuse denialism, which is way more detailed and outrageous than what is contained in his Faith & Reason lecture. (According to Baskerville, child protective services is a racket that exists to take children from straight couples and give them to gay couples, who are unable to procreate on their own. Oh yes.) I think is important to understand the extent and nuance of Baskerville’s child abuse denialism given the connections between Patrick Henry College and the Home School Legal Defense Association.

"Terrifying" Josh Duggar Porn Star Allegations Reveal the Depravity of Evangelicals' Sexual Ethic
Can You Believe Premarital Sex Is a Sin without Stigmatizing Unwed Motherhood?
The Battle for the Target Toy Aisle
Josh Duggar Sent to Long-Term Treatment Center
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X