Even ‘Faint’ Skepticism of Campus Rape Accusations Is Too Much Objectivity for The New Republic

Blurred LinesI've just obtained my copy of Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus, Vanessa Grigoriadis's new book about sex and sexual assault on university campuses.

The New York Times's Michelle Goldberg gave it a mixed review, but that review came under heavy criticism for misrepresenting Grigoriadis's work. It's difficult, then, to take Goldberg's complaints about the book very seriously.

But Goldberg's review isn't the only that deserves scrutiny. Let me turn your attention to The New Republic's Josephine Livingstone, a culture writer and enemy of appropriation, who writes that sections of the book caused her to "stop trusting" Grigoriadis. Here's a notable passage from Livingstone's review:

Blurred Lines is a meticulously researched book. Ultimately, she treats her subjects who have experienced sexual assault with the respect that real journalistic standards confer: the stories come in their own words. Blurred Lines is probably intended as a book for worried parents and others—like administrative professionals—who are worried by the changing stakes of in loco parentis caretaking of young people today. For this purpose, the book is certainly fit. But for Grigoriadis seems faintly suspicious of anti-rape efforts throughout Blurred Lines—suspicious of the young radicals at Wesleyan, suspicious of some of the cases brought against campus abusers. For this reason, I remained faintly suspicious of her throughout.

Again, I've not yet read the book, so I don't know whether "faintly suspicious of anti-rape efforts" is a fair characterization of Grigoriadis. But let's assume that it is. This is a reason to distrust Grigoriadis? That she was even slightly inclined to question some aspects of the victims' narratives? That basic fairness and journalistic integrity caused her to discover there are two sides to every campus rape accusation?

It's remarkable such a perspective—concerned about student sex norms, convinced campus rape is a true and disturbing phenomenon, but "faintly" suspicious of some of the more outlandish claims—would engender The New Republic's distrust. Does Livingstone deny the existence of false or blurry accusations entirely?

There's much else with which to disagree. Livingstone accused Grigoriadis of scolding young people when the author describes millennial culture as "pornified," but it seems hardly disputable that young people are more inundated with sexually suggestive imagery than previous generations. Whether this is good or bad or a mix of both is another matter, but it's definitely happening.

In any case, if TNR can only give a full-throated endorsement to a book that confirms every single one of its biases relating to the modern left-feminist perspective on sexual assault, I'm hoping Blurred Lines is not such a tome.

I'll have more detailed thoughts after I finish Blurred Lines. In the meantime, watch Nick Gillespie's recent interview with Grigoriadis for Reason TV.