Why Women Make False Rape Accusations

And Why They Think Their Accusations Are True

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to men about gender relations lately. I’ve talked to older working men, who are afraid to interact with their female coworkers and accidentally say something that could be construed as harassment. I’ve talked to millennial men on the dating scene, who are increasingly afraid of women they’re with falsely claiming assault. I’ve talked to taken men, who even in mature relationships fear that the tides could turn, and she could come out with a story of rape as an act of revenge.

These fears aren’t entirely unfounded. 2% to 10% of formal rape accusations are found to be unsupported. I personally know men these things have happened to.

As a feminist, I know I’m ‘supposed’ to be on the side of the women in this story. And believe me, I want to be. No victim deserves to be left behind. But the more I talk to these men, the more something about these stories sticks out to me.

I don’t think these women are victims.
I think they consented.

Yes, these women have had negative sexual experiences. Sometimes profoundly negative. But the fact that the sexual experience was negative doesn’t mean it was assault.

What separates a sexual experience from sexual violence is consent.

consent (kuh n-sent)
verb (used without object)
to permit, approve, or agree; comply or yield (often followed by to or an infinitive): He consented to the proposal. We asked her permission, and she consented.

Consent has nothing to do with feelings. People can choose not to consent to experiences that make them feel good, and they can consent to experiences that make them feel bad.

I think some women who claim assault actually consented. Maybe they didn’t want to consent, or they felt pressured to consent, or they regretted consenting, but they did.

There are a lot of reasons a woman might consent to something she doesn’t want to consent to.

  • She feels situational pressure to.
  • She feels like since she’s done one or two sexual acts, she’s obligated to ‘seal the deal.’
  • She feels like she can’t talk to her partner about her concerns.

After consenting for one of these reasons, a person is likely to feel regret. I know I would, and have. I think every woman in America has had a sexual encounter that they consented to for the wrong reasons and ended up regretting afterward, to some degree or another.

But no matter how much you regret it, it is not rape.

I think women who call this rape (or sexual assault) are confusing their negative feelings with lack of consent.

These objections don’t rise to the level of coercion. Just because I feel situational pressure to put out, doesn’t mean I’m being coerced to. That situational pressure may come from my partner, but it may come from my own mind.

Wherever the situational pressure comes from, it’s my responsibility to say “I don’t want this anymore.” If I don’t communicate lack of consent (and in fact, communicate consent by allowing the interaction to continue), then I am not being raped, no matter how unpleasant the interaction.

These women wouldn’t have gone through these negative sexual interactions if they stood up for themselves and clearly communicated what they want (or didn’t want), when they wanted it (or didn’t want it). If they had the courage to say “no,” at the time it was happening, these things wouldn’t have happened to them.

Or, more simply, if these women had said no, these interactions wouldn’t have happened. So they are not assault.

Since this runs counter to the feminist narrative, I’ll lay out what I mean in a little more detail using my two examples from the opening paragraph.

In the case of the female employee being harassed

Lets say her boss does say something that makes her uncomfortable. Instead of standing up to him, she says nothing. Later, she goes to HR and tells her side (and only her side) of the story. HR is, of course, biased in favor of the woman, and files a harassment claim. 

And sure, maybe the boss did say something inappropriate, but it isn’t necessarily because he’s an incurable predator.

  • Maybe he’s socially awkward and didn’t realize he might cause discomfort.
  • Maybe he didn’t pick his words carefully that day.
  • Maybe he thought he was paying her a compliment.

If any of these things are true, she could solve the problem by firmly saying “that comment made me uncomfortable.” They could have a brief discussion about it, and the problem would be solved.

In fact, I’d say she owes her boss this conversation. People are innocent until proven guilty. But by rushing off to HR, she’s presuming guilt without any evidence.

It only rises to the level of harassment if the woman has this discussion two or three times, and has made herself clear to whoever it is, and he unapologetically refuses to stop. That would be guilt, and that would warrant a trip to HR.

In the case of the woman claiming assault

This situation is similar to that of the female employee, but more extreme.

It’s assumed that if you’re out on a date with someone, there’s going to be sexual overtures. Typically it’s incumbent on the man to make the moves. He has to assess how forward the woman wants him to be, often based on nothing more than clothing and body language. Which, as we all know, is murky at the best of times. Given these conditions, it’s really not surprising that some men might overshoot. When a man does overshoot, she could say “hey now,” laugh, and use body language to indicate ‘please take it easy.’ If that ends up not being clear enough, she could be more obvious in her body language, such as scooting back. One time, I even told a man point blank “Please don’t flirt with me.” It was a bit forward, but it got the job done.

Or, perhaps, the date goes well enough that they go back to someone’s place. As things start to heat up a bit, she decides she doesn’t really want this. But clothes are off, and there’s a lot of situational pressure to keep going.

Being in that kind of situation sucks. But that doesn’t change the fact that the man is not a mind-reader. The fact that the woman feels uncomfortable may be evident in her body language… or it may not be. Many women are good at hiding their feelings, especially from strangers. Even if it is obvious she’s hesitant, the man might not be able to read it for some reason, such as autism or other social delays.

If she fails to communicate that she no longer wants this, then technically, she is still consenting. She just wishes she wasn’t. This isn’t a case of sexual assault, just communication breakdown.

Ladies, I know it can be intimidating to communicate lack of consent when a situation has progressed past a certain point. But if you don’t, you are consenting, whether you want to or not.

When the woman communicates she is no longer consenting (“I am uncomfortable with this,” “I’m not into that,”) and he continues to verbally press (“Oh, come on!”), it’s still not assault. He’s being an asshole, but it’s not assault. The woman can and should say “I’m not cool with this, I’m leaving,” and then proceed to do so.

If he doesn’t let her leave, that’s assault.

The common denominator in all of these examples is that the woman experienced an emotion, such as nervousness, reluctance, or fear, and failed to process and communicate it.

  • The woman who made it into the bedroom with a man felt reluctance but didn’t process it. She ended up giving consent to an interaction she ought not have. 

    When she processes her emotions, later on, she will experience regret. That doesn’t make that interaction rape.
  • The woman whose boss harassed her processed her feelings enough to recognize there was a problem but did not act maturely. Instead of communicating about his meaning with her boss, she ran away from her feelings by making HR make the problem go away. 

    This may have solved her issue, but it did so at the expense of his career. Talk about unethical.

My point is that it’s a woman’s responsibility to assess her own emotions and communicate consent, or lack thereof.

Feminists spend a lot of time talking about how women take on the emotional labor of men (typically in committed relationships), but these situations are that dynamic in reverse. Men on dates or in new relationships are expected to take on the emotional labor of women. They’re expected to know what we are thinking, what we are feeling, whether we want them to make a move or not, all based on subtle cues. Further, they’re expected to know, even when we are not sure of what we are thinking ourselves. The burden of understanding and communicating our emotions is shifted off of us to the men who are trying to date us.

In fact, I’d say this is an even more challenging form of emotional labor then what women are asked to do for men. When women do emotional labor for men, it tends to be for men we know reasonably well, making it easier for us to guess at what’s bothering them. But when men are trying to date women, and the women text things like “you should know what’s wrong, you’re a grown man,” they’re leaving it to him to suss out the deep-seated feelings of someone they barely know. Of course they’re going to get it wrong.

Women, it is always our own responsibility to identify our own reluctance and nervousness and use that to identify that we do not want to consent. It is not our partner’s responsibility to suss that out for us. This is not a gendered issue; it’s a human issue. We don’t have to do this for men, and men don’t have to do this for us.

Even if it were the other partner’s responsibility (which it is not), they would inevitably get it wrong. A shift in body language or the usage of certain words means a million different things to a million different people, making it impossible to do this kind of mind-reading.

This isn’t about men being dumber or simpler than women. This is about how nobody, male or female, is capable of reading minds.

So what’s a woman to do?

A woman should just tell the man she’s with what she wants, instead of making him guess at it. Allow me to explain.

I’m a straight-shootin’ sort of gal, and the men I am friends with tend to praise me for not being “confusing like other women.” The man I’m talking to right now praises me for “being logical, not like other women.” Female friends of mine have accused me of being ‘like a man.’ There’s been a pretty consistent theme of being ‘not like the other girls’ across my relationships, romantic or otherwise.

The thing is, I don’t think I am different from other women. I think I’m very much like other women. I think I want the same things any woman wants. The only difference is that I’m slightly on the autism spectrum, so I can’t play the mind-games and body-language dance very well. I fall back on being blunt (awkwardly, painfully so).

My suspicion is that men think I’m ‘not like the other girls’ because, unlike with other girls, they actually understand me. Maybe this is because the average male is at the social level of an autistic girl, but I think it’s because I don’t make them wonder what I’m thinking. I just tell them.

This isn’t to say all women should be as blunt as an autistic girl. But it is to say women shouldn’t make men wonder what they’re thinking. Because, what do you know — when you make the other person wonder what you’re thinking, they don’t know what you’re thinking. You can’t make the other person wonder what you’re thinking, and then get pissed when they don’t know. That’s how stereotypes of women being crazy develop.

If I’m being honest, when men complain that ‘women are crazy,’ my tendency has always been to agree. I’ve never tried to date women before, but I have tried to be friends with them, and they are consistently challenged by an expectation to do mind-reading that almost no males ask of me.

And, let’s be real — it does seem crazy to be coy for three hours over text about what you want, instead of just saying “Hey, I really like you. Let’s see each other again.”

Why women intentionally obfuscate their desires could fill a book of its own. Maybe it’s because our culture has taught women to feel that their worth is inversely related to the number of partners they have (while men’s is positively related). Maybe it’s because women want men to work to understand them, to weed out the ones who aren’t willing to do the work (and to feel special to the ones who do). Maybe it’s because we’re all ashamed of what we really want. Maybe it’s because we don’t know what we really want, and we’re embarrassed to admit that. I really couldn’t say.

But as women, we really need to stop. We need to tell people what we are thinking. If we feel uncomfortable with an interaction, we need to sack up and tell the person we’re interacting with. Not our friends, not the police, not the Human Relations department, them.

Bonus Content: For those of you that know the story Cat Person, from the New Yorker, it is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The woman in that story, Margot, made a series of bad decisions and ended up consenting to a sexual encounter she regretted. However, at no point in that story was Margot raped or assaulted. The fact that Margot felt intense situational pressure to be accommodating at the expense of her emotional health is unfortunate, but that is still not assault. If Margot had been a little more mature, and processed her own reluctance and withdrew consent, that story wouldn’t exist. When I read Cat Person, I don’t read a story about a victim or the #metoo movement. I read a story about an immature woman who needs to learn how to process her own emotions and communicate with her partners.

Edit: This article has gotten a lot of responses from people, men in particular. Even some from the MGTOW or Men’s Rights groups. I’d like to clarify that I think sexism is a real and serious problem in America today. More in this follow up I wrote: