Another potential rapist

Gregory P. Kane

May 26, 1993|By Gregory P. Kane

NOTICE: Gregory P. Kane may be a potential rapist.

Having subjected myself to the same bit of calumny that some male students at the University of Maryland College Park were subjected to recently, I will now give my reaction to the act that calumniated them: A group of women at the university selected their names at random and put them on a list along with this notice:

"These Men May Be Potential Rapists."

The act was one of propagandistic genius -- a bold, daring masterstroke not equaled since the days of Samuel Adams.

You may have heard of Samuel Adams -- of the Massachusetts Adamses of Revolutionary War fame. He was known as the "Assassin of Reputations," a nickname that may not fully describe the sheer rascality of the man when it came to whipping up anti-British sentiment through propaganda.

Adams was perhaps the most radical of American revolutionary leaders. With a clear conscience, he stirred up trouble whenever more moderate or conservative elements seemed to be winning the day. His "Journal of Events" contained scurrilous accounts of "atrocities" committed by British soldiers stationed in Boston: ". . . brutally beating small boys; violating the Sabbath with gunfire, carousing and horse racing; and, above all, raping matrons and young girls."

When Adams' creative exaggerations had whipped enough colonists into a frenzy, he either placed or got someone to place notices around Boston, ostensibly signed by British soldiers, announcing their impending "attack" on the citizens of the city. A bilious rabble of blacks, mulattoes and Irishmen -- the underclass of Boston in 1770 -- apparently took Adams' propaganda at face value. We may safely surmise that the phrase "healthy skepticism" had no meaning for this group, since it attacked some British soldiers on March 5, 1770. The soldiers fired on the mob in self-defense. When the smoke cleared, five people lay dead. The "Boston Massacre" was over. Adams used the occasion to demand the withdrawal of British troops from Boston and to elevate Crispus Attucks -- a known thug -- to the status of martyr.

If Sam Adams were alive today and asked whether he had any regrets for the actions he took, I imagine his answer would be, "Hell no! I had a revolution to win. I don't hear anybody today complaining about the results."

Frederick Douglass, the outstanding black American figure of the 19th century, also made copious use of propaganda in his anti-slavery lectures. He wasn't quite as good at it as Samuel Adams, but it wasn't for lack of effort. Douglass deliberately distorted his relationship with his owners, Hugh and Thomas Auld, portraying them as far more harsh and brutal than they actually were. To reveal that the Aulds had at times treated him with kindness, had granted him privileges denied other slaves, had refused to sell him to the deep South and even had saved him from an Eastern Shore lynch mob would not have served the anti-slavery propaganda machine.

Samuel Adams and Frederick Douglass used despicable means -- including slander and libel -- to achieve noble ends. I submit that the women at College Park acted similarly to draw attention to the matter of rape. Men need to be figuratively -- and, in some extreme cases, literally -- grabbed by their handles and led around on this issue, because when it comes to rape, we still don't get it.

Mention rape to most men, and we'll conjure up images of some miscreant skulking about in the bushes or dark alleys. The fact is, most victims know their attackers. The typical rapist is the victim's relative, friend, date or other acquaintance. In fact, I would wager most men are associates -- knowingly or unknowingly -- of at least one rapist. I know I am.

Back in my freshman year of college, I struck up a friendship with a woman who shared my major -- math. We bonded as only suffering math majors can bond. We became close enough that she finally revealed a secret that she hadn't told anyone else -- not even her boyfriend. During her first weekend on campus, a friend I had known since high school had raped her in her room. I haven't viewed men or the subject of rape quite the same since.

So women beware: Gregory P. Kane and all other men are indeed potential rapists.

Gregory P. Kane writes from Baltimore.

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