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“On Date Rape” by Camille Paglia: Fallacy Analysis Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Aug 15th, 2021

Introduction

Camille Paglia strikes a touchy topic in the article “On date rape” in a typical aggressive manner she is famous for. One feels while going through it that all date-rape victims have become muted, all discussions in the world on date-rape have been wrapped up and all judgments have been passed by one person who can “read the signals”. One tends to partially agree with Camille’s central argument that girls bear personal responsibility while on the date. But the supporting arguments render an impression of an over-assertive style. The logic seems to slip up at several occasions in the article giving a sense of error in reasoning; or fallacy.

The main concepts in this article

As mentioned, an overwhelming sense of one-way argumentative traffic prevails throughout the article. No counterarguments, no words from the defensive side, and no debate, a mere judgment. The over-aggressive attitude of the author does not encourage any critical thinking.

It says: you are right if on my side and wrong on the other. Such a dictatorial position is said to be “poisoning the well”. More generally this is defined as when writer or speaker makes an assertion that will intimidate the audience and therefore discourages an open discussion (Cooper and Patton 155). Although the whole article tries to pass over any open discussion, one strictly feels being on a defenseless trial on at least two occasions. A reader first senses such notion when the author says, “So it is women’s personal responsibility to be aware of the dangers of the world.

But these young feminists today are deluded”. This sentence, particularly the word‘ deluded’, wraps up everything as if there is nothing to left for debate. This is the easiest, but most erroneous way to handle a discussion by just assuming that the other person is misled. In this article, however, this is not evident that the writer is trying to elude a discussion; rather it seems she is striving to prove her argument right anyway but ends up weakening it.

Secondly, when the author says about male sex, “The idea that we can regulate it bypassing campus grievance committee rules is madness”, she again exploits a harsh word, discouraging a decent willing counterargument. Campus grievance committee rules are not devised by a single person. Such committees and their efficacy may be debatable, but one cannot pass a judgment like that in one sentence, flattening the validity of the whole concept.

The second most pervasive error reader finds in the article is a distortion of “white, middle-class world” women’s position. The author has somehow taken the least arguable stance of the common woman whose position she is so aggressively attacking. Such self-creation and distortion of other’s positions are called the “straw man” argument; a type of fallacy. This occurs when, according to the general definition, the writer or speaker creates and then attacks a distorted version of the opposition’s argument (Cooper and Patton 156).

The reader first comes across such an attack in the third paragraph where she says, “They come from a protected, white, middle-class world, and they expect everything to be safe”. Now not all women possibly expect everything to be safe in men’s world. There is definitely some common sense around. Here this also important to intrigue what is opposition’s argument on date rape. As maintained by the general approach towards date rape, the person who is date-raped is not to blame; rape is always the fault of the rapist. Now, this position is debatable and can be argued against, but one must first recognize and acknowledge the true form of the argument.

A similar situation arises where the author quotes the “other” girls saying, “Well, I should be able to get drunk at a fraternity party and go upstairs to a guy’s room without anything happening.” This is distortion and manipulation in crystal form. The author might have a reason to guess that a person is in reasonable senses when drunk, but she fails to convince a general reader. This issue is huge, there are things involved. Date rape drugs, alcohol, use of force are few things that do not possibly render a person eligible to exercise personal responsibility. This discussion is not that simple. Such hasty conclusions on part of the author only tend to weaken her otherwise reasonable argument about responsibility.

On a few occasions in the article, the reader comes across hasty generalizations. As the name suggests, this logical error occurs when the writer or speaker generalizes from a sample that is too small or in some other way unrepresentative of the target population. (Cooper and Patton 154) The author has gone as far as dividing the world’s women in two groups; white and black (or Hispanic).

She writes: “Notice it’s not black or Hispanic women who are making a fuss about this- they come from cultures that are fully sexual and they are fully sexual and they are fully realistic about sex. But these other women are sexually repressed girls, coming out of pampered homes, and when they arrive at these colleges and suddenly hit male lust…” Her claim that Hispanic women do not make any fuss about date rape seems to stem from an over generalized scenario. Why these women don’t make a fuss about it is debatable. But are these cultures openly sexual? A close study of these Hispanic cultures and common life does not approve this claim to that extent.

Secondly, possible that reported nonwhite date rape victims are insignificant in San Francisco, this does not imply they do not get raped. Here the reader senses another logical fallacy, namely “Appeal to ignorance”, whereby a writer or speaker concludes that because no one proved right a proposition, hence that is wrong (or vice versa). Now the author concludes that since black and Hispanic women do not make an issue of it, they do not face date rape.

Another notable fallacy occurs in the “drive-in New York city” statement, where the author erroneously makes an analogy between a date and leaving car keys on the hood. According to the formal definition, “false analogy” is comparing two or more things that are not, in essence, similar and suggesting that since they share certain characteristics, they share others as well(Cooper, Patton 150). Now, leaving keys on the hood was a norm in the ‘peaceful’ America.

Circumstances changed and now it is stupidity to do so. But date rapes are a bigger issue. As argued earlier, it involves things. There is no specifically manufactured drug that induces to leave the car keys, but there are things that paralyze the mind when consumed with alcohol. Leaving car keys on the hood was a norm, but going to a boy’s bedroom upstairs while drunk was not. There has been a behavioral shift in the former, but exploitation of a human weakness in the latter.

Albeit loose reasoning is evident throughout, Camille’s article focuses well on the issue and puts a very valid claim, in essence, convincing the reader that there is no denying the need for personal responsibility.

Bibliography

Cooper, Sheila, and Rosemary Patton. Writing Logically, Thinking Critically. 5th. 2007.

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IvyPanda. (2021) '“On Date Rape” by Camille Paglia: Fallacy Analysis'. 15 August.

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