One effect of the Kavanaugh hearing has been a wave of fear sweeping through men—or so it would seem from various expressions of terror on social media and in talking points. The gist of the worry is that “If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried. We can all be accused of something.” Trump, while mocking Blasey to the applause of the crowd, stoked the fire of this fear by asserting “it’s a very scary time for young men.” While it is but anecdotal evidence, I have heard fellow men express their fear that they could be falsely accused by someone out to get them. While it cannot be denied that some men have this fear, the question remains as to whether the fear is warranted. Obviously enough, a careful analysis of this matter will have little or no weight on the scale of emotions. From a purely pragmatic standpoint what is wanting to counter the fear is rhetoric, emotional appeals and fallacies—for these sway the heart as the ear remains deaf to reason.
One key question in addressing this fear is whether false accusations are common enough relative to sexual harassment/assault to provide grounds for a rational fear. Research indicates that false reporting of sexual assaults is between 2% and 10%. As such, it does occur and thus the fear is not utterly unfounded. However, even these false reporting rates seem to be inflated. Thus, while a man could be falsely accused of sexual assault, this does not seem very likely. In comparison, a woman is far more likely to be sexually assaulted; even going with the reported cases. It is also believed that most sexual assaults are not reported, which impacts the ratio of false reports to sexual assaults. Put another way, the odds of a man being falsely accused is far lower than the odds of a woman being sexually assaulted, so women should be far more afraid of being assaulted than men should be afraid of being falsely accused.
It can, obviously, be countered that there are many unknowns at work here. In the case of the number of unreported assaults, this number would need to be an estimate. To use an analogy, it is like estimating the volume of drugs smuggled into the United States illegally by estimating from the amount seized by law enforcement. As such, the estimation could be off—either too low or too high. In the case of false reports, the obvious problem is that only the accusations that are known to be false are known to be false. False accusations that were accepted as true would obviously not be counted, so the percentage of false accusations could be higher. As such, we cannot be certain about the ratio of false accusations to actual sexual assaults. While this might tempt some people to think that this warrants fear on the part of men, there is the obvious fact that this also applies to almost all crimes and threats and consistency would require having the same response across the board.
One cause of the worry on the part of men seems to be the belief that a woman who accuses a man will be seen as more credible than the man, simply because she is a woman and he is a man. Rolled into this also seems to be that there will be a presumption of guilt rather than innocence.
This fear seems to be utterly unfounded since women have been regarded as less credible than men, both collectively and individually. In the case of rape, the legal rules once had a bias against accusers baked into them. This has shifted from codified bias to a bias in practice, but with the same results: woman accusers are presumed to lack credibility. It must be noted that this is not the same thing as the presumption of innocence—a person accused of sexual assault or rape should be presumed innocent until proven guilty in court. The disbelief of female accusers is a presumption they are lying, which gives the accused a double advantage. One just (presumption of innocence) and the other unjust (a presumption of doubt against the accuser). As such, men would seem to have little to fear in this regard: the presumption of credibility is in their favor.
The obvious counter to this view is to argue that the presumption in favor of men is changing and now women are being regarded as credible, as in the case of Dr. Blasey. As such, men should start being afraid because of what is to come.
It would, of course, be worrisome if there was a shift to a presumption of guilt and if women were presumed to be telling the truth and men were presumed to be lying. After all, this would simply be a role-reversal of the current unjust situation and would thus still be unjust. However, what seems to have happened is that the presumption of doubt of women has been reduced and credible women are now being regarded as credible when making accusations. As such, it is not that men are now at a disadvantage and must fear that they will automatically be doubted. Rather, what they must fear is that (at least for now) women might not automatically be doubted. Roughly put, men have (perhaps briefly) lost some of their advantage against women and this hardly warrants fear on the part of the innocent.
The last thing I will consider is concerns about due process. In the case of Kavanaugh, there have been cries that he did not get his due process. This has been generalized into the claim that this same approach will be applied to other men—that they will not get their due process if accused of sexual assault.
On the face of it, Kavanaugh does seem to be getting due process. As this is written, the FBI is investigating the allegations to see if they have any foundation. He also had his time to defend himself against the accusations. Naturally, whether the process seems due or not is largely a matter of one’s politics. If Kavanaugh was a liberal Democrat being assailed by Republicans, Republicans would tend to think he had gotten his due process. Since the reverse is true, Democrats tend to think he is getting his due process. In fairness, it could be argued that because Blasey’s accusation was made late in the process, there is a problem with the due process. But, this can be countered by pointing out the obvious fact that there is no rush to confirm Kavanaugh—the confirmation hearings can go on and on until the Republicans are satisfied that Kavanaugh has had every opportunity to respond to the accusation and has gotten his due process. After all, the Republicans argued vehemently against even holding hearings when Obama made his nomination to the court and all their arguments about the acceptability of delays can simply be copy-pasted and used against them now.
But, let us suppose that Kavanaugh was denied due process and has been treated unjustly. Does it follow that every man should be afraid that this will happen to him because it happened this one time?
Going from the one example of Kavanaugh to all men by using an inductive generalization would make for a very weak argument. It would look like this.
Premise 1: One man, Judge Kavanaugh, did not get due process when accused of sexual assault in his supreme court confirmation hearing.
Conclusion: Every man should fear not getting due process when accused of sexual assault.
The strength of a generalization depends on the representativeness and size of the sample. In this case, the sample size is one man who is in very unusual circumstances. As such, the inference is incredibly weak.
It can be countered that there are more examples for the sample than just Judge Kavanaugh. Trump put himself forward as an example and, of course, people will point to all the powerful men brought down recently during the #meetoo movement. The challenge is, of course, showing that in each example the man did not receive due process. If enough examples are found to create a representative sample, then the inductive generalization would be strong and men would be warranted in their fear that they would not receive due process because it would be reasonable to believe that they would not.
Anecdotes about men who did not receive due process would be worth considering since they would be individual cases of injustice. However, making an inference from anecdotal evidence to a general conclusion would obviously be the fallacy of anecdotal evidence.
Since I do believe in justice (in the moral sense of the term), I believe that everyone should get due process. As such, each case in which a person is denied due process would be a case of injustice and if it is shown that the denial is systematic and widespread against one class of person, people in that class would be right to fear injustice. However, there does not seem to be systematic and widespread denial of due process to men accused of sexual assault. But, if evidence is forthcoming for such oppression, I will certainly join with my fellow men and oppose it. After all, what sort of person would tolerate systematic injustice and denial of due process?