COMMENTARY | A while back a woman named Joanie Faircloth accused “Bright Eyes” musician Conor Oberst of rape. Unfortunately for her, her online history paints an unflattering picture of her as a compulsive liar. Oberst filed a libel lawsuit against Faircloth last week after she refused to publicly announce that her rape accusations were false. Jezebel happily reports that Oberst will have a tough time clearing his name and insists that Faircloth’s status as a probable compulsive liar should have no bearing on her rape accusation.
Scarily, Jezebel asks why anyone would falsely accuse someone else of rape, asking “why would someone lie about being sexually assaulted? What could be gained from that? Nothing, really.”
Really? It’s frightening that such an allegedly progressive publication like Jezebel would deny the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing. Well, at least in the case of men. Did the writers at Jezebel really not know what could be gained from a false accusation of sexual assault?
Simple attention, for one. Money, for two. Sympathy, for three. A simple Internet search should have given the paid writers at Jezebel more than enough material to go on. Certainly, Joanie Faircloth has gotten a heaping helping of sympathy from Jezebel, which is willing to overlook her numerous online lies and treat her as a victim.
In no way do I intend to be unsympathetic toward victims of sexual assault, but I cannot sit by when all men who claim that they were falsely accused of rape are sneered at and asked “why would they lie?” when ample evidence exists that women do falsely accuse men of rape. Jezebel’s assertion that women have nothing to gain from false accusations of sexual assault is, ironically, blaming the victim.
What would Jezebel say to all the men who have been cleared of rape and have had to struggle to pull their lives back together? It is unbelievably sexist that Jezebel would treat with such disdain and triviality the seriousness of a false accusation of rape. Unlike other crimes, rape casts a unique pallor over whomever stands accused. Even if an accuser later recants the man accused of rape remains a pariah, forever viewed with suspicion. He is permanently marred. Many will refuse to believe the recantation, choosing to believe that political or financial pressure convinced the woman to falsely recant.
Rape is a horribly serious crime, and therefore false accusations of rape must be similarly serious. Jezebel mocks this logic and chooses to opine that such false accusations could rarely, if ever, occur. The publication goes further to insist that a woman’s previous lies should have no bearing on her accusations of rape. I assume, of course, that no such forgiveness would exist for a man’s previous lies if he accused a woman of a crime against him.
No, the integrity of an accuser must be determined similarly to the integrity of an accused defendant. A man on trial for rape would be raked over the coals for an online history as full of contradictions as Joanie Faircloth’s. Judicial fair play must exist, regardless of gender or status as accuser or accused.
Jezebel, shame on you.