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The inanity of the 'war on men' talking point

The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto
The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto

It's never been entirely clear to me whether the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto believes everything he says, or whether he occasionally publishes needlessly provocative arguments to get attention, along the lines of a Coulter or a Limbaugh.

But while we'll probably never know for sure whether Taranto is entirely sincere, columns like these, first flagged by Hannah Groch-Begley, are unsettling. Apparently, the Wall Street Journal opinion writer, who's also a member of the paper's editorial board, believes there's a "war on men" underway, coinciding with an "effort to criminalize male sexuality."

Taranto brought up the case of Capt. Matthew Herrera, an Air Force officer accused of sexual assault by a fellow servicewoman, in a column as an example of Congress' "effort to criminalize male sexuality." Capt. Herrera was ultimately not convicted of sexual assault by his commander, Lt. Gen. Susan Helms -- but as a consequence, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) put a "permanent hold" on Helms' nomination to serve as vice commander of the Air Force Space Command, a career setback Taranto laments.

Capt. Herrera had testified before Helms that his accuser "flirted" with him, and a lieutenant who was present at the time of the alleged assault agreed. Therefore, Taranto reasons, Herrera's accuser was equally at fault.

Indeed, Taranto complained in his piece, "The presumption that reckless men are criminals while reckless women are victims makes a mockery of any notion that the sexes are equal."

In this case, the "reckless" woman is a female lieutenant who got into a car with her accused assailant.

Later in the day, Taranto had an opportunity to walk back his argument, but instead did the opposite, complaining about the costs of "female sexual freedom."

A recent Pentagon survey found that an estimated 26,000 sexual assaults took place within the military last year, up from 19,000 the year before. Some respond to this epidemic by looking for a solution; others respond by chastising "reckless" women and whining about imaginary efforts to "criminalize male sexuality."