07/28/2015 Hank Miller

The case of Zach Jesse – can men’s rights help women too?

Commonly, people are told that organizations that advocate for men’s rights are unnecessary because feminism, when done right, is pro-man as well as being pro-women.  Since feminists are also looking out for men and advancing men’s issues, we are told, men should rally behind these organizations and let women take charge of making the world a better place for men.

The fact that this claim is demonstrably false is likely no surprise to most readers of this site.  When men and boys are consistently lagging further and further behind in education, systematically denied due process rights when accused of crimes, and disproportionately targeted by policies that punish boys for being boys, the claim that feminism is helping men rings hollow indeed.

What is less obvious, though much more interesting, is that the claim may be the exact inverse of the truth.  In short, it may be the case that, in certain instances, advancing the cause of men’s rights is the way to advance the cause of women as well.

Consider the recent case of Zach Jesse.  To the best of my knowledge this case received very little publicity, but it perfectly illustrates the problems with the present spat of rape hysteria that has been inflicted on Americans.

Zach Jesse is a 30-year-old law-school graduate who pled guilty in 2004 to a charge of aggravated sexual battery against a fellow student at UVA (he was 18 when the incident took place). He served his sentence and entered University of Richmond law school in 2011.  In his own words, he “meant to use it as a stepping stone to better myself and the community around me rather than a ball-and-chain.”

A couple months ago, he made the Top 8 of a high-profile Magic: the Gathering event in Atlantic City.  While he was playing in the Top 8, which was streamed on Twitch, a few prominent members of the Magic community unearthed the fact that Jesse was a sex offender and created a firestorm out of it (read Jesse’s response to it here).

This culminated a couple weeks ago with Jesse receiving a lifetime ban from playing Magic: the Gathering from Wizards of the Coast, the manufacturer of Magic.   His Magic Online account was also seized.  The only statement Wizards of the Coast has made about the banning is this:

We work hard to make sure all players feel welcomed, included and safe at our events so that they can have fun playing Magic. We don’t generally comment on individuals or provide position statements in the abstract, but we take action to address player issues and community concerns when we feel it is necessary.

There has been a large, though mixed, public reaction to this happening.  Some defend Wizards of the Coast’s Actions, arguing that playing Magic is a privilege, not a right, and that Hasbro, Wizards’ parent company, likely doesn’t want a convicted sex offender as one of the public faces of a game marketed to children.

Others defend Jesse’s cause, arguing that Wizards is out of line banning Jesse for an incident that happened over ten years ago and for which he has tried very hard to move past.  Defenders also point out that at least one member of the Magic Hall of Fame was convicted of drug trafficking 15 years ago and has not received anything approaching this kind of treatment (in fact, by virtue of being in the Hall of Fame, he is automatically invited to all Magic Pro Tours and receives appearance fees from Wizards of the Coast for attending all sorts of Magic events)

Perhaps the most interesting comment on Jesse’s case, though, came from a Magic Judge named Tasha Jamison:

As a woman, as someone who has experienced domestic violence and sexual assault, one of the ideas that has held me back from reporting is the idea that ‘reporting would ruin [the accused]’s life.’ This makes me sick to the stomach because it reinforces that idea: here is a person who has served his time, who has complied with all requirements, who appears to me to be genuinely remorseful and committed to public service…

… and he gets what is effectively a lifetime ban from the competitive Magic community when his prior conviction came to public attention due to his strong performance.

Since he has a conviction, I hesitate to bring in the rhetoric of ‘false rape claims,’ but it’s going to hover around anyway. It seems to me that this ban *is* something that gives credibility to the idea that women have the power to ruin men’s lives through false rape claims, which reduces the credibility of anyone who accuses someone of sexual assault (even when the evidence is sufficient to satisfy a court of law), which in turn reduces the willingness of a victim to pursue any sort of formal action.

In essence, if you give women the power to ruin a man’s life, some women will be hesitant to utilize that power, even if they otherwise ought to.

What we have seen from the erosion of due process is that many women will make use of false rape claims to ‘punish’ men in their lives or to avoid taking responsibility for a problematic sexual encounter.  In fact, current policies often encourage this sort of behavior by failing to hold the accuser to account for false claims.

This topic has been explored in great depth on this and other sites dealing with this issue. What we also need to see, however, is that the policies eroding due process also hurt women by making them more hesitant to report when a rape actually does take place.  In short, the erosion of due process rights both makes false accusations more likely and also makes it more likely that real offenses are not reported. 

It seems obvious that feminism, in arguing that due process rights be denied to men accused of rape, is actually doing a disservice to the cause of women who want to see justice served on the issue of rape.  If feminism is not only failing but proving counterproductive to the ends for which it was intended, then perhaps there needs to be a new approach to this issue, strengthening rather than weakening due process rights for accused individuals and calling everyone, women as well as men, to take responsibility for their actions rather than always seeking to place blame for bad circumstances at the feet of someone else.

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Comments (8)

  1. A provocative article. Since we are not given any evidence that Zach was falsely accused I don’t see any reason to attempt an argument in that regard.

    That being said, there is a lot to be explored here in regards to reintegration and rehabilitation, and such a discussion is all the more relevant when addressing those for whom society regards no punishment as harsh enough. In particular, if we fail to reintegrate and rehabilitate criminals, they are given less of a disincentive to repeat the crime, as some will ask what the point is in not acting like a criminal if they are treated like criminals anyway.

    Contrary to the misrepresentations of feminists, those convicted of rape are – when convicted – often punished very harshly (exceptions notwithstanding). The five young men who were falsely accused of rape at Hofstra University a few years ago, for example, could have each received 25 years in prison. That is an atrocity considering that they were wrongly accused, but even if they had committed the crime that’s still too much time, for several reasons.

    First, people do change as they age, and age is one of the greatest predictors of criminality. The recidivism rate for rape is much lower at 40 than at 18, making imprisonment for such a length of time unnecessary in many cases for the purpose of preventing crime. Second, extremely harsh punishments will make juries less likely to convict. And third, 25 years for such a crime is still too high assuming there are no children involved or any other extreme factors; 10-15 would be more approximate.

    • xenonman

      Do they really have fear that he will commit sexual assault at a gathering of “nerds” and “gamers”, where the attendance will likely be comprised 99+% by males?

      • Hank Miller

        Wizards of the Coast is making a conscious effort to appeal to more women through their marketing of Magic. They have done good things in this effort, like seeking to depict women more modestly in card artwork compared with most other fantasy genres. Unfortunately, I think part of this action in banning Jesse was that it was kind of a low-hanging fruit that tries to say, “We’re a good atmosphere for women, we have zero tolerance for sex offenders.”

        Properly, the percentage of women at a particular gathering should be irrelevant to concerns about assault (men can be assaulted as well). The most problematic aspect of the ban from a policy standpoint is that they banned exactly the wrong kind of person to make their statement. Jesse had paid his debt to society (to the satisfaction of the woman involved, no less), admitted fault, and is trying to make himself a better person going forward. Do we really want to send the message that we socially ostracize people who admit when they do wrong and seek to atone for the wrong they have done? It strikes me that we punish the people who least need additional punishment by that type of thinking.

    • How typical of Feminists. When their ideas are bad, they hide behind being a woman, and mischaracterize any attacks on their bad ideas as attacks on women.

      If they had their way they would characterize going to the nail salon as health care as well and force us all to pay for it.

  2. Anders

    This rings true. One of the most common retorts to the false rape claim is that the vast majority of sexual assaults go unreported. The data in support of that claim is patchy, but I believe it based on personal experiences: after such an experience, you just want to get past it an move on. Despite rape shield laws and victim counsellors and broader definitions, the process inevitably involves the painful rehashing of an event you just want to forget.

    That is, of course, not the case for false accusers – quite the contrary: the attention and caring can be gratifying. Perhaps a cool-headed, well planned story will even ring truer than that of a confused, perhaps at the time inebriated, victim of a serious crime she wants to put behind her. When I went to college in the early 90s, claiming to be a victim of sexual assault was widespread among insecure fresh(wo)men, and considered, ironically, a sign of female strength.

    So yes, maybe the upper ranges of false rape claims assessments are indeed true. This does not mean that anything resembling “women cry rape” could be held as true: most women, to their credit, are fair human beings that would not abuse the system and hurt fellow human beings unfairly. A small minority will however, and mostly with impunity. The societal reaction to downplay their importance will, in the end, undermine efforts to stop the discrediting of sexual assault victims: cases of obvious false accusations will leak out and gain prominence.

    Only with a transparent and thorough effort to combat false accusations, which MRAs are advocating, will the situation be improved for all. Innocent men will, for the most part, be cleared of wrong-doing. And victims of sexual assault will, at the end of the process, be much less likely to suffer, after all that they have been through, from suspicion that she or he abused the system. That must be an attractive objective.


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