Dear cable news: Please stop asking "Princeton Mom" for her opinion

Susan Patton has already proved why we shouldn't listen to her talk about rape, so stop trying to make us

Published January 6, 2015 5:08PM (EST)

 Susan Patton, a.k.a. "Princeton Mom"     (CNN)
Susan Patton, a.k.a. "Princeton Mom" (CNN)

Dear news networks -- CNN, Fox News and even you, NBC: Please stop inviting Susan "Princeton Mom" Patton on your shows. Her point has already been made, and it has already proved itself to be wholly offensive and problematic.

See, the reason I'm not addressing Princeton Mom directly is because Princeton Mom doesn't listen. To anyone. She contradicts the stories of rape survivors, for instance, taking an apologist stance and condemning women for the "choices" they made to get themselves assaulted in the first place. Patton has claimed that acquaintance rape is actually just a "learning experience," and she openly doubts statistics indicating the grotesque prevalence of rape. She told a survivor of domestic violence, CNN's Carol Costello, that women who face the prospect of being sexually assaulted by someone they know should just get up and leave. None of this should really be that surprising, though, coming from a woman whose star rose after she told a group of women that the most important thing they can get out of an Ivy League education is a husband.

On Tuesday, Patton was welcomed on Fox News to participate in a "fair and balanced debate" about the acceptability of teaching sexual consent and bodily autonomy to kindergartners. During the discussion, she managed to insinuate that the molestation of children and teens under the age of 18 is actually the result of bad "manners." Patton also questioned the definition of rape and sexual assault -- not for the first time -- and advocated against teaching sex education in schools. To be sure, she -- like everyone -- is entitled to her beliefs. But she has already made them clear. Why do we have to keep hearing about them?

The thing is, whenever Patton says something ludicrous and offensive, I have to watch the clip and, most likely, post about her appearance on TV. This is because it is my job to highlight the gross perpetuation of rape culture, especially in the media, and because Patton can always be counted on to say something particularly awful. But she never says anything new. In fact, her message on Fox News Tuesday -- that sexual assault might be avoided by teaching better "manners" -- is virtually identical to her message on CNN in December -- that sexual assault might also be avoided if women start learning from their "mistakes," or if we just allow our understanding of what constitutes rape to devolve back to its previous definition.

And while it might sound as if I am asking for my own sake that you remove Patton's platform (don't get me wrong -- I am, at least in part), I am mostly concerned about the fact that when she appears on television, she and her opinions receive a stamp of approval. And try as she might to suggest that her opinions are, on the contrary, facts, Patton has offered no substantive evidence to support her claims that the rate of sexual assault is any different from what's been reported. She has not explained why unwanted sexual contact, without permission, is not assault -- at least not in any meaningful way. She has not provided any sort of TV-worthy enlightenment, because all she says it what we already have been told.

So please, stop inviting Patton to share her thoughts on air. She has proved to be resourceful at finding her own platforms online and in print. Maybe let's start to leave it at that.

By Jenny Kutner

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