A Working Taxonomy of False Rape Claims

The horrendous recent track record of public rape accusations has laid waste to the canard that accusers are entitled to unyielding belief.[1]  Nevertheless, false rape claims are notoriously difficult to parse or quantify.  A portion of that difficulty may be due to the varying motivation of the accuser herself.[2]

In response, this post attempts to form a working classification of false rape claims, broken down by the internal logical process of the accuser.  The classification contains three subtypes: malicious, opportunistic, and [cognitive-]dissonant.


Malicious claims are intentionally false claims designed to injure the accused.

P. I want to harm him.

[A] Being accused of rape will damage his reputation and cause him to suffer.

C. I will claim he raped me.


Opportunistic claims are intentionally false claims tendered to craft an image of the accuser in others.

Underlying premise:

P.  I want other people to view me as [X].

I don’t want other people thinking I’m the kind of dirty whore who sucks off half the pledge class.
I want certain people to give me sexual attention in a manner I can control.
I don’t want my boyfriend/husband/significant other to conclude that I cheated on him.

Underlying assumption:

[A].  Being seen as a rape victim will make other people view me as [X].

Nonconsensual sexual acts make the recipient a victim.
Nonconsensual sex acts make the recipient the center of attention.
Nonconsensual sex acts aren’t the victim’s fault.  [Or, stated as a conditional, /consensual –> /fault.]

C. I better claim I was raped.


Dissonant claims are false claims intended to reconcile the triggering act with the accuser’s self-image.  Dissonant claims go through two internal logical processes: first, a shaming mechanism that makes up the accuser’s core belief that people with the desired traits don’t consensually participate in certain sex acts; second, an absolving mechanism that removes agency or fault from the accuser to resolve the fact that she consensually participated in that sex act with the core belief.

Process 1:

Underlying premise:

P.  I want to view myself as [X].

Underlying assumption:

[A1].  People who are [X] don’t voluntarily engage in sex act [Y].  This is the “shaming” assumption.

Subsidiary conclusion:

SC.  If I am [X], I did not voluntarily engage in sex act [Y].

Process 2:

P2.  I engaged in sex act [Y].

[A2].  /consensual –> /fault.  This is the “absolving” assumption.

Main conclusion:

C.  I must have been raped.

There are two reasons for the dual internal process in the dissonant claim, compared to the single process in the intentional claims. First, intentional claims feature no resolution or internal belief on the part of the accuser; they simply play off the perceived beliefs of others.  Second, the triggering act need not actually occur in the intentional claims.  That is, the dissonant claim is the only one of the three that requires a sex act between the accuser and accused.[4]

In this classification, most fantasist false rape – where the accuser makes up a claim with little or no plausible basis – will be overwhelmingly opportunistic.  By plausible basis, I mean some actual underlying encounter, whether or not it turns sexual: a date rape claim where the accuser and accused spend the evening together has a plausible basis, while a date rape claim where the accuser and accused had no contact at the alleged time, or the accused does not exist, has none.  These can be accurately described as fantasist-narrative, where the accuser knows she’s telling a story.

Some fantasist false rape, where the accuser actually believes a sex act occurred despite no plausible basis, is dissonant under the model.  This is accurately described as fantasist-delusional, and is most likely associated with mental illness in the accuser.

In the next post, we’ll talk about likely accusers in each classification, as well as the consequences on investigation of each type.

[1] Again.

[2] Yes, I am aware that men also levy false rape accusations.  Let’s go out on a limb here and assume the vast majority of false accusers are female.

[3] See, e.g., Jackie Coakley/UVA.

[4] The accuser’s belief that a sex act occurred is sufficient – see the discussion of fantasist-delusional claims.