Monday, March 18, 2013

How the Steubenville case can shine a light on the darkness of rape culture


How is it 2013 and we're still debating whether or not a drunk teenage girl "asked" to be raped, or could have consented to sex in her inebriated state? How is this still up for discussion?

Why are we still devaluing the humanity of men by simply assuming that they can't help themselves when presented with an opportunity to sexually violate someone? Why are we still devaluing the humanity of women by calling them sluts, disbelieving them when they say they've been raped, and placing the "responsibility not to be raped" on their shoulders for any reason at all, let alone what they're wearing or who they're with or where they go?

There's going to be a lot of ink spilled and air time spent discussing the ramifications of the Steubenville rape case. I can only hope that more of it is spent having a serious conversation about the abominable way in which we, as a culture, deal with rape - and far less on how positively awful the whole thing is for the two boys charged with the crime, or the town itself.

Because so far that's been the dominant media narrative. CNN, ABC, NBC, and countless other major media outlets all played into rape culture narrative by placing more emphasis on feeling bad that such "promising students" with "promising football careers" were negatively effected by the eventual guilty verdict. FOX News went so far as to name the victim on air.

In fact, MSNBC was one of the only networks that posted a news piece that dealt with the actual facts of what happened, without making excuses for the perpetrators or casting doubt on the victim and highlighting the fact that she was drunk when the attack occurred (I'm looking at you, USA Today).

There is no excuse for rape. None.

It doesn't matter how drunk someone is - in fact, someone being drunk means they cannot give consent, so if they say you raped them, guess what? You raped them.

That's why consent, and understanding what constitutes consent, is such an important concept - we all need to learn it and love it. That's why we taught it so much back when I was a peer educator for incoming freshmen at my college.

And that's why, when the defense tried to say that the 16-year-old girl had "consented" to the sex - while so drunk she didn't remember what had happened until pictures and video of the incidents showed up on social media - I felt sick to my stomach. And why I was so glad when the guilty verdict was handed down, as a slap in the face to that fucked up line of thinking.

No one "asks" to be raped. And men are not animals that can't be expected to do better.

We, as a society, as human beings, need to step up and create a culture in which this sort of thing would never happen in the first place. Where coaches actually act like the mentor/role model figures that their kids see them as and emphasize/demand decent fucking behavior out of their athletes. Where the media does not impugn the dignity of victims.

Name it, change it. Kill rape culture dead.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this. Something similar happened to me. A trusted friend was walking me home to make sure I got there safely, turns out he was the one I needed protection from. I never pressed charges and to this day wish that I would have.

The Lost Albatross