rape culture

I’ve been thinking I should say something about the Steubenville verdict. Or rather the various reactions to it. It’s a difficult issue to discuss, and it seems like everything I could say has already been said better than I could. But that’s no excuse to hold my tongue.

So let’s get this out of the way first: Those boys are not tragic heroes. They treated another human being as an object for their amusement, and then bragged about it. They are going to be on the sex offender’s list for life because they are convicted sex offenders. I’ve heard that the judge met calls for leniency by saying that the court showed leniency by trying them as juveniles, and frankly given what I know about the case that does indeed sound very lenient.

If they are victims in any way, it is of living in a culture suffused with the idea that they are somehow above others because they’re good at playing games with balls. Like the Roman gladiators they are showered with money, fame, and blind adulation, but ultimately they’re disposable and inconsequential. Though not actually slaves, so they’re one up on the Romans there.

The social media aspect of this is interesting, too. This case probably would never have gone to trial if there hadn’t been so much of it on the internet. It would most likely have been swept away as so many similar incidents are.

Finally there is the talk of “ruined lives”. This is where I get angry, because nearly every time I’ve seen that phrase  with regard to this case it’s been about the rapists. Never the victim.

Yes, they are going to feel repercussions from this for the rest of their lives, but don’t pretend that she isn’t either, and don’t pretend that these are equal terms. The rapists had agency in this, they made choices and took actions which directly led to their conviction. Their consequences are relatively light, and these consequences are impersonal. They will not have nightmares and trust issues for years to come, for example. They mostly have extra paperwork.

Compare this to the victim, whose only failing was a poor choice of social circles. Not only does she have to recover from the traumas visited upon her, but the social fallout has been harder on her than on the rapists. She has received death threats for the heinous crime of speaking out. Fucking death threats, people!

That’s what “rape culture” means. It’s a society that punishes a rape victim for reporting a crime more harshly than the rapists for committing it.

It’s truly appalling to see people reaching to find a way that this was okay. To excuse or justify treating her like a thing. Look, how drunk she was or how she was dressed is irrelevant, it does not excuse the total failure to respect her humanity.

Stop trying to find excuses to be horrible to people.

And to say that it was her fault for being in that situation in the first place is not only demeaning to her, but to all people, women and men, everywhere. It puts the burden of civilization squarely on women, by assuming that men are beasts who cannot be trusted to behave with the slightest amount of thought or compassion. It calls for a return to the dark old days when women were more property than people, who must stay at home under the protection of their father or husband.

Fuck that.

I’ll leave you with a thought experiment.

Supposing, for a moment, that the football players were the rape victims here. Let’s not just switch roles in this scenario, let’s have some hypothetical random group of men who got these boys passed-out drunk and raped them. Were the boys at fault in that scenario, or the men? How do you decide that?

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on March 19, 2013, in Daily Post and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Thank you, Leo. Thank you for caring. Thank you because women matter to you. Thank you for saying so. Thank you for so much that can’t be listed, today.

    • Every time I write about something like this I get people thanking me for it, and that’s how I know that our society is seriously broken. I’m not making any great strides or radical ideas here, I’m just advocating for the bare minimum of human decency. Yet that’s unusual enough that people thank me for making the effort.

      Which is not to diminish your sentiments in any way. Your opinion is important to me and I’m glad to read your comments every time.

  2. I have not really been able to read too much about this. I just can’t. But I knew your response would at least be an oasis of intelligence.

    I wish people valued others as much as you do.

    • It really is hard to read about. I didn’t delve very deep into it, mostly because it was so disheartening. Someone compiled a list of twitter comments that made me feel sick to read.

      Thank you.

  3. Something I hadn’t anticipated about this post is that when someone clicks the “like” button, I get an email saying that “They thought rape culture was pretty awesome.”

  4. LOL – Oh, Leo, the fun machines have with our words. 😉

    …And yes, this is a difficult topic to write about, to read about, to think about – for any of us, but most particularly for people who have been raped. I am fighting my own desire to run away from this topic, almost every day now, for a while. It’s time I faced the possibility that my own avoidance, my own urgent desire to ‘make it go away’, may be contributing to the problem itself by hushing my voice in the greater dialogue that must take place to end rape culture… we must all be heard, every victim, every person who understands the wrong, every person who knows a rapist and hasn’t said explicitly and directly to that person ‘Stop it, right now, this is not ok’… all of us. No one voice is loud enough to drive the message home with the force it needs. I, personally, can no longer bear the thought that I may be silenced by rapists, or rape apologists. I will not sit down and shut up. I will not apologize for being raped. I will not make it easier for rape culture to continue by virtue of my reluctance to be vulnerable in the face of my own pain and outrage, anymore.

    Your voice matters, too. 😀

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