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.
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?
Posted on March 19, 2013, in Daily Post and tagged current-events, football culture, human fucking beings, human rights, is it really too much to ask to treat women as people?, misogyny, not enough booze to think about this shit, rape culture, Steubenville. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.