Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sorry Not Sorry (warning: This may contain triggers)

I am ... incensed.

Let's talk about coverage of the Steubenville conviction for a moment, shall we? (You knew this was coming, right?)

In my other life, the one that's not online, I sometimes talk about rape culture and I usually get the following responses:

1) You're too sensitive.

2) Are we talking about this AGAIN?

I don't think I'm too sensitive, and yes, I'm going to keep talking about it, because I think that the Steubenville conviction and the media response to it shows us all that rape culture is alive and thriving here in the US of A.

So. Steubenville. Two boys were convicted of rape, and upon announcement of their conviction and sentencing, they cried and said they were sorry, at which point multiple media outlets proclaimed how tragic this conviction is.

Now, I suspect that the boys in question are sorry because they got CONVICTED, and not because THEY'RE RAPISTS, but it's possible that I'm wrong. (I'm not wrong.)

And the media lamented the fact that the future of these two young men would be tainted by this conviction and bemoaned the fact that they are now registered sex offenders and, you know, "that's going to follow them all of their lives."

What. The Actual. Fuck.

The media, however, didn't seem sorry that the boys had COMMITTED A RAPE. That wasn't the sad part of the story. The sad part of the story was that Joe King of the Prom got busted raping and photographing and trashing the reputation of his victim, that Mr Stereotypical High School Jock and All Around Awesome Dude was CONVICTED of raping a girl... but apparently, the sad part of the story, the part that was worth lamentation, was not the rape. Very few, if any, of the reporters who spoke on the trial seemed to regret the fact that a young woman was raped and victimized and will carry this with her every day for the rest of her life in a way that is more scarring and brutal than being a registered sex offender will ever be for the sex offenders.

Maybe this makes sense in a disgusting, "rape culture means every woman is asking for it" way. I mean, she was drunk, right? So her inability to give consent when she was grossly violated by her classmates probably means she was asking for it.

So when a reporter says "The lives of these boys, with their promising futures, have been ruined by this conviction" s/he is basically saying: "If that bitch had kept her mouth shut, this all could have gone away and we all could have gone on as though nothing happened lalalalalala."

Or "If that slut hadn't passed out at a party, they wouldn't have had to RAPE her, and then we could all have gone on as though nothing happened lalalalala."

When the reporters should be saying: "Hey, guess what? DON'T RAPE."

So I'm talking about this again. And here's what I'd like to say: There is never, ever, EVER a reason to sexually assault or violate another person.


And the problem isn't that a person is in a situation where she (or he) "could be" assaulted. The problem is that on some level our culture thinks that it's okay to assault people. The problem is that we get wrapped up in victim shaming and removal of responsibility so that the person who is raped bears the burden of being responsible for the fact that s/he was raped, and the person who is doing the raping? Becomes a victim.

It's not okay.

If the boys in Steubenville were such great guys? They wouldn't have raped their classmate.

If someone doesn't want to have her or his life ruined because they've been convicted of rape? THEY SHOULD NOT RAPE SOMEONE.

And when rape is committed? We need to stop asking what the victim did to deserve it or how s/he was complicit in the assault.

When all of that happens? Maybe then I can stop talking about rape culture.


  1. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The question should be what can we do to teach young children, as early as they can possibly understand, how to respect their own and OTHER peoples bodies, as sacred and not just a tool for pleasure or to harm others. That poor girl will deal with the trauma of what happened to her for the rest of her life. She did the right thing coming forward when so many others cannot or wont for fear of the shame and exactly what this poor girl is going through right now. The convicted did not get all that they deserve, IMHO. Those reporters also deserve to be publicly shunned, to loose their jobs or at the very least apologize to that girl and EVERY other victim, and to the rest of us, who are ashamed by the way our world expects that if we just shut up it will all go away.The question now is what can we as a culture do so that this doesn't have to be a topic of discussion anymore?????? How do we change the way the world is to protect all of our children. Could this have been averted if these boys were raised differently? I don't know, but it is something we NEED to address.

    1. It starts at home, but we also need to look as a society at entitlement and objectivity. When we take a stand as a society and realize that young women have the authority to own their bodies -- reproductive organs and all -- and have the right to consent or deny access to their bodies, and that NO ONE HAD THE RIGHT to force them to do do anything? When we stop wondering why women "put themselves in that position" or what they did to "deserve" to be raped instead of asking why people rape -- we'll be in a better place because you can do everything you want to at home, but there needs to be a society wide message that this is NOT ACCEPTABLE. We need a cultural shift. (and I'm concerned that with the battle lines that were drawn over women's bodies in the last election, we're not getting one any time soon.)

  2. Applause!

    We don't blame the victim of theft and feel sympathy for the thief when the victim gets robbed.

    We don't blame the victim of murder and feel sympathy for the murderer when the victim dies.

    I could continue the examples ad nauseum. In most every other case we blame the perpetrator, as we should. But if you are a minority not so much:

    "The victim was a woman? She must have been asking for it."

    "The victim was gay? He shouldn't have been so obvious about it."

    "The victim was an atheist? He shouldn't have been so vocal about it."

    To which I say to those who say those things: your privilege is showing.

    I for one am glad you keep taking about it.

    1. It troubles me greatly any time society turns to a victim and asks "Why did you allow this to happen to you?" rather than looking at the perpetrator of a crime and asking "Why did you do this thing?" The victim of a crime should never have to defend her (or his) right NOT to harmed -- the fact that this happens again and again is heartbreaking to me and, I suspect, is why so many sexual assaults and rapes go unreported -- who wants to be assaulted again in the media and by the court system?