I’ve been reading a great deal today about victim shaming in the coverage of the outcome of the Steubenville rape case. Apparently much or all of the mainstream media concentrated on the boys who were convicted of the rape, and did so with a certain amount of sympathy. All right, so, I am no fan of the bourgeois media to begin with, but there’s something here I’m not getting. For one thing, I think any focus on the victim would have added to her humiliation. But I don’t actually know, so I speak under correction.
More significantly, my own reaction on watching the results of the trial was that they were saying, “Look at these poor bastards. If you are convicted of rape, your life will be ruined. So, if you’ve ever even thought about committing sexual assault, remember that. ” If I’m correct, and that was not an idiosyncratic reaction on my part, than that strikes me as a good thing.
Another thing–and here I’m on very thin ice because I’ve never been the victim of anything that really deserves the name violent crime, much less a sexual assault–if I were the victim, I think I would take the video of those two crying in the courtroom and play it over and over, saying to myself, “That’s right, assholes. How do you like it now?”
Please believe that I do not feel on solid ground with any of this. I’m asking purely because I don’t get it. Can someone explain where I’m missing the point?
89 thoughts on “The Steubenville Rape Case and the Media: Explain?”
In the news coverage, there was no sense of using the boys as a warning to others. It was, literally, about how terrible this rape has been for them, the rapists, and what a negative impact this will have on their lives.
As one person pointed out, the culture that treats rapists as the ones suffering from the crime is the culture that led to the rape happening.
Ok, you know this part?
–“Look at these poor bastards. If you are convicted of rape, your life will be ruined. So, if you’ve ever even thought about committing sexual assault, remember that. ” If I’m correct, and that was not an idiosyncratic reaction on my part, than that strikes me as a good thing.–
Some people view that and focus on the *conviction*, in the sense it’s putting the emphasis on “this is a bad thing that happened to them,” not “this is a bad thing that they did, and are thus experiencing just consequences.”
There’s even undertones of ‘they shouldn’t have been convicted of this, even though they did it,’ and ‘what they did wasn’t *so* bad that they should suffer this, is it?’, and yes there are people who’d view protecting them as more important than dealing with rape.
Which is messed up, but seriously how it’s coming across to quite a lot of people.
Basically there’s a not-so-subtle implication that the court system should have found a solution that didn’t “ruin the rapist’s lives” cause “boys will be boys”. The boys are not victims (okay, some might consider them victims of a system/society that said what they did might be acceptable, but stepping beyond that construction) they are aggressors, the attackers. The media coverage from the beginning as tried to ameliorate the blame on the boys – so it isn’t just this one thing, this is just a cherry on top of the “well the slut had it coming by getting drunk” sundae that has been media and society has been brewing.
There are a couple of things here. One is, let’s say that they had set a girl on fire, instead of raped her. In this hypothetical, they didn’t kill her, and she’s getting skin grafts and proper hospital care. In this situation, would you expect the news to talk about how these kids had such bright prospects, and now they’re going to have this stigma hanging over them, and so on? And would your reaction be, “well, look at these poor bastards–if you’ve ever even thought about setting fire to people, you should remember it might ruin your life?”
The other is that people who watch news later sit on juries. If the angle on rape convictions is, “those poor rapists, what a tragedy,” it’s one more thing that’ll push them towards acquitting rapists if it looks like they’d otherwise have bright prospects.
(As an aside, it is interesting how coverage of murders in the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries would occasionally veer into “those poor murdering kids, they had such bright prospects, and now they must hang” territory, and that angle is less likely to be taken now; it does seem that murder is treated as more abominable than it once was, for better or worse.)
ZeroSD, this is a topic which many people find highly charged with emotion. There is probably no way to say anything useful about it. If you try you will probably become a lightning-rod for people to discharge their intense emotions.
Nothing good will come of it, unless it makes them feel better to shock you.
I agree, it’s implied that the (unfair) conviction is ruining their lives, not that their own actions have resulted in justified consequences that are ruining them.
OK, I agree with you 100%, but as I too followed the story I was left with this moral dilemma; If I get drunk beyond reason, and commit a crime, it was my fault, because I chose to get drunk. If I get drunk beyond reason, and am the victim of a crime, my choosing of getting drunk and is immaterial.
Please understand that I am in NO WAY advocating that we punish victims or defend rapists. I am speaking theoretically, that there is difference in the law. My question is it ethical? Does only the difference of the act committed or being committed against you matter, or can we conclude that our decision making that preceded the even played a role? Thoughts?
My main complaint is the theme of “their lives have been destroyed.” No. THEY destroyed their lives. (To whatever extent it is so.) They had a choice.
The case made local news here, so that might give me a bit more of a clue why it was handled the way it was in the news.
1. Steubenville is a small town, so everyone knew everyone involved AND the football team is a Big Deal (Steubenville used to be another steel town. Now it’s got high unemployment and crap for jobs). So locals saw the charges as an attack on the team, rather than what two individuals had done, and the local economy is such that folk rally around the team because they don’t have much else.
2. Video was taken of the attack, so the identity of the girl was known and spread all over social media. The fact she wasn’t from Steubenville but instead from WV exacerbated the us versus them feelings, since she was an “Outsider.”
3. The fact video was taken meant that everyone at the party knew what was going on, and thought it was okay.
The very public nature of the event meant that not only did the town have to face the actions of two young men/boys who had been seen previously as football heroes, they also were forced to recognize that like so many other small towns in the area (and this includes WV) the high school age populations have alcohol problems.
So you have the adults in the area being forced to recognize that they have–on many levels–failed as parents and guardians.
Personally, I don’t think the boys sentence was long enough, and I hope they DO try for indictments of individuals who were at the party and thought the situation it would be okay to video tape the incident, and tell everyone about it via social media. Do I think that case would hold up in court? No. But I’d like to see them try anyway.
That girl has spent the past six (eight?) months being called a slut and blamed for the incident and the “harm” it brought to the town. At 16, that’s a very very hard thing to come back from. I really hope there was family out of town she was sent to, to finish out her school career, because she deserves to live somewhere she won’t be reminded of events every day.
I think ZeroSD was onto it. As a particular example, one of the quotes that’s going around is, “But in terms of what happens now, the most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law. That will haunt them for the rest of their lives.” This quote, and many others, place the locus of action on the state, or the court. The agent who is acting in this narrative (oh no, narratives again) is the state, not the rapists. They did not act and then consequences happened; they are the victims of the state. They are the ones that were “done to,” rather than the person they raped. So they are seen as having less responsibility (which I feel is what a lot of folks are mad about), and possibly more importantly, they are seen as having less *power.* Thus, we’re back to the boys can’t help themselves, sometimes they just lose control of the beast and then terrible things happen to them, poor fellows, rape culture storyline.
I feel compelled to add that this issue (the labeling) is a complicated one for me, because I don’t necessarily think it should be a life sentence (and nor should being a victim, I hasten to add). Those issues aren’t relevant to your question, though – I just felt it necessary to state them.
Jo’din, I am tempted to answer you. But I have to remember. No good will come of it.
Better you than me.
@Jo’din: There should be no moral dilemma there.
First of all, the act of committing a crime is by itself asymmetrical and no one should be surprised by seeing that same asymmetry reflected in the law.
But more importantly, I don’t think that there is any difference in the law. I don’t think that the law treats inebriation differently when it comes to committing crimes, unless we’re talking about laws that deal with inebriation explicitly. Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, so please apply that fact to the rest of what I will write here.
For example, there are laws that deal with DUI and the purpose of those laws is to prevent more serious things from happening. But if you rape someone, as far as I know, it makes no difference that you were drunk as a skunk. You’re not supposed to rape anyone, drunk or sober, and that’s what matters.
In a rape case, inebriation is usually brought up to try to determine whether the sex was consensual (or to imply that it was). Once this is determined to everyone’s satisfaction, the inebriation should not matter anymore.
The difference is that we punish actions. The drunk aspect is irrelevant; it is not an excuse nor a reason. It only factors to remove the argument of the abusers that they were unaware or incapacitated.
Certainly the victim made a mistake getting drunk and placing herself in a situation that is dangerous; but we don’t punish mistakes, not is making a mistake inherently ethically wrong.
We punish specific actions and actions that lead to specific results; and, at least in my book, actions and their consequences are largely what determine ethical behavior.
Steve – I agree with you. It did seem like a public service announcement. “Have sex with drunk girls and bad things will happen to you, even if you’re a nice guy and people are blowing things waaaay out of proportion.” And I did have a bit of schadenfreude about it. Nice guys my ass. Oh, did someone have to admit that sex was with real people and not a practical joke on a human blowup doll? Awwww.
But still. It seems based on the idea that *this* suffices for education. “Hey, let’s condition certain people that *they* are the real people, *they* are the center of this video game and everyone else is an NPC, and then let’s hope that watching a rape trial on TV will make them treat their NPCs with respect” seems flimsy and insulting to me.
The problem–insofar as it’s only one problem, and it’s not, it’s complex, but the core thing being objected to–is that much of the “Look at this horrible thing happening to these boys” is being framed as “The real tragedy of this rape case is that the boys are being punished.” The victim of rape is being left out entirely, while people focus on how very sad it is for these poor, persecuted boys to spend one or two years in juvenile detention.
Even if in some cases the intent is to protect the privacy of the rape victim by not dwelling on what happened to her–and I would be highly dubious that it’s the case, but it could at least be argued so–what it comes across as is “The real tragedy of this whole affair is that these boys were punished. If they hadn’t been punished, there would be no tragedy at all. We definitely shouldn’t punish boys just because they rape someone; that’s sad and unfair to them.”
I have a similar question to Steve’s: How is this an example of “rape culture”? They were arrested, tried, found guilty, and received serious punishment.. If anything, I would think this is an example of “anti-rape culture”.
As for people quibbling with the verdict, isn’t that what people do?
And isn’t some of the “those poor boys” similar to what people say when boys or girls with promising careers get drunk and rob a store or beat up a rival? It’s not necessarily condoning the crime to have a little pity for the criminals and their friends and families.
I’m sure there are idiots out there saying “boys will be boys”. But fortunately, I haven’t seen any.
Y’know, that’s an interesting point. I can’t actually remember seeing “Those poor boys” for boys with promising careers convicted of assault or robbery or the like. Just when they’re convicted for rape.
I remember a few people saying that the football player convicted for animal cruelty because of dogfighting was being punished unreasonably. So there we go. Women and dogs: about equal on the scale of being unsympathetic victims.
Oh, the hell with it.
Jo’din, imagine the following scenario.
A moderately drunk woman shows up in your bedroom. She is hot. She takes off her clothes and says that maybe she will have sex with you. She begins a lap dance with you and quits when you start getting excited. She drinks more and you do too. She starts to give you a hand job and quits when you get very excited. She says that yes, she will have sex with you.
Do you have a right to have sex with her? No. You do not. She is drunk and not capable of consent.
After saying she will have sex with you she falls asleep, naked, on your bed with her legs spread. Do you have a right to have sex with her then? Emphatically not. If you are drunk and lack the self-control not to, it is entirely your responsibility for getting into that condition when you have the opportunity to rape her.
It could be argued that something about this is not fair. Yes. The situation is not fair. When there is a question of rape, our society has not found any way to be fair to anybody involved. Lots of rapists get away with it. Occasionally perhaps innocent men get convicted of rape. Men convicted of rape sometimes get a slap on the wrist and sometimes get raped daily for years in prison, with no social status for the rest of their lives. We have not found ways to do much at all to make things better for women who have been raped. It is not fair to anybody.
You might think of ways to make it slightly fairer to somebody. You cannot possibly improve it very much. It is a bad situation. Any attempt to make it slightly better for somebody will be met by giant howls of outrage from people who think that the wrong people are being cared for.
If you are male, you personally can avoid this whole ugly situation pretty easily if you follow three simple rules.
1. Never have sex unless your partner clearly says they want to, and is clearly not under the influence of any mind-altering substance.
2. Never have sex with a crazy person.
3. If you have powerful enemies, never have sex with anyone unless you know them well and know they are on your side.
For the third one, consider the example of Julian Assange. It’s possible he did rape some women. I want to put that possibility aside. He was annoying several governments, and suddenly he was accused of rape. His own effectiveness was completely destroyed and his organization was damaged.
Usually, a woman would have to be crazy to make a false rape accusation. Being an official rape victim is no fun at all. But trained intelligence agents would do it whenever ordered to. So if you have a powerful enemy who can get women to falsely accuse you of rape, don’t ever be alone with a woman you don’t know well.
If you are female, I can’t offer any simple rules to avoid it. It isn’t fair.
I haven’t actually seen any of the coverage myself on CNN and other TV news, just comments on the coverage. Quite a few people say some of the coverage was a bit like like this video from The Onion: http://youtu.be/zWLJZw9Ws-g which, well, if it’s been even a little bit like that– ew.
Disclaimer: Multiple sexual assault victim, albeit not rape, and possessor of Many Strong Opinions.
Will–yes, they were tried and convicted. The “rape culture” stuff is seen from the people who are bemoaning the poor, sad fate of the young men. And yes, there are people talking about how terrible it is that their actions had consequences.
Jenna summed it up best, I think.
“Having a little pity” for criminals…you know, if someone is poor and committing robbery, sure. For something like this, though? No. No, I do not have a little pity. I have so little pity it’s in the negatives. They felt entitled to something they weren’t, and took it because they could. I see nothing worthy of pity in that. If they are haunted by their actions then it is only just, because their victim will be haunted by it, too.
I also think ZeroSD is basically correct here.
As white, male, het, successful athletes, they are in a position of extreme privilege. And I am minded to emphasize the roots of that word: “private law”. Such people, traditionally, get away with rape. People either believe them incapable of crime, or find some way to excuse the crime that they wouldn’t apply to ordinary suspects. The Rule of Law is very unevenly applied.
The fact that the rapists were convicted in this case is unusual. The fact that the rapists are receiving sympathy from some mainstream media is not. When people who are maximally privileged lose some of their privilege, and people then act all sympathetic about them over that loss, it sounds a lot like this SNL skit from 1976: http://snltranscripts.jt.org/76/76sbuddy.phtml
I think my friend James Wallis summed up the issue well with this tweet: Best-selling German writer and painter in tragic bunker suicide #cnnheadlines
Alexx: Just to be clear, only one of the convicted rapist is white. The other is black. I wouldn’t describe these these individuals as being in a positions of “extreme privilege.” If anything, I think that cheapens the whole thing, turning the discussion away from the violation the victim suffered.
Will: “How is this an example of “rape culture”?
My guess? It’s an example due to the fact that the assault was not only *witnessed* by numerous folks who did NOTHING to stop it or report it, but also was photographed and videos made….Many many of these kids saw nothing wrong with what was happening. Adults knew, either at the time or after the fact, and also chose to say nothing, including (possibly) one of the football coaches, who apparently in Ohio is a mandatory reporter, and yet he did not report this. It seems that to this coach, and to others, the success of the high school football team mattered more than justice, and it was more important to protect that team than to address that some of the players had committed a crime against a woman….which makes the point that they wither are unconcerned about rape, or they don’t think it was rape.
@Will Shetterly, comments that document the “rape culture” people are talking about are in the mainstream paper articles.
From the New York Times:
[Coach Reno] Saccoccia . . . ‘told the principal and school superintendent that the players who posted online photographs and comments about the girl the night of the parties said they did not think they had done anything wrong. Because of that, he said, he had no basis for benching those players.’
‘As he stood in the shadow of Harding Stadium, where he once dazzled the crowd with his runs, [volunteer coach Nate] Hubbard gave voice to some of the popular, if harsh, suspicions. “The rape was just an excuse, I think,” said the 27-year-old Hubbard, who is No. 2 on the Big Red’s career rushing list. “What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that?” said Hubbard, who is one of the team’s 19 coaches. “She had to make up something. Now people are trying to blow up our football program because of it.” ‘
‘ At a hearing last month, the girl’s mother said her daughter remained distraught and did not want to attend school. The girl’s friends have ostracized her, and parents have kept their children away from her, the mother said.’
“The thing I found most disturbing about this is that there were other people around when this was going on,” William McCafferty, the Steubenville police chief, said of the events that unfolded. “Nobody had the morals to say, ‘Hey, stop it, that isn’t right.’
The two main perpetrators are facing justice, but others were complicit to various degrees, and many people are still blaming the victim. I don’t want to link to the video in which several young men are joking about how “dead” the victim is or the facebook comments defaming the victim.
J Thomas, I am male, but happily married, so I would turn this young woman (or man, not that there’s anything wrong with it) away. My issue is that the courts use inebriation differently depending on the course of actions that follow. I was asking philosophically, should there be a difference? If we maintain that a person is incappable of making a decision, do we hold them “responsible”. Or as it appears we hold them responsible if xyz happens. Again, I find rape abhorrant and think these boys deserve harsh punishments. My question revolves around culpability.
Okay, there are some great comments here already.
Disclaimer up front: I didn’t read any news coverage of the verdict, so I can only speak to what I saw people saying on twitter. I read people complaining that coverage focused on the victim being drunk and that the coverage called her testimony calculated or studied or something. So with the former, there are a lot of people who honestly believe that a woman who gets drunk has no right to complain about whatever happens to her. It seems to me irresponsible to cover the story without an explicit mention that someone who is passed-out drunk is incapable of consent. The latter, the comments about her testimony, implied that she was somehow different than anyone ever who testifies in court — all testimony is calculated.
Moving on to the perps, I don’t know what punishment they actually got, but that judge didn’t ruin their lives (or their fucking sportsball careers, which is what some people really mean by their lives). What affected them is their choice to rape a girl.
Next, I read that the victim and at least one witness said they had no idea that what was happening was rape. Did anyone involved in this case know it was rape when it was happening? To me, that’s a big deal. You can sit there and give girls rape prevention tips until you’re blue in the face, and it doesn’t mean shit until you also start telling everyone that having sex without explicit consent is rape. THEY DIDN’T KNOW. Those boys didn’t know they were committing rape, and that is incredibly fucked up.
I understand there is an enormous contradiction between my previous two paragraphs. They chose to do something that was rape but they didn’t know it was rape. That shouldn’t alter the consequences they suffer.
Jen, one quibble: the boys knew the girl was not consenting. They may not have known the technical charge, but they knew they were taking advantage of her inebriation.
Will: Rape culture is when a sportsball program is more important than the victim. When the victim gets blamed for tarnishing the reputation of her attackers. Or when there is prosecution but the players don’t get benched during the investigation. Or when the victim is called a drunk slut. “How could she let herself get into that situation?” That’s still what people are asking, and that’s rape culture.
I ought to go look up some of the articles on this case and Anonymous involvement that I read a couple months ago, but I don’t want to read them again. I think in this instance I’d say there was a conviction in spite of rape culture.
Quibble²: The infamous video that wasn’t deleted has a witness talking about it with the word “rape” in use. I’m not sure they didn’t know.
However, there are plenty of people who don’t (cf. many current complaints about verdict) so Jen’s point is obviously relevant anyway, in general if not specific
Anyway: A lot of the language (a lot of complaints surround the CNN coverage, when Poppy Harlow took over from Candy Crowley) *does* seem to suggest the boys were victims of the court–Harlow went on and on about how emotionally affecting it was to see them collapse, and how they were just 16, etc etc.
Will: it’s an example because of the *responses*–not because of the verdict. The inversion of tragedy is an example.
I’m not going to speak to having sympathy. I’m normally one of the most frustratingly apologetic and sympathetic people around, but I have nothing of either in me when it comes to this. I’ve seen way too much of the spread of effects of that kind of trauma, a spread I haven’t seen come out of “beating up a rival” or “robbing a store”. The very possible shift in interpersonal dynamics for the non-traumatic relationships can increase/magnify/extrapolate the effects for the victim alone, and then spread to the people on the other end of said relationships, and then that can get recursive and increase the sense of (undeserved) guilt for a victim and…
We tend not to question whether a store was robbed, or whether a rival was beat-up. A lot of sympathy in this case is tied into “Yeah, but does that really ‘count’/did that really happen?” Similarly, those are often phrased as “so-and-so threw his/her life away”, and there’s a sort of responsibility attached that isn’t coming out in the phrasings I’ve heard and read complaints about (phrasings I’ve heard/read myself, to be certain this wasn’t reading too much in)–less “threw their lives away” more “had their lives thrown away”.
I think Steve’s interpretation is the kind I’m often guilty of: seeing things the way it would make sense for them to be, rather than how they are. That is, it’s seemingly unfathomable for someone to show sympathy for someone’s own heinous act ruining their lives. It seems to stop more often at “If only they weren’t convicted” instead of “If only they hadn’t been rapists.” That’s the narrative, so to speak, of those other stories–“If only he/she hadn’t decided murder was the way out.” It assigns the crime as the cause for the effect inspiring the sympathy. This tends not to–at least, in instances like the aforementioned, such as that CNN report.
The people who blame the girl and support the boys were the losers. The idea that a minority gets to define a culture seems very odd to me, especially when public sentiment and the force of law are against them. Do we live in a shoplifting culture? That crime is far more common than rape.
I’ve done a lot of reading about rape and rape culture, beginning decades ago with Susan Brownmiller. I keep being unable to answer Christina Hoff Sommers’ question regarding the recent CDC report: “The agency’s figures are wildly at odds with official crime statistics. The FBI found that 84,767 rapes were reported to law enforcement authorities in 2010. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, the gold standard in crime research, reports 188,380 rapes and sexual assaults on females and males in 2010. Granted, not all assaults are reported to authorities. But where did the CDC find 13.7 million victims of sexual crimes that the professional criminologists had overlooked?”
R.C., actually, good cops do question whether a store was robbed or a rival was beaten up. Insurance fraud is a problem. So is Münchausen syndrome–remember the woman who claimed an Obama supporter had carved a “B” on her cheek?
The presumption of innocence is important. Whenever I hear anyone say we should assume a victim is telling the truth, I think of the Scottsboro Boys. The presumption of innocence is not “victim blaming”. It’s simply the only ethical way to investigate any charge.
Will, about the quibble: Did they know that taking advantage of her inebriation is rape? Seriously, people don’t know what consent means. If she was too drunk to say no, they might not have thought it was rape.
Did they know it was wrong? That’s different from knowing it was rape.
“Do we live in a shoplifting culture? That crime is far more common than rape.”
Yes. It doesn’t get talked about as much as rape, but it’s definitely part of our culture. It’s another crime that gets committed by many people of all sorts, but where the odds of being prosecuted are strongly related to social class.
More generally, I’d say, we live in a “theft culture”. It’s performed at all levels, and those at the highest levels get praise and government protection for their actions.
“The people who blame the girl and support the boys were the losers. The idea that a minority gets to define a culture seems very odd to me, especially when public sentiment and the force of law are against them.”
Are they a minority? And why can’t a minority get to define a culture? Rock stars define culture and there’s only a handful of those.
The characterization of the rapists as victims doesn’t fit because, even though their situation may be tragic, they did this to themselves. The rape victim didn’t do this to them. It isn’t the judge’s fault. They had a competent defense team. The prosecution was not over zealous as an adult sentence would have been far worse. So the main problem when the media emphasizes too much sympathy for the perpetrator is that it leaves one with the impression that justice was not fairly served. I think there is a better case to be made that it fell short.
We and those commenting are not cops. Of course cops should question it. Of course we, on some level, should question it.
But we don’t say “That store wasn’t REALLY robbed: they WANTED to give the money to those people who came in with weapons.”
“It’s the store’s fault for having a cash register at the front of the store, so, really, the store is equally at fault here.”
We question it up to a point, but rape gets questioned PAST that point. We hear phrases like “legitimate rape” as a result of this further questioning. Or “forcible rape”. Or any of the other modifiers thrown on there.
Perhaps it simply doesn’t cross my path, but I do believe no one uses phrases like “legitimate robbery” or “forcible robbery”.
These boys were poised to provide a positive contribution to society. Well, as much as you value a sports career.
Cases like this make people notice that being convicted of a crime often means never again being allowed to make a positive contribution to society and they lament the loss.
While I care only a little about their sports careers, I am sad that they are a lot more likely to become a drain on society, much like I am sad when a poor black kid is convicted of theft. Ideally, we would punish while still allowing contribution, rather than shunning.
Okay, that’s much clearer now; thanks to you all. It seems that my reaction was, in fact, a bit idiosyncratic.
Random Michelle: It was especially useful seeing the events put in their immediate social context; that explains a great deal.
R.C. I’m a googling maniac. This time, it got me a Steve Martin tweet: “In legitimate armed robbery, females have a way of not losing their stuff.”
We all have models for understanding the world. I don’t see “rape culture” as a useful or accurate one. If Sommers is right, rape is not nearly as prevalent as rape culture theorists claim. If the theorists are right, only one woman out of 72 is willing to report a rape or a sexual assault. (I used the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization statistics for that calculation.)
Now, I’ve known an awful lot of women in my life–I’ve tended to have more female friends than male ones. I can’t imagine that for every American woman who will speak out, there are 72 who choose silence. Maybe that’s a failure of my imagination. Maybe an awful lot of women who have been raped are hiding the fact, though when I consider the ones who have told me about being raped, I also find that hard to believe.
Can anyone answer Sommers’ question? Where did the CDC find 13.7 million victims of sexual crimes that the professional criminologists had overlooked?
I do think “rape culture” is fair when applied to some societies. Saudi Arabia should probably be at the top of the list. I just read about a recent case so horrible I’m not sharing a link.
“I keep being unable to answer Christina Hoff Sommers’ question regarding the recent CDC report: “The agency’s figures are wildly at odds with official crime statistics. The FBI found that 84,767 rapes were reported to law enforcement authorities in 2010. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, the gold standard in crime research, reports 188,380 rapes and sexual assaults on females and males in 2010. Granted, not all assaults are reported to authorities. But where did the CDC find 13.7 million victims of sexual crimes that the professional criminologists had overlooked?””
They interviewed 9000 women. 18% of the women counted as having been raped in their lifetime, including completed rapes, rape attempts, and sex while drunk or on drugs. Yes, since a drunk woman is not capable of giving consent, any woman who had ever had sex while drunk was counted as being raped.
Meanwhile, the CDC has a definition of “sexual violence” that includes any unwanted touching, voyeurism, exhibitionism, unwanted exposure to pornography, etc. So if the BoJ is reporting rapes and sexual assaults, while the CDC also includes people who look at pornography when you can see it, groping, verbal abuse, and drunken public nudity by men etc, it isn’t surprising they would get a higher number.
Will, your Googling proved my point. Satirical usage only further emphasizes that I was not mistaken.
Me? I know a lot of women, too. And I know very, very few who reported it to the police. I’m struggling to think of even one I know who did. Some are more or less open about it personally, but few (if any) reported it to the police. A lot of people will never tell you. I know plenty who never said a word to me or even hinted it until they figured out it was something woven into parts of my own life.
Same goes for the men I know, for that matter.
R.C., sorry I didn’t make it clear. I was sharing it for the humor value, nothing more.
Also, a point that might be lost in the general discussion: I’m not disputing that an awful lot of reporters are idiots, and on subjects like rape, their idiocy grows.
But for “rape culture” to make sense, a large percentage of men would have to be rapists. Statistically, the reverse is true: the rapists we know about tend to have many victims, just as most other criminals do.
Here’s a reasonable post about that:
“I am male, but happily married, so I would turn this young woman (or man, not that there’s anything wrong with it) away.”
Yes, same here.
“My issue is that the courts use inebriation differently depending on the course of actions that follow. I was asking philosophically, should there be a difference? If we maintain that a person is incappable of making a decision, do we hold them “responsible”. Or as it appears we hold them responsible if xyz happens.”
This is the way it is done. If you argue that something else would be more fair to men, you may not figure out what hit you until months later.
Here is an analogy. Suppose you are driving in a car on a city street, and there are a lot of pedestrians on the sidewalk. The pedestrians are responsible for not jaywalking, and you are responsible for not hitting them no matter what they do. If you are drunk and you hit a pedestrian, you are in trouble. If a pedestrian is drunk and wanders out into traffic and you hit him, you are probably still in trouble. You can argue “He jumped out in front of me and there was nothing I could do” and you might get off. But the basic assumption is that when you drive a car, you should drive in a way that avoids accidents. If your car hits a pedestrian the default assumption is that you are at fault.
Meanwhile if the drunk pedestrian falls over a baby carriage and hurts a baby, he is responsible. If he wanders out and plays in the traffic he shouldn’t do that, and you’re still supposed to not hit him.
I’m not sure it ought to be that way, but that’s the way the US legal system has evolved.
I think it’s pertinent that there can be disagreement insofar as what “rape culture” is–and that very post contains this phrase:
“They create situations where the culture will protect them by making excuses for them and questioning or denying their victims.”
Something is clearly wrong when, despite rapists being a small percentage (from the anecdotal data I have, that also bears out), an awful lot of the population is willing to excuse it, or “[question or deny] their victims”. I mean, my goodness, it goes on:
“It is the modus operandi that keeps the undetected rapist undetected: they correctly identify a methodology that will put them under the protection of the rape culture.”
So it depends on how you understand the term. To me, it reflects things like all of this: a culture that, whatever the justice system might do here or there specifically, questions the inherent validity of any claim made in the first place, even in light of evidence, and in numbers strong enough that it can’t be considered “fringe”. It may not be a majority that thinks this way, but it’s not a tiny minority either. And that, to me, is the problem the media represents, and, barring elaboration, what I understand when I hear “rape culture”.
Not always what’s being said, of course…but it’s what I understand (and the usage I understood in all contexts above, myself)
So here, I think, would be a strong emotional response to the verdict: http://feministing.com/2013/03/18/steubenville-teens-are-found-guilty-but-rape-culture-remains-alive-and-well/
“I don’t want to live in a world in which a mainstream media outlet reporting on the verdict barely mentions the victim in their rush to lament the fact that the “promising lives” of the defendants have been ruined and that this “will haunt them for the rest of their lives.” I want to live in a world in which negative consequences are considered the logical effect of committing a terrible crime, and a sentence for rape that is shorter than those regularly doled out for drug possession or downloading academic papers is viewed as pretty damn lenient.
I don’t want to live in a world in which girls are so well-schooled in the consequences they’re sure to face for speaking up about a sexual assault that the victim immediately tried to assure people that she “wasn’t being a slut” and initially didn’t want to name the defendants ”because I knew everyone would just blame me.” I don’t want to live in a world that proves these fears justified time and time again.
I don’t want to live in a world in which the victim’s former best friends testify against her. I don’t want to live in a world in which girls learn to slut-shame and victim-blame other girls in order to maintain a sense of false security for themselves. I want to live in a world in which we stick together and fight the forces that seek to split us apart, recognizing that victim-blaming anywhere makes us all less safe and less free.”
Those seem like reasonable summaries of the critique of the coverage of the verdict and the issues it raises. It’s been circulating anyway throughout my social media world. I didn’t watch the coverage so have little else to add.
“But for “rape culture” to make sense, a large percentage of men would have to be rapists.”
I don’t see why that follows. Rape culture is a bunch of ways that we dismiss and minimize sexual assault.
“Here’s a reasonable post about that:
“(2) Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated (on alcohol or drugs) to resist your sexual advances (e.g., removing their clothes)?”
They asked 1882 college students four leading questions mixed in with a bunch of other questions. (The link said the original study is not available and I didn’t try to find it. I assume they mixed these in with innocuous questions because it would be ridiculous not to, and they did report that they collected more data.) 120 students answered yes to one or more of the four questions that were confessions of rape.
I will guess that some of the students did not read the questions carefully but just marked yes or no without much thought. I expect some students read this particular one as “Have you ever had sex with someone because they were drunk?”. If 240 of them read it that way and then answered at random, that would be 120. 240 out of 1882 among college students? Real likely.
But it was not 120 who answered yes to this question, it was only about 70%. The other 30% said they used force or intimidation without alcohol, and 70% said they used alcohol without saying yes to the other questions about direct force or threats of force.
We have a society where a significant minority of men who each believe that if a woman gets drunk alone with him, she is implicitly consenting to sex.
There are women who encourage them in this belief. And it is spread through the culture.
The Steubenville case was different. They were all underage so presumably none of them really knew what they were doing. The girl was not drunk alone with anybody, it was public enough people should have protected her. None of them should have been drunk in the first place. People who should have protected her assumed she was a slut who did not want to be protected.
It was all wrong. I can’t think of anything about the whole story that I would consider defensible on anybody’s part.
Jo’din, In my opinion, the issue is that alcohol impairs judgement, it does not change moral character. So if you are someone who doesn’t take money from purses you see lying around because you don’t want to get caught and sent to jail, then maybe if you get drunk you will steal. But if you don’t do it because you believe it is wrong, you will not do it no matter how drunk you get. So that is why it makes sense to convict people of crimes committed while drunk.
growing inside, I understand your point, but let me put it in this context: If you are sitting in a club and a street gang walks in and begins a shootout with another gang, and you are shot, you are an innocent victim. If you are hanging around with your known gang member friends, and said gang walks in and shoots you, are you not even slightly responsible for the inherant risk associated with hanging out with bad people?
As my daughter said to me, “So I can be too drunk to give consent, but not too drunk to get consent?”
I don’t have the answer.
R.C. and Professorperry, I linked to Feministing because they buy into “rape culture”. It was like linking to a Catholic site for a criticism of the Pope. They are going to frame the discussion in their way.
Does a large percentage of the population condone rape? I haven’t seen that. Can you cite any polls or studies?
Professorperry quotes Feministing talking about a world most of us would want to live in, but as part of the internet’s outrage culture, Feministing pushes their interpretation of what’s happened. Most significantly:
1. There’s little attention to the victim because she’s underage, not because people in the media think she deserved to be raped. She’s being protected, not slighted.
2. The talk of “promising lives” is a warning. The boys had “promising lives” as sports heroes, they did wrong, and they are being punished. The writer does “live in a world in which negative consequences are considered the logical effect of committing a terrible crime”, as this case proves. Are there efforts to free the boys or make rape laws more lenient?
Jen, I’m comfortable talking about the US’s war culture because I was one of the people on the street protesting when the Republicans and the Democrats overwhelmingly went to war with majority support from their constituency. I think it’s reasonable to speak of a place having a Christian culture or a Muslim culture if the majority of the people support those beliefs.
But it’s odd to define a culture by what that culture forbids and punishes.
I dunno. I realize that to people who accept the model, “rape culture” explains a lot, and criticizing their model seems like condoning what the model is intended to oppose. But we solve our problems by improving our models for understanding them. I look at the differences between rape culture theory and predator theory, and it seems to me people will be much safer if we focus on stopping predators. Most men and women in countries with strong laws against rape know it’s wrong to use anyone in any way without consent. The rest hear the outrage over rape and keep doing what they do, not because of their culture but in spite of it.
Prob’ly time to agree to disagree, so I’ll bow out now. I will keep reading the comments.
Will–just for perspective in numbers reported by law enforcement, and your perception of the women around you. You know me, or you did (in Minnesota)…I experienced sexual assault and date rape years before. Did you know that about me? No. And if you had asked, I would have told you nothing. For a variety of reasons, those experiences were not fully reported. ( I refer you to the article posted by professorperry.) And I’d be surprised if I’m the only woman of your acquaintance who could make this statement.
“In my opinion, the issue is that alcohol impairs judgement, it does not change moral character. So if you are someone who doesn’t take money from purses you see lying around because you don’t want to get caught and sent to jail, then maybe if you get drunk you will steal. But if you don’t do it because you believe it is wrong, you will not do it no matter how drunk you get. So that is why it makes sense to convict people of crimes committed while drunk.”
Growing inside, I don’t want to argue morality. If this moral stand works for you, then that’s fine.
But I say, it looks to me like alcohol impairs judgement. (Also it impairs reflexes. One time in my life I got drunk. I tried punching a target and found that my aim was off and my balance was off. That was my only time getting drunk so maybe dedicated drunks will not accept my credentials as somebody who understands drunkenness.)
Lots of social situations require careful judgement. Like for example, there’s the question whether a woman likes a man or not. She might give lots of subtle signals that seem to conflict. Perhaps in reality she is not thinking about him at all most of the time and is randomly doing things that look like subtle signals. So men who are socially competent will not assume a woman likes them and make great big social blunders on that assumption, not unless she makes it unmistakeable.
But drunk men lose those subtleties. Their thinking gets simpler. They are more likely to believe random hypotheses. One drunk man may sit crying in the corner because he thinks she doesn’t want him (when in reality she may not have noticed him at all) while another may believe she wants to have his baby right now, and not notice otherwise until she pokes her fingers in his eyes and gives him the knee.
A drunk man might rape somebody without noticing that it’s rape, particularly if the person being raped is too scared to firmly deny him. This is not an excuse. It is completely wrong. But I don’t think you can assume that good men will still keep their wits when they are drunk, or that anybody who might rape someone while drunk would do the same while sober.
Don’t drive or operate heavy machinery when you are drunk, because your judgement is bad. You might make some incredibly stupid mistake because you are drunk, and it will be your fault for getting into that situation in the first place.
Don’t try to seduce anybody while you are drunk. For the same reason. Your judgement is bad and you do not know what you are doing.
Don’t let yourself get into a situation where someone tries to seduce you while you are drunk. Your judgement is bad and you are not capable of informed consent.
“As my daughter said to me, ‘So I can be too drunk to give consent, but not too drunk to get consent?'”
Ouch. Never thought of that. Um. Need to think about it.
I guess I’ll lurk except when I need to clarify something I said, so:
Lysandwr, I’m sure there are many women I know whose assaults I don’t know about, and Sommers acknowledged that we can’t know how many women don’t report what happened to them. But do you think only one out of 72 women report rape or sexual assault?
Under the law of England and Wales ignorance of the law is no excuse; I don’t know whether that is the case in Steubenville.
Again, under the law of England and Wales, touching someone without their consent is a legal offence, irrespective of the degree of sobriety of the person doing the touching, or the profession of the person doing the touching, which is why a competent adult can refuse medical treatment ‘for any reason, or none.’
I have difficulties in envisaging a workable system in which a drunken rapist is excused but a doctor who insists on giving life saving treatment against the wishes of a patient is convicted…
I was just ducking into this thread to post an ‘agree-to-disagree’ of my own, because I don’t want to debate the term ‘rape-culture.’ So yay!
Will – I just posted the article as a reasonably well articulated reaction to the media coverage, especially given the heated nature of the subject (it’s hard to react emotionally and intelligently, nor is it appropriate to demand a lack of emotion).
Just from a perspective of rhetorical analysis, it seems to me (I’ve read summaries and quotes, but have not watched video, and really don’t care to. If that makes my thoughts worthless, so be it): 1) the emphasis on promise was not to warn, but to lament the loss of promise, hence evoking sympathy for the rapists. 2) the emphasis on drunk (rather than drugged) was to shift blame from wholly on the rapists to shared between rapists and victim.
It may be that sympathy for the rapists and sharing blame is somehow more true, although my understanding of the facts of the case suggests not. But I do not claim to have total command of the facts. But I feel reasonably confident in my assessment of rhetorical effect, if not intent.
As for rape culture in America – it’s not really a question of whether it exists, but how it functions. One could descend into a conversation of whether ‘rape culture’ is the optimal term for the broad base of activities, attitudes, representations, and so forth that the term encompasses, but I choose not to do so at this time, as it doesn’t seem especially fruitful. I’d rather just stick to rhetorical analysis.
“As my daughter said to me, “So I can be too drunk to give consent, but not too drunk to get consent?””
I see two entirely different consensus positions about this in the USA.
One says that when a woman gets drunk alone with a man, she should not be surprised the next day to find that she has had sex. Getting each other drunk can be part of seduction. Some couples like to get drunk together and have sex when there is no question that they are a couple and that they intend to get drunk and have sex.
The other position says that it is not possible to give informed consent when drunk. So any time a woman has sex while drunk, she is being raped.
If you take a stand that is between these, there is room for contradiction and argument whether it was rape or not. Either it is OK to have sex while drunk, or it is not OK to have sex while drunk. Either sex while drunk is OK, and when you put yourself into a situation where that result is plausible you are giving consent, or sex while drunk is not OK and anybody who has sex with you while you are drunk is taking advantage of you.
We have a minority who agree with the first approach, and a minority who agree with the second approach. A bunch of people are confused and don’t know what to think.
It seems to me that if we want to spread the stand that drunk people cannot give consent, we need to first get all the women to agree. When the women disagree it’s harder to convince men who would prefer not to go along.
Get all the women in the USA and Canada to agree that they will never have sex while drunk. If they go to a singles bar accepting the possibility they may go home with someone, they should drink fruit juice or soft drinks, no alcohol.
Should we chide every woman who has ever voluntarily had sex while drunk, because she was furthering rape culture? Is every woman who has ever had sex while drunk one of the bad guys? Should they all apologize to the world?
When 99.5% of the women are agreed, then it will be much easier to convince the men.
My tone is probably off here. The points I am trying to make are that
1. The idea that drunk people cannot give consent does not yet have a full consensus.
2. A whole lot of women do not actually practice it.
3. A lot of men get mixed signals when women expect to drink and have sex.
4. Clear rules are better.
5. Men can adapt to new rules better when the women they actually associate with, follow those rules.
I am not trying to put anybody down or shift blame from anybody to anybody else. Just, get a consensus.
‘So I can be too drunk to give consent, but not too drunk to get consent?’
That’s a different scenario. If you’re sober, and someone asks you for sex, you’re morally (and legally?) obliged to say no, whether you or they’re a man or a woman.
The moral obligation is still there when you’re drunk, but if you’re too drunk to say it, it doesn’t change whether or not you said yes.
The difficulty with defining a solution as depending on the unanimous agreement of every woman in the US is that anyone with an IQ into double figures is going to be sceptical that this is a sincere attempt to help.
As for judges; to use the time honoured phrase they would laugh it out of court…
Okay, there is a difference here that I need to make clear to the people discussing whether drunkeness is an excuse or not an excuse:
There is a HUGE difference between “had a few and happily tipsy” and “PASSED OUT”. The girl in this situation was PASSED OUT. A person who is *passed out* for ANY reason is not capable of giving consent, whether the reason for their unconsciousness is too much alcohol, drugs, a knock on the noggin, narcolepsy, or severe sleep deprivation.
So, in this case, the daughter’s question of “I cannot give consent while drunk, but I can GET consent while drunk” does not apply. If you are passed out, you cannot do either.
Now, I understand that many people use alcohol on purpose to lower their inhibitions, to help relieve nervousness in social situations, etc., and I also realize that each person’s tolerance is different. There are also those that simply want to get shitfaced and have what the don’t remember was a good time or not. There are also people who prey upon those that simply wish to do the latter.
I once knew a person whose most successful “pick up line” was waiting until after last call in the bar, finding the most inebriated woman there, tap her on the shoulder and say, “Come on, babe, time to go home.” Is there any doubt that his intention was to have sex with someone who was incapable of either consenting or refusing him?
Now, my own experience: I remember a certain Con that I somehow managed NOT to get laid at…when I was TRYING. Three hot girls and one hot guy. ~sighs~ It was nearly a parade. I’d come on to the first, we had a few drinks, and she got toasted, and I helped her friends load her into the car to get her home. Next likely prospect, we had a few drinks, and she got wasted, and I helped get her to her room. Next one, we’re talking and sharing shots, and she becomes way too clumsy….help her get home. Finally, a guy (Lovely hair on him!). ~sighs~ Yep, he got too drunk. Realize *I* had been drinking throughout these encounters as well.
I didn’t have sex with any of them because I knew it was WRONG.
Yet, when *I* was in the same position, at a later time, where I ended up “too drunk to move” and the person I was with had sex with me, who did I blame?
Myself, of course. It was MY fault for getting so wasted that I could not protect myself. MY fault for trusting the person I was with.
THAT is what “rape culture” is. It is a culture that *fosters* that response. It is a culture in which the majority say, “Well, why did she get so drunk anyway? She has to take some responsibility for the outcome.”
It is a culture in which a BUNCH of people (including parents and other adults) can think that there is NOTHING WRONG with violating a person who is unconscious. That because a *woman* (Realize, the outcome would have been a lot different if a GUY had been passed out and his so-called “friends” had taken video of him with some placed in his orifices.) is out in public and has gotten into a mental state where she cannot give consent, that it is okay to just use her.
It is not okay to use ANYONE like that. Period. Not male. Not female. Not pink-and-purple chimpanzee.
Karl Kraus once said, “Moral responsibility is what is lacking in a man when he demands it of a woman.”
This case just highlights the fact that culturally (and sometimes legally….although THIS case didn’t go that way, thankfully), the majority of the *populous* believes that moral responsibility ONLY rests on the shoulders of women. That males should be *expected* to take advantage of any unconscious hole they can find, and if a woman is taken advantage of in such a fashion, it is her fault for not being more careful. Men are just beasts and you can’t expect any better from them, so if you end up raped, it was your own fault for lowering your guard. You should know better.
This is not a LEGAL issue, it is a cultural one.
It is the 11 year old girl who escapes attempted assault, reports it, and the next day, everyone in her school tells her how it is HER fault that the perpetrator is now in jail, and will be for a while as that is a violation of his probation.
It is the 15 year old girl who is blamed when she reports being raped by her brother-in-law. It’s HER fault that the sister’s marriage fell apart. If she had just kept her mouth shut, they would have lived happily ever after.
It goes on and on. LEGALLY, even if every single instance was properly prosecuted and, if guilty, the rapist convicted and sentenced, it doesn’t change the SOCIAL ramifications for the victim.
And it is these social and cultural ramifications and attitudes that people mean when they speak of a “rape culture”. These are perfectly clear when reading the comments section of any article about this case.
Caliann: Just want to say thank you for the contribution, and I have added that Karl Kraus quote to my quotes page.
And thank you!
Thanks CaliannG. I wrote and re-wrote my attempts to explain why that question didn’t work and couldn’t ever find something that felt correctly phrased, and you’ve done so anyway.
CaliannG, that was a mighty fine post, so I have to ask: who thinks it’s okay to have sex with an unconscious person? Or a person who can’t consent? I’m 57 years old, and I’ve never met anyone, male or female, who said it was okay to have sex with an unconscious person or someone who couldn’t consent. There’s a term that’s been used for ages but may not be used much anymore: “taking advantage of”. When it’s used, it means what’s done is, quite simply, wrong. I suspect it’s being phased out for “raped” or “molested” or “abused”, but while words and laws change, the sentiment does not: wrong is wrong.
And the most important question: do the creeps and psychopaths define a culture?
There are people who think it’s ok to have sex with babies, there are people who think it’s ok to have sex with Alzheimer sufferers, there are people who think it’s ok to have sex with squirrels, and guess what, they never mentioned it to you.
Just as you have met women who have been attacked who, guess what, never mentioned it to you either, like Lysandwr.
I agree that there is a profound cultural problem, but ‘nobody mentioned it to me’ does not prove that it didn’t happen, however much you would like to believe otherwise…
Stevie, of course rapists exist. They are prosecuted when they are caught because our culture despises them. But as for your examples, are you now arguing we live in a squirrel sex culture?
The reason I spoke from my example is because, if I’m living in rape culture, why didn’t I get the memo that it’s okay to have sex with someone if they’re too drunk to resist? If I never understood that about my culture, what else haven’t I understood?
Or to make this entirely Not About Me, why didn’t the Steubenville chief of police get the memo? He’s quoted in this thread as saying, “Nobody had the morals to say, ‘Hey, stop it, that isn’t right.’
“There is a HUGE difference between “had a few and happily tipsy” and “PASSED OUT”. The girl in this situation was PASSED OUT. A person who is *passed out* for ANY reason is not capable of giving consent, whether the reason for their unconsciousness is too much alcohol, drugs, a knock on the noggin, narcolepsy, or severe sleep deprivation.”
And the new consensus is also that anyone who is drunk cannot give consent.
“Now, I understand that many people use alcohol on purpose to lower their inhibitions, to help relieve nervousness in social situations, etc., and I also realize that each person’s tolerance is different. There are also those that simply want to get shitfaced and have what the don’t remember was a good time or not.”
Yes. I don’t understand that, but I have observed it many times.
“There are also people who prey upon those that simply wish to do the latter.”
Yes. Um, is it predation or more commensalism? If it’s what the shitfaced one was looking for, is it a problem if that’s what they get? Well, but if it seems like rape to the victim afterward, then it wasn’t what they were looking for. They left themselves open for an experience they would not remember. I don’t understand it.
“It is a culture in which the majority say, “Well, why did she get so drunk anyway? She has to take some responsibility for the outcome.””
First time is an accident. Second time coincidence. Third time is a learning experience. Fourth time is a mistake. Thirtieth time is a habit.
If she doesn’t know then she isn’t responsible. At some point she should know that there are people who will take advantage if she lets them, and she needs to be careful. Predators who take advantage of her are still completely responsible for their actions, and she should take responsibility too. (There is a big difference between responsibility and blame.)
“It is a culture in which a BUNCH of people (including parents and other adults) can think that there is NOTHING WRONG with violating a person who is unconscious.”
I say they are wrong.
“….I didn’t have sex with any of them because I knew it was WRONG.
“Yet, when *I* was in the same position, at a later time, where I ended up “too drunk to move” and the person I was with had sex with me, who did I blame?
“Myself, of course.”
Some ways that is adaptive. You are the one who can keep it from happening again. If it was a good friend who had given you cause to think he would look after you, then blame him too. If it was somebody at random who turned out to be no good, I’m not sure it makes sense to blame him. You don’t blame a rattlesnake for being a rattlesnake or a spider for being a spider. At the same time, you don’t necessarily leave them unharmed waiting to attack the next person who comes along….
I have only been in that situation once. I was at a party and had a friendly talk with a woman, and then her ride was leaving with somebody else so she needed a ride home. She got drunk. She invited me in. It concerned me that her cats acted like they were abused. She said she rescued them. She was drunk, not enough to be incapacitated but not good. When she told me her previous boyfriends were turkish and she was a 28 year old virgin I was certain I did not want her that night.
“LEGALLY, even if every single instance was properly prosecuted and, if guilty, the rapist convicted and sentenced, it doesn’t change the SOCIAL ramifications for the victim.”
Yes. In the South, traditionally they seemed to claim that a woman who had been raped was ruined forever. That appears to have somewhat improved, but we have too much of it still. Women have a right not to be raped, and if they are raped they have a right to get over it.
“First time is an accident. Second time coincidence. Third time is a learning experience. Fourth time is a mistake. Thirtieth time is a habit.
If she doesn’t know then she isn’t responsible. At some point she should know that there are people who will take advantage if she lets them, and she needs to be careful. Predators who take advantage of her are still completely responsible for their actions, and she should take responsibility too. (There is a big difference between responsibility and blame.)”
She is 16. Just how much experience CAN she have? Hmmm?
Something I didn’t mention before: She is SIXTEEN freaking years old, and a bunch of people, adults even, just EXPECT her to know how much alcohol will effect her body, or how much she *can* drink?
Witnesses state that she drank a LOT in a very short period of time. One of the expected mistakes that someone who is unfamiliar with alcohol does. She probably had some alcohol poisoning. Would we be even having this conversation about her responsibility if she had died of alcohol poisoning while her molesters were dragging her unconscious body from house to house?
But, to get to another point you have here, “responsibility AFTER experience”.
What if it is a guy? Is it right that a guy should worry, if he is out with his friends getting snockered, of waking up with an aching ass? You see, I have never heard of a guy having that kind of worry, so perhaps the men here can clue me in: As a male, is this something you feel that you have needed to be careful about? Has it, at any time of your life, been a worry for you that you might drink too much at a party, wake up naked, and find vasaline all over your bum and a rather stretched feeling? Or have you believed that about the worst that would happen would be that your buddies might shave your eyebrows, do your face up with women’s make-up, and then haul your unconscious self onto the roof?
If you believe that, even if you dove into the backyard naked while you were drunk with friends at a party, the worst you might suffer is ribbing and maybe some pranking….but not really be concerned with waking up raped, then please tell me why we live in a society where being a woman changes everything and she DOES have to have these worries?
ANY person should be able to walk around a party stark-assed naked while singing Peggy Lee tunes and swinging his or her hips, and if they pass out, and be able to realistically EXPECT to wake up unmolested.
This case was not a bunch of complete strangers. She did not go to a bar where no one had ever heard of her, get wasted, and pass out in the alley. She went to a party, with friends, among people she knew and who knew her. The guy video-taping some of it knew her.
You say that people should be responsible for their safety from other people. I say that people should act ethically and not rape unconscious girls. Just how difficult is it to NOT rape someone who is unconscious?
Will, I get what you are trying to say….that you and the people you have associated with never though rape was “Okay”, and you are wondering why, if it is cultural, you and those you have known did not feel that way.
Many years ago, I heard a joke; it went like this:
Woman goes into a bar and orders three pitchers of Miller, and chugs them down. Soon afterwards, she passes out, and the guys in the bar think “What the heck?” They haul her to the storeroom and have their way with her. Some time later, she wakes up and stumbles home.
Next night, she comes in and orders three pitchers of Miller, and chugs them down. Same thing happens.
Third night, she orders three pitchers of Budweiser. The bartender asks, “Why the change? I thought you preferred Miller?”
She replies, “I do, but Miller makes my pussy hurt.”
Now, here is the clue: Anyone who passed on this joke, or laughed at this joke, thinks it is okay to rape an unconscious person. They may not come right out and SAY that they think it is okay to rape an unconscious person; they may claim (and it may be true) that that is something they would NEVER do….but inside, they think that there is nothing inherently wrong in raping an unconscious person.
YOU may have never encountered that thought pattern or, at least, you have never been aware of encountering that thought pattern, but it DOES exist.
Google “coma patients rape” and see what you get.
Now, move away from the unconscious and just into the area of “no consequences”. How many rapes happened to Native women on reservations by white men because they could not be prosecuted?
“She shouldn’t have worn that dress” has come to be the euphemism of victim blaming. Victim blaming is an inherent part of a rape culture.
~sighs~ I am probably not communicating very well. However, the difficulty may be generational, and not necessarily that you didn’t “get the memo”.
Before 1990, how many people did you ever hear of that had been victims of child sexual molestation? It was NOT something that made the media, it was almost never prosecuted, and people kept it hush and certainly didn’t discuss it with the neighbors. Molesters who told their victims that no one would believe them if they said anything were *telling the truth*. Children who confessed to adults were often told that they were lying, or that So-and-so would NEVER do something like that.
It was a culture that, through shame and other areas, condoned child rape.
Now, YOU may have never gotten the memo that it was okay to rape children, and YOU might not have been apprised of the number of people in your school/area who had been victims, and YOU did not think that raping kids was okay…..but the CULTURE, through the actions, in-actions, system, and beliefs, condoned it.
LEGALLY, having sex with children was a felony, and people that were actually brought to justice received sentences. So you can SAY that the molesting of children was frowned upon…..but….
The culture and society still contributed to child molesters being able to go on molesting children with near impunity. That, thankfully, has VASTLY changed.
What has changed more slowly is the culture and society that contributes to rapists being able to go on raping with near impunity.
“She is 16. Just how much experience CAN she have? Hmmm?”
Agreed. She could not be expected to know how to take care of herself, and nobody was watching out for her. This was a sort of societal breakdown. It is rarely that bad, which is what makes this particular case get so much attention. But even though this was an extreme case, less extreme cases are still bad.
“But, to get to another point you have here, “responsibility AFTER experience”.
“What if it is a guy? Is it right that a guy should worry, if he is out with his friends getting snockered, of waking up with an aching ass? You see, I have never heard of a guy having that kind of worry, so perhaps the men here can clue me in: As a male, is this something you feel that you have needed to be careful about?”
I don’t drink. I don’t usually worry about that. By proportion, if around 10% of the male population is homosexual then it would make sense for me to be somewhere around 10% as concerned about rape as you. From the way people talk, I would tend to expect that only in the rougher gay bars or in prison. I have met a small handful of male homosexuals who gave me the impression they wanted to rape me. I had the thought this was the style they wanted to impress people with, but I felt uncomfortable anyway.
“If you believe that, even if you dove into the backyard naked while you were drunk with friends at a party, the worst you might suffer is ribbing and maybe some pranking….but not really be concerned with waking up raped, then please tell me why we live in a society where being a woman changes everything and she DOES have to have these worries?”
It isn’t fair. I certainly can’t defend it, and wouldn’t want to. Is there some reason you would think I would want to defend this?
If men were just as likely to be raped that would be fairer, but I would not consider it an improvement.
“ANY person should be able to walk around a party stark-assed naked while singing Peggy Lee tunes and swinging his or her hips, and if they pass out, and be able to realistically EXPECT to wake up unmolested.”
I agree. It ought to be that way. Maybe we can make it be that way. It will be that way when all the men agree it should? But then, Stevie says we cannot expect all the women to agree about anything….
“You say that people should be responsible for their safety from other people.”
Yes, of course. Which is entirely different from blaming people for being victimized.
“I say that people should act ethically and not rape unconscious girls.”
I completely agree.
In practice, if you are vulnerable in a situation where people are likely to find you one group at a time, and x% of men are ready to rape a woman who cannot stop them, then the chance you will be raped is something less than x%. You might be found first by a woman or group of women, who might help you. You might be found by a mixed group, and often men do not want to rape someone while a woman is watching. You might be found by a group of men who disagree, and often it takes only one who says it is wrong to stop the others. But there is some tendency for people to associate with other people who agree with them, so the chance that two men will take turns raping you is bigger than x% times x%.
Ideally we can reduce x% to zero. This has not happened yet.
We have advanced somewhat from the days when englishmen who found a french passenger ship that could not defend itself, would rape all the frenchwomen passengers because they were french. We have a ways to go.
“Now, here is the clue: Anyone who passed on this joke, or laughed at this joke, thinks it is okay to rape an unconscious person.”
Here is a different joke.
A man starts getting terrible headaches. He goes to his MD who runs various tests and cannot find the problem. The headaches get worse. His MD sends him to specialists. Finally a specialist says that there is only one possible cure. He will have to be castrated. No other therapy is presented, and he cannot live with the headaches, so he agrees.
After the operation he decides he will buy a new suit. Maybe if he looks good he will feel better. He goes to a real tailor. The tailor looks at him. “You wear about a size 42 coat, but after we measure we’ll get it exact.”
“Yes, I do. You can tell that just by looking?”
“I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m an expert. Your pants are going to be about 40, 34.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Your shirt, that’s 17 and a half, long.”
“And your shorts, that’s size 40.”
“No, I wear size 36.”
“No way! If you wear a size 36 you’ll get terrible headaches!”
If you laugh at this joke does it mean you approve of medical malpractice?
I did not think your joke was funny, but I don’t think it has the implications you propose. Humor is weird and it’s hard to make ironclad rules for it.
I have heard that joke, J Thomas, and I could not see why it some thought it was funny. I believe that it is supposed to be along the lines of “Person with problems goes to extreme ends to solve problem, only to find after the extreme solution is irreversible, that there was a simple solution all along.”
I do not see how the joke insinuates medical malpractice as much as a subtle inference that “doctors don’t know everything”. After all, it speaks of several doctors and specialists attempting to diagnose and treat the problem, without much success, while the lowly tailor possessed the real solution.
CaliannG, I have to disagree with you about the nature of dark humor. Do you know Emo Phillips’ joke which was voted the best religious joke ever? Does it prove we live in a murder culture? Did dead baby jokes prove our culture approves of unloading dead babies with pitchforks? Those kinds of jokes have power because they confront cultural taboos, not because they reveal what a culture permits.
I suspect there are still people who say violent entertainment should be banned because it causes violence. Saying it reveals the secret desires of a culture is only a half-step from that argument.
White and black rapists who target American Indians are no different than black rapists who target whites or white rapists who target blacks: they’re less common among rapists, who usually target people of their own race. (At least, that used to be true. I haven’t checked to see if it still is.)
A clarification about “rape culture”. It was first used to describe the attitude toward rape in prisons. Only later was it used for larger societies. I think it is useful for talking about subcultures, and prison in particular. It may be useful to say that the players’ coach is part of a rape culture. But saying the police chief is, or the jury that convicted the boys is, would seem to be disproved by the evidence.
Oh, as for whether men should worry about these things, you know that when prison rape is included, there appear to be more reported cases in the US of men being raped than women? And this, from an article about the CDC report: “Men have been victimized as well: About one in seven reports an intimate partner has been physically violent and one in 19 has been the victim of stalking.” Rape and sexual violence affect everyone.
Whilst there are a number of contenders for the first recorded use of the term ‘rape culture’, none of them appear to originate in ‘first used to describe the attitude towards rape in prisons’. It would be helpful if you could provide the reference to this.
Also, whilst you are, of course, entirely free to suspect whatever you want, your suspicions are not evidence of anything other than your mindset; just as your belief that someone else should do some checking to find out whether what you vaguely recall is actually correct reflects your mindset.
The fact that you expect CaliannG to do the work whilst you dash off pearls of wisdom may not be a manifestation of rape culture but it certainly speaks to the extent to which privileged males may grow up expecting that women will do the work…
Stevie, I’m thinking of the 1975 documentary of that name. If you’ve got something earlier, share it.
Off to wallow in my male privilege now….
Will – I know many women and some men who have told me they have been sexually assaulted. Less than 72. Maybe 30? I’ve had one serious attempt in which someone lay in wait for me. I was rescued. I didn’t report it and neither did my rescuer.I did once report a guy who was jerking off at me on a train to the train security guards. But not to the police afterwards. I don’t think it went any further. It wouldn’t really occur to me to go to the police, unless it was a stranger-in-an-alley situation, which isn’t likely. What would they say? How could they help? If it was just my word against someone else’s?
So yeah, the 1 in 72 reporting rate doesn’t seem that crazy to me.
Oh hey – rape culture? So the guy who lay in wait for me – it was at a bar I worked at. He hid in the change rooms until after close. A fellow bartender heard my screaming and saved me. Threw the guy onto the street. He came back in to the bar the next night. I asked to have him removed. My boss told me I had to serve him, because he’d brought a lot of friends with him and was spending a lot.
My boss then is a perfect example of how someone doesn’t have to be a rapist to be part of rape culture.
Will, I’m confused.
1. Not believe in culture?
2. Not believe in rape culture?
3.Just want to be one of those fans who need to argue every last thing for the sake of being contrarian? You know the type – No, the Klingon system of trial by combat could NOT support an interstellar empire!
I think you’ve walked yourself into a corner here. My guess, based on the PC discussion, is #1. You’re not really a believer in culture. Except that I bet I could get you to articulate positions about believing in consumer culture. Or militaristic culture. And that you know it’s possible for a society to have a dominant culture without every member of the culture wholly or consciously participating in all aspects of it. It’s “how” or “to what degree” not “whether it exists.”
But when you say things like, “Off to wallow in my male privilege now….” well, it doesn’t convey an openness to persuasion, which is the only basis for any discussion.
Will, you said you were gonna agree to disagree.
Everyone: My personal preference is to not the term rape culture, or see people baiting each other, which is where this thread now seems to be going.
Highly charged topic, I know, but I think Steve’s initial questions have been answered to his satisfaction. So I think it may shortly be time to shut down commenting on this post?
Jen, yep, and then I said I would clarify when asked questions, and now I’m sliding down that slope. This’ll be my final comment in this thread:
Temporarily Anonymous Ladyperson, I don’t know your boss, so I can’t speculate whether he’s among the small percentage of men who commit rape, but I do know he’s among the capitalists who value their customers over their employees. If I’d been your boss, I would’ve encouraged you and the guy who saved you to press charges–but I wouldn’t have been an asshole if you told me you didn’t want to–and I would’ve told the guy who attacked you that I was exercising my right to refuse service to shitheads, and he could bring in the cops if he wanted to.
1 & 2. I’m a child of the counterculture. Of course I believe in cultures. What I don’t believe in are the monocultures of identitarianism. I don’t believe that all whites are racist (the University of Delaware’s Life Diversity Education Training documents are one example) or all men are potential rapists (as claimed by Aurea Flynn of the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter, among others). Historically, prisons have had rape cultures, in which rape was expected and condoned by the people who had the power to stop it, and I have no reason to think that’s changed. I mentioned another example earlier: google Saudi Arabia and rape culture, and you will be rightly appalled.
3. I’ll assume you’re not being deliberately insulting. I am contrarian in the sense that I took to heart “question authority” when I was young. If there are any authorities I haven’t questioned, I’d appreciate having them pointed out to me. I am very much not binarian. If you want to call that contrarian, cool.
As for “Off to wallow in my male privilege now”, people like Stevie believe in white male privilege the same way Orson Scott Card believes in his brand of homophobic Mormonism. They have a facile understanding of power that comforts them by exempting them. I’ve tried pointing out to these folks that so long as there are white men living on the streets and black women living in mansions, their understanding of power in the US does not explain the observable facts. It does no good. My “white male privilege” means I have eighteen teeth in my mouth because I couldn’t afford crowns and root canals. What MLK observed in the 60s is still true today: there are twice as many white people in poverty than blacks. I was once talking with Emma about the actual differences between what men and women face, and I told her I wanted to live in a world where she could safely walk anywhere at midnight. She said she wanted the same for me, and pointed out that of the two of us, I was the only one who had been attacked on the street by strangers.
So, really, finding the identitarian model inadequate does not mean I think the problems don’t exist. I think their framing will not lead to solutions, which is an entirely different matter. What underlies identitarianism is essentially religious, the notion that if we just get people to understand that they need to be nice, they will be nice. I’m more pragmatic: I think you need to change systems to change people.
P.S. A further example of the limitation of Stevie’s understanding of privilege. She said, “The fact that you expect CaliannG to do the work whilst you dash off pearls of wisdom may not be a manifestation of rape culture but it certainly speaks to the extent to which privileged males may grow up expecting that women will do the work…”
My first job when I graduated college in ’76 was working for as an editorial assistant for a female editor. Part of my job was fact-checking. Later, I was a production aide with a female boss–the job also called for checking things. I never would’ve thought googling to verify something could be seen as a gendered expectation, but I’ve learned that identitarians can present anything in terms of identity.
(Uh, don’t worry that I’ll do multiple PSes. If I think of anything more, I’ll take it to my blog.)
I’d like to chime in one LAST time. While Steve’s initial question may have been answered to his satisfaction, I think that there is a bit of useful discussion to be had still. Maybe. Possibly. If we remain civil.
I found an article that may explain rape culture and how it applies to this case a little better: http://www.newstatesman.com/laurie-penny/2013/03/steubenville-rape-cultures-abu-ghraib-moment
“The Steubenville rapists claim that, when they drove a passed-out girl from party to party, slinging her into and out-of cars like a deflated sex-dolly and sticking their fingers inside her, they didn’t know they were doing anything wrong. That’s plausible, although it’s no defence. It’s a plausible if, and only if, you have internalised the assumption that women are not real human beings, just bodies to be manipulated with or without consent, pieces of wet and willing meat there for you to use for your pleasure.”
Just because not EVERYONE internalizes things to the same degree doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. Clearly, ENOUGH people have internalized it where you get comments like THIS (also quoted from the same article): @zJosiah, said: “I feel bad for the two young guys, Mays and Richmond, they did what most people in their situation would have done.”
What most people in their situation would have done. Really? I literally recoiled in horror when I read that comment.
So I’m glad, Will, that you understand that unconscious women are not for you to take advantage of. I’m glad that you think you don’t know anyone who would do this to someone else. This does not mean that it doesn’t exist–if you open your eyes and ears and really look at what other people are doing, and saying, if you stop and consider that this girl is getting DEATH THREATS, you’d realize that there is a definite problem that has seeped out of poisonous minds and, yes, infected our culture. And not everyone is strong enough, informed enough, or apparently even inherently good enough to resist it.
As I said before–I haven’t been raped. But I’ve been cornered in a hallway and groped by a man who thought he was entitled to do so, who was in a position of power over me that I couldn’t physically stop. I’ve been followed home by a teenage boy from school who thought it was okay to put his hands on me even when I said I wasn’t interested, whose response to “No, I don’t want to have sex with you” was “Well if you’re afraid of getting pregnant there’s always anal” as if that was the only reason I’d say no. I’ve had a guy who, when lightly rebuffed, decided that the best course of action was to show up at my work every day and try to chat with me while I worked–alone!–during an evening shift as a security guard. Somehow, all of these men thought they were ENTITLED to something from me, and it sure as hell wasn’t because I’d given them reason to think so.
I am not being deliberately insulting. I think there is a reasonable argument to be made that culture is solely imagined rather than experienced and should be banished as a concept. I, cultural historian, think it’s wrong (I’d kind of have to), but I’ve heard it made. I was just wondering if that was your position.
I had a long post to make about the way culture works even if an individual resists the dominant norm (in terms of rape culture) or if one’s personal experience doesn’t match the larger trend (in terms of white privilege or male privilege or Christian privilege or whatever). But in deference to our kind moderator, I’ll refrain. I just wanted to be clear that I was not being deliberately insulting and apologize for any undeliberate insult give.
No one has replied to Ethyl’s comment. Ethyl says that any time anyone asks you for sex, you are morally obligated to say no.
A lot of people believe this. I don’t live by it myself, but I can’t argue that it must be wrong. My own view is that morals serve people, that our morals are supposed to help us live and help our society thrive. Morals which don’t do that are bad. But some people believe that morals are God’s will and it doesn’t matter what they do to society, the important thing is what God does after you die. I can’t say with certainty that they are wrong. And I do not know what kinds of sexual morality we can build workable societies around.
Various ancient societies had strict moral systems, and then they had occasional holidays where the rules were relaxed. People who usually were strict about their food (because there was barely enough) and avoided getting drunk, and had sex only with their spouses, for the holiday would feast and drink, and find other partners. It perhaps reduced the pressure. We have Mardi Gras and Spring Break and any time, Las Vegas. If you have the money.
Lots of people want to do what they want and not get blamed for it. Society agrees that when you are drunk you are not in your right mind and you are likely to do things that you would not do if you were sober. Getting drunk is an excuse for immorality. But drunks are expected to arrange transportation ahead of time. They might do immoral things but they must not drive.
I think there is an element of this with all the recreational drugs. Anything that affects your mind to the point that you cannot be expected to be moral, is a way to do immoral things and not be considered immoral. “I’m not a bad person! I would never do anything like that! I was drunk.” Besides the physiological effect of the drugs, there is the social role. “I’m stoned. You can’t expect me to be rational. You can’t expect me to be moral. If you want me to apologize, wait until I’m stone cold sober. Then if I feel too bad about it all, I will get stoned again so I can put it aside for awhile longer.”
This applies to men and women. Sometimes people do not want to be responsible for their actions.
In an ideal world, a woman could get drunk, and walk around naked in public, and precisely the people she chose would all give her wonderful experiences that she would remember fondly for the rest of her life. And she would not get any blame for it from anybody. We do not have that ideal world.
In a less ideal world, a woman could get drunk, and walk around naked and drunk in public, and nobody would touch her. Everybody would know that she could not give real consent while drunk, and they would look out for her and make sure nothing bad happened to her.
But for a lot of women, that second world would mostly get rid of the purpose in getting drunk in the first place.
It is a mess.
So OK; how about this. In a somewhat ideal world, a woman can get drunk and lose all inhibitions of all sorts, and that’s fine. She is not responsible. Every man she meets is supposed to be completely rational. Anything he does will get full blame, whether he is drunk or not. He must be rational and moral and sane at all times, no matter what.
Is that fair? Doesn’t matter. I’ve given up on fair. We haven’t had anything fair yet. I’ll be happy to settle for something we can live with. Will that approach give us a society we can live with? No, probably not. If that’s all that changes, there will still be men who get drunk and irrational and who do things they get punished badly for. Women will not actually be safe just because we agree to this rule and enforce it after the fact.
Okay, ’nuff of this. My question has been answered. Here, I’ll get the light.
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