Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I Don't Feel Sorry For Rapists


I really really can't believe how utterly out-of-control rape culture has gotten in this country. In the past fifty years the US has seen some welcome advancements in multiple social arenas, but every time I stop to revel in the smell of the 21st century, it seems like someone has to come along and ruin it for everyone.

Now, I normally try to keep this blog relatively politics-free, preferring to focus on geek-centric issues of popular culture and entertainment, but I'm just too furious right now to give a damn about stuff like a new G.I. Joe movie when this kind of stupid crap is making it seem like people think the 19th century is a valid reference point for behavior. So since this is a thing (that just somehow keeps getting WORSE), this is what we're talking about today. Sorry in advance.

So, for those of you who have managed to remain out of the loop, the story relates to two high school athletes who raped an unconscious girl at a party, shared inappropriate photos of her, and were rightly found guilty of being poor examples of human beings doing exactly that. They received a pretty (in my estimation) lenient sentence for their crime . . and people - who are professionally paid to report the news no less - are expressing sorrow at the fact that these footballers might not get to enjoy the societal genuflection that young male sports figures are generally accorded in our country.

Screw. That. Noise.

There is precisely ONE person involved in this tragedy, and I really really hope I don't have to point out who that is, who deserves sympathy. It's most certainly NOT the two boys who decided "passed out" meant "yes" and "still passed out" meant "share pictures of me naked." Let's be clear, I have a healthy respect for athletics and a degree of admiration for anyone who subjects their bodies to the strain of high-school-and-beyond football. I was a member of my high school marching band and knew/got along well with pretty much the entire football team. They were good guys who put in a lot of hard work with the very real likelihood of getting not much from it aside from serious early joint problems.

But one thing they weren't - that NO one is, sports figure or otherwise, adolescent or adult - is exempt from the consequences of violating the laws of both the land and common decency. Let's be clear. These boys in Steubenville stole from and violated an innocent girl. What they took can never be given back. So I don't give two weak bowel movements how good they are at moving a ball around a field, or how sorry they professed to be after the facts were undeniably established about their guilt, they did something incredibly low and debasing and then proceeded to do the modern-day equivalent of crowing about it in the town square. When you do that, you ask to be scorned by society.

Because here's the thing about rape culture in this country. We spend so much time making excuses for why sexual crimes happen - the woman was in the wrong part of town, she was wearing the wrong clothes, she was too pretty, not pretty enough, wasn't clear enough in refusing contact. So somehow, that equates to "asking for it." And the degree to which that is wrongheaded and irresponsibly dismissive, cruel, and downright stupid just infuriates me. Do we treat victims of breaking-and-entering the same when someone robs them "because they were in the wrong part of town?" Do we treat murder victims the same when they're shot because "they were out too late at night?" No. Criminals ask for consequences, because they're the ones taking the deplorable actions. Victims never ever ask to be victimized.

So in case there's any confusion guys (and I'm not necessarily speaking only to males here, but realistically this largely a gender double standard), you don't get to go in without an invitation. "I can't answer" is not an answer, and it's most certainly not a "yes." It's actually pretty easy to not be a rapist - all you have to do is NOT RAPE. I really hope this doesn't sound radical, because the situation is pretty binary. It's on us - not anyone else - to just NOT RAPE. I wake up in the morning pretty damn sure I won't rape, just as I'm pretty damn sure I won't kill or steal. It's not rocket science, it's not some wild new age thinking, it's a basic respect for humanity.

But apparently, we as a society don't quite "get this" yet, so pass it along. It's not up to anyone to "avoid" being raped, it's on US (again, speaking generally but ESPECIALLY to any confused men out there) to just avoid being criminals. Now trust me, I got urges just like any other healthy male, and I have a boundless appreciation for feminine beauty in pretty much any setting, but there's a fine line huge, yawning chasm between that and choosing - because make no mistake, it's a choice not an involuntary action - to violate someone so thoroughly. I don't care how drunk you are, how horny you are, or how much of a stud you think you are, your sexual organs will not wither and die if you go a few days without sexual contact, and if the only way you can achieve said contact is by forcing yourself on someone, you frankly don't deserve to keep said organs.

And if you manage to screw up this incredibly easy task of simply choosing NOT to act like an utter waste of carbon, then you deserve no pity from me or anyone else.


  1. "So in case there's any confusion guys (and I'm not necessarily speaking only to males here, but realistically this largely a gender double standard), you don't get to go in without an invitation."

    I want to build on this point, because it so often gets overlooked in these types of conversations. Violent/forcible rape is far from the only kind. The method of extracting that invitation is also EXTREMELY important.

    For example - rape by fraud is a thing that happens. Shit, that one's even harder to prove and those victims are even more unlikely to come forwards than those of forcible rape due to the lack of physical evidence often available. Then there's rape via blackmail, threats, psychological abuse...

    What I want to know is -why- these two felt they they were entitled to do this. Because they thought they could get away with it? Because cultural expectations have been working to shift the blame onto the victim? Some other reason? I completely and utterly agree that their actions were reprehensible, vile and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. I also have a hard time believing they simply woke up one morning thinking "I'm gonna go rape someone today". They were conditioned to accept as truth whatever justification it was that made them think they could get away with doing this.

    Proven rapists should be treated as harshly as the law allows. But it's also far too easy to simply catch and punish them only to sit back and think "Good job, they won't rape any more. Our work is done". It's not. Until we understand and remove the societal conventions that lead to their thinking in the first place - whatever it was - we've got a lot of work left to do.

    And that's the truly hard part. Blaming a victim is easy, all that requires is to be a dickbag. Enacting real, legitimate change is long, hard and ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.

  2. Excellent piece--thank you for making the case that men need to be allies in the battle against sexual violence.

    I just have one question for you: Why the apologies?

    Sorry in advance.
    I really hope this doesn't sound radical...

    You are right in everything you said. Anyone who is offended about it--or who thinks it's "radical" is a significant part of the problem.

    1. The "sorry in advance" is directed at anyone for whom this is a trigger, as I try to keep this a fairly "safe" and enjoyable space. The hope that this doesn't sound radical is just that - it SHOULDN'T sound radical, because it really isn't. Like, "I hope it doesn't sound radical that racism is, you know, BAD" because it should be common sense.

      Unfortunately, even these days that's apparently not always clear enough.

  3. This is a great article with some great responses. Thank you.