Monday, March 18, 2013

Rape Culture and Ohio Football

Rape culture is nothing new, though the concept is finally taking shape for many Americans who have been following the case of the two teenage men recently convicted of raping a teenage woman. Two men who showed so little compassion for their victim and so little respect for female bodies and the law that they broadcast footage of their crime against an unconscious (clearly unconsenting) victim and even laughed about it.

We've all been horrified by the laughing, cherubic teenage boy images. Horrified because of the crime but also because as of a few years ago these men hadn't even gone through puberty, and we really, really don't want to admit that a person could go from pre-pubescent to rapist in such a short time. We're Whoopi Goldberg, and cherub-faced, star athlete rapists are the friends we just can't bring ourselves to see for what they are: flawed individuals who decided to sexually assault someone.

Is it hard for me to see images of boys no older than my baby brother, crying as they receive their verdict? Sure, but that's why my baby brother doesn't go around raping the girls he goes to school with. And if he did, you can bet I'd feel a whole lot more horrified by the crime than by the sentence. Especially if the girl was too drunk to consent or even remember what happened and had to be reminded by videos in which he and his friends publicly flaunted their crimes.

But again, that's why my 17-year-old brother doesn't rape (never mind gang rape) women.

Problem is, we live in a world that is rife with rape culture, a culture in which victims are blamed, perpetrators are excused, and on the rare occasions when the public and the news actually vilify the perpetrator, we still pretend that the people who commit "rape-rape" are complete aberrations and that there is absolutely nothing in our culture that contributes to or encourages that behavior.

So it's no surprise that every major news media outlet in the country has put forth deplorable coverage, bemoaning the promising futures that perpetrators have lost, with some stations even maligning the victim as a drunken partier. Fox, CNN, and MSNBC even aired the victim's name in their eagerness to play footage of one perpetrator apologizing for taking and sharing a photograph of the crime. Note that the apology is for the photo, and the photo only.

Here are just a few examples of rape culture reporting:

Airing the victim's name

Yahoo posting an article in the sports section that decries the tragedy befalling the convicted rapists and the long-term impact it will have on them, with no word about the long-term impact it will have on the victim herself. I give the author credit for at least mentioning the role that football-player worship and arrogance played in the crime.

Yahoo then turns around and criticizes CNN's coverage.

To be fair, CNN's coverage makes me want to throw up.


  1. UGH! This is so frustrating, those boys deserve so much more than what they got.

    1. castration. Then they can avoid being called "sex offenders" which is obviously so devastating to them.

    2. Anonymous, I've definitely shared that thought at times, but in all seriousness I don't think castration even would be an effective means of preventing sexual assault. For one, my understanding is that sexual offenders who have been chemically castrated have in some cases later gone out of their way to commit sexual assault in order to prove they can and to reassert their idea of masculinity and power.

      Also, I think even rapists deserve the chance to reform and change. I'd be a lot more interested in these two young men being sentenced to go around as part of community service, addressing high school football teams and explaining why what they did was wrong and why and how other men can prevent themselves from participating in something similar. It'd mean a lot more coming from fellow football players than it apparently does coming from teachers and women they don't know. And I do honestly hope that they're both able to be in healthy, mutually consenting romantic relationships in the future. I'm more concerned about the victim in that regard, but it's something I hope for the perpetrators too.

  2. I've actually been much heartened by the coverage of the Steubenville case, because I've read enough articles going after the Sports/Rape Culture and the fact that CNN was immediately called out for its atrocious coverage and for everybody calling out the news outlets that (I hope inadvertently) played the victim's name. It seems that things are changing. Not as fast as I'd like, and we're not there yet, but things are changing.

    Also, this seems relevant:

    When a story from The Onion is about the same as a story that you did, it's time to take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. Looking at you, CNN.

    1. Carl, me too. This is the first time that I've seen such widespread discussion of rape culture - I mean, folks outside the feminist community have even been using it, which I find to be pretty much a ground-breaking development.

      And the Yahoo sports link I posted, while deeply flawed, did at least make an effort to critique the link between the culture in Steubenville and the crime.