One of the interesting things about the study of public opinion is that Americans all have basically the same values. The difference is in how we prioritize them and how consistently we adhere to them. Politically, most people consider the concept of equality and our constitutional rights to be core values, but we often abandon them when we feel sufficiently threatened by scary brown people. Whenever I read this type of research I think about my own priorities. I value things like logic and consistency more than anything. It displeases me when things are unpredictable, especially in personal interactions. I don't like emotional reasoning – although like everyone, I do it myself sometimes – or people who have a million exceptions for every principle in which they claim to believe.

So, let me pose a question: If those two sixteen year old boys in Steubenville were charged with armed robbery rather than sexual assault, would you feel bad for them? In a way, I would.

Please remain calm and keep reading.

I would feel bad for them insasmuch as I think crime is a social problem with social causes; people do not fall from the womb with their switch turned to Evil and, as adults, decide to sell drugs or steal cars because it's thrilling. I think people react to the way they're raised and they generally choose the best of the options available to them. For many people living in the typical post-industrial shit hole like Steubenville, selling drugs is the most lucrative profession available to them by far. So if these guys were two common street criminals ("juvenile delinquents", if we're making an After School Special) conservatives would argue personal responsibility and punishment while the rest of us would argue mitigating circumstances and rehabilitation.

I don't feel bad for those guys because they had good grades or played football or were Nice Boys or anything else of the sort. In fact "Feel bad for" is the wrong phrase altogether. My point is simply this: We cannot believe that our justice system is fundamentally fucked up, which it most certainly is, and that crime has environmental causes and then suddenly become throw-the-book-at-'em Personal Responsibility chanting right-wingers if the crime they committed is especially offensive to us. Searching the archives I'm estimating that I've written 75-100 posts over the years about prison, law enforcement, miscarriages of justice, and the like. I don't think prison makes anyone better, ever, unless we count becoming a better criminal. And I think that we, as Americans, often scream for tougher sentences and harsh punishments to project our own sense of responsibility onto whichever sacrificial lambs were too poor to buy their way out of court.

In the context of the juvenile justice system, the sentence handed out to those rapists – and they will now be labeled so for life, as they should be – seems appropriate and unexceptional. If you were expecting or wanted more (drawing and quartering has been proposed, pending the availability of horses) I'd encourage you to examine your own motives. Why? Do you suddenly believe that the purpose of the justice system is to punish? Do you believe that incarceration fixes people?

Replace the phrase "feel bad for" with pity. I pity those boys because they are products of a society that has told them for their entire lives that what they did to the victim (of which there is only one here) is acceptable behavior. When I say "society" I don't mean Steubenville; I mean the whole country. We all live in Steubenville when it comes to creating…I'm not fond of the term "rape culture", but…creating a society that excuses, condones, victim-blames, shames, and does everything else except tell boys and men don't drug people and fuck them while they're unconscious. Read that part again. That's what they did. They hatched a plan to drug the victim and then have sex with her repeatedly while she was essentially inert. We live in a society so messed up that it is not immediately apparent to two 16 year old boys that this is wrong, or a thing they should not do. Instead they believed it was a thing Boys do while Being Boys, that the victim deserved or earned it, and that no harm could or should come to them for doing it.

That, my friends, is our fault. My fault. Yours too. That is our collective responsibility. Ultimately the perpetrators are responsible for their actions. But the rest of us bear some responsibility for what they believed. It's acceptable, she deserves it, we shouldn't be punished. They believed that so completely that they videotaped it and posted it on the internet, for Christ's sake. Most people – though not all people – don't take video of themselves committing crimes, and they're certainly not stupid enough to show all and sundry afterward if they do. Neither the attackers nor their friends and community thought that – pardon me for being emphatic – drugging a girl and having sex with her while she was unconscious was a crime. It was some sort of prank. Ha ha. You know, like that time you recorded your friend getting hit in the face with a pie.

You can take the Bill Bennett point of view if you want and conclude that these boys did not understand that what they did was a crime because The Evil lurks within them and they are Bad Apples and without morality or whatever. Or you can ask, How bad must the messages we send to, and examples we set for, young men be if by the time they reach near-adulthood they think it's acceptable to drug people and rape them? That they would in any way be surprised or confused to be arrested and prosecuted for doing so?

I believe they should be punished, but that we focus on them and on the punishment to avoid addressing our own contributions to this culture of acceptance, of victim-blaming, of excuse-making, and of misinformation? It's easy to say "Hang 'em high" or "The bitch wanted it" and then walk away. The difficult part is reflecting on our own contributions to a system that sends men into adulthood with such a warped set of beliefs about women, sex, and the boundaries of their own behavior.

78 thoughts on “WE ALL LIVE THERE”

  • Hmm…nope, pretty sure I'm not at fault here. Phew.

    Did you watch those boys' video by the way? They very clearly knew that what they did was rape and that it was wrong. And there were other boys present (presumably of roughly the same age) who kept saying how fucked up what they did was, and how wrong it was, and how would they like it if someone did that to their daughter. But the shit head still could not give one fuck and he kept joking about it like the sociopath he is. Yes, they did think they'd face no serious punishment (and they were almost proven right), but this makes them pitiable how exactly? Oh gosh if only they knew they'd get punished maybe they wouldn't have done something clearly wrong like drug and rape a girl and laugh about it. As if the reason you shouldn't do something wrong is because you'll get punished if you do, and not because, you know, it's wrong. Do you avoid murdering children only because you're afraid of getting caught? If so, I'd say you were reprehensible. Hell, I'd go so far to say that I'd have slightly more respect for you if you just went ahead and murdered children knowing you'd face serious punishment, because at least then you wouldn't be a coward on top of being a sociopath. By the way, if you do go murdering children, don't blame me: I'm telling you man, it's wrong. What more do you want from me?

  • amil666,

    Yeah, but those children were asking for it. They should have been home safe being homeschooled by their mom and dad in the 1950s, when America was safe. Their killer can't be faulted for those kids standing around within range of his assault rifle. Everybody knows that when somebody starts waving a Bushmaster around that you're supposed to either run away or use your friends for cover as you pull out your Desert Eagle to empty a magazine at the gunman.

    It's not the shooter's fault the only targets available when he pulled the trigger were a bunch of kids. They shouldn't have been there. I'm sure the killer has learned his lesson, and won't ever try to purchase any guns bigger than a .22LR single shot rifle. Why should his life have to be ruined because he showed some bad judgement around kids that were just standing around asking to be shot?

    Defending the murder of children the same way people defend rapists is pretty horrific, isn't it?

  • I mostly agree with you, except for one important point, and one less important point. The important thing: None of the accounts that I have read have mentioned any drug but alcohol being involved. I've seen several opinion and commentary pieces saying she was drugged, but none of the reports on the actual case that I've seen have corroborated this. Admittedly, I haven't seen them all, so I could be wrong. But I say this is important because it has to do with factual accuracy about how these kinds of rapes occur. I'm no teetotaller (in fact, I drink quite a bit), but it seems to me that alcohol is by far the most dangerous drug when it comes to date rape or party rape scenarios like this. And everything I've seen so far in this case indicated that she was incapacitated by alcohol, with no other drugs mentioned.

    The less important point is that I'm not entirely comfortable with someone being labeled as anything for life. Even though murder is considered the worst crime someone can commit, if someone has done their time in prison I don't know if a National Murderer Registry should be necessary. I understand why people feel the way they do, but personally I tend towards forgiving people once they've done their time. If they're crime is so bad that they have to be labeled with it for life, then why don't they get a life sentence? Or, conversely, if you feel like a life sentence is excessive, then why label them for life? I'm just not a fan of the registries and such that have gained popularity over the last couple generations. It seems pointless and excessive to me.

    That aside, you're right. It's fucking sick that kids can grow up not understanding that fucking an unconscious person is wrong. We all bear some responsibility for that. It certainly doesn't help that there's a chorus of people who claim she "asked for it" because she was drunk. Would they claim that for ANY OTHER CRIME? If someone gets murdered while drunk, were they asking for it? Does that apply to robbery or assault? Why the hell is it only rape that people seem to request while drunk? Fucking disgusting.

    As for what we could do as a society, we could do what the right wingers fear most–truly comprehensive sex education. It wouldn't be that hard to include segments on what is and is not consent. We could explain to teenagers that if someone is unconscious, it's wrong to insert anything into any part of their body. We could warn teenagers about the dangers of getting drunk with strangers and how to watch out to make sure that their friends aren't being exploited while incapacitated with alcohol. We could educate them about rape culture (or whatever term you wish to call it) and how to counteract it. Of course, all of that would require actually acknowledging that there's a problem, and openly talking to teenagers about sex, which I don't see the Republicans getting on board with.

  • Hmm…While I agree that we all do share a bit of the blame for the society we all live in, I firmly believe that 99.9% of the blame for what these monsters(and they ARE monsters, no doubt in my mind about that) did lies squarely on their shoulders. I also know from my 5 decades on this planet that there are individuals walking around who ENJOY HURTING OTHERS. They revel in it, celebrate it, and high five each other as they do so(victory in battle is a favorite analogy in organized sports…think about that). Most of these people cannot be changed, or rehabilitated. Just as a body can develop a disease that must be killed off or removed from the body surgically, so should certain people be removed from society. Permanently. There is Evil in the world, Steubenville just afforded us a good long look at it.

  • Maybe I'm out of touch but I don't see too many people calling out for a stronger sentence, but rather they are upset about the treatment of the boys by the media. Maybe some people would like to see them get a few more years but the fact is that they are indeed, labeled for life as sex offenders.

  • It's not really either/or. I condemn the boys for what they did but fully support the fact that they were sentenced as juveniles and will get some sort of a second chance in life, however diminished it may be. I also condemn a society that says rape is this weird accidental thing that happens when sluts drink beer and wear short skirts, as opposed to an objective, forcible, non-consensual sex act. And yeah, having gone to college in rural Ohio I condemn the fact that America doesn't give two shits about its small towns, and that decent union manufacturing jobs that would allow somebody with a high school education to raise a family are gone.

    So basically, shit is fucked up and bullshit. As usual.

  • I agree with all of this.

    I wouldn't be opposed to a longer sentence, though, particularly in light of one of Anonymouse's comments under yesterday's post. If the boys planned and executed a semi-public, and eventually public, rape to 'punish' Ms Doe for breaking up with one of them, then it seems unlikely that she can be safe with them at large. (She doesn't seem terribly safe right now, given that a bunch of media outlets have broadcast her name.)
    Women are most likely to be murdered by their abusive partners after they've left them, and an intervening spell in prison doesn't markedly reduce that risk. Prison, in addition to being a punishment, and a place of rehabilitation, also exists to ensure public safety, and I can't begrudge women (or men) the sense of safety of knowing that there's a short time in which their rapist can't directly hurt them.

    I'm also somewhat dubious about perpetrator programmes, designed to make offenders be less rape-y. I don't know how you persuade men who have raped that rape is bad against a social backdrop of rape jokes; objectification of women; forty-five flavours of rape-as-entertainment on crime shows; victim-blaming news reportage; rape porn; almost blanket acceptability of misogynist humour; politicians denying the reality and seriousness of rape; and religious organisations minimising the seriousness of rape and acting to change the law to deny victims access to justice.

    You have to work quite hard to find spaces where rape is treated like a violation of human rights, predicated on inequality. I imagine that if you were of the opinion that women were sub-human fuckholes that it would be a piece of cake to wallpaper your world with media, opinion, pornography, films, music, and friends who wouldn't challenge that.

  • I really don't think you can chalk this one up to social decay. Rape is basically as old as sex itself. If anything, we're living in one of the most anti-rape eras in history. Yes, there's still a number of loud idiots who try to minimize it's significance, but there will never be a lack of loud idiots. The point is, the notion that these boys didn't know any better is just ridiculous as hell (and factually inaccurate, as I noted above). If there was ever a time when boys should have known better, it is now. If they still don't know any better, then, again, what more do you want from me? Assassinate all the loud idiots? Walk around yelling, "Rape is wrong"? Pull young'uns aside and make sure they know rape is wrong? Though it may often seems otherwise, most teenagers aren't that dumb or lacking in conscience, as testified to by the fact that even some of the boys featured in that video condemned the rape. And it's not like the loud idiots represent the majority–just look at what happened to Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin, for making comments not even half as bad as "It's not all that bad to drug a girl and have sex with her unconscious body without her consent." Of course these boys knew better, they just didn't care, because they're shitty people who likely do all sorts of shitty things like bullying the gay kid. If these kids were 19, would you still think they didn't know any better? Is two years really all that much?

  • If anything, we're living in one of the most anti-rape eras in history.

    That may be true, but it's not very anti-rape at all.

    The 'loud idiots' explanation is not very compelling, unless you include, inter alia, most judges, including the very judge who tried this case; prosecutors; the police; school administrations that ignore or minimise sexual harassment and sexual assault in the classrooms and halls of their schools; newspaper proprietors and editors; people who commission and produce television shows; and the authors and editors and publishers of those 45235423 books that suggest women routinely have unwanted sex for the sake of their relationship.

  • I can't help but wonder if the Steubenville case isn't the thread which, when pulled, brings the whole tangled skein falling on us. And maybe that's why people respond so emotionally to it.

    Basically, we have a case of two evil people who not only managed to almost evade prosecution, but were celebrated by their society. You can't talk about that without talking, implicitly, about everything else.

    Obama refuses to punish CIA torturers or crooked bankers, for example. Obama himself kills a 16-year old American boy and *admits the boy was innocent and that his murder served no legitimate purpose.* And gay marriage is illegal… why, exactly? Because apparently we're the real bigots if we don't take the Bible's bigotry seriously, or something. Contrast the two scenarios:

    – College professor treats his class to repeated rants about how gay marriage is evil.

    – College processor treats his class to repeated rants about how the Bible is evil, because it portrays homophobic murder as a divinely ordained obligation.

    Which of these two rants is worse? And which one is more likely to end in the professor getting fired?

    To me, it's like the movie Closet Land. On some level, part of me believes- for right or for wrong- that all these assholes are really reflections of the same person. Those two rapists are the very same people who made jokes when they machine-gunned Iraqis from their helicopter. They are George Zimmerman, and all the conservatives who support him. They are, on a less deadly serious level, the students who cheat their way through school, and are also the administrators who mouth platitudes about integrity while refusing the punish anyone for cheating- because while that's less serious than rape, if we can't even punish a student for cheating his way through school, how can we accomplish anything at all? How can we pretend there are any rules left, other than the ones that the bad guys impose on the good guys?

    I think this case has touched a nerve because fundamentally, no punishment is enough for these two, because no matter how much we punish two teenage rapists, all the other teenage rapists will continue to be celebrated by their communities, all the bankers will go scot-free, all the bigots will continue to insist that we are bigots for not treating their ignorant BS as a legitimate intellectual position. So how can we change anything? If we can't even say the Bible is bad because it commands homophobia and murder, then how can we overturn the law that pays people federal money to teach homophobia? And if the federal government is actively funding homophobia, how can we stem the bullying- even unto death- of gay teenagers? And if we can't teach teenagers to treat gays with respect (because the government is paying to teach them hatred) what hope do we have of keeping them from raping people and treating it as a joke?

    The situation is even more acute to those, like myself, who grew up in a small football town, particularly in the Bible belt. Because we know firsthand that we are dealing with failed states, where the stupidity and small-mindedness are so entrenched that there's nothing you can do. If two football jocks can rape a girl and (nearly) go scot-free unless we PUSH REALLY HARD ON THIS ONE PARTICULAR CASE, and even then CNN weeps for the perpetrators and FOX outs the victim, then it's hard not to say fuckitall, I give up, but it's not like we've learned anything we didn't know ourselves, at 16, when we were ourselves trying not to get attacked by the kids who were the princes and darlings of every adult in sight.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Yes, tragically, we still have societal issues with rape.

    And as I said yesterday, I hope these two come out of prison when they're 21, rehabilitated, and can lead productive lives, despite having to forever register as sexual offenders .

    Now, don't get me wrong, because, I'm not excusing their behaviour, when I say that, being teenagers, their behaviour, reprehensible and sociopathically evil as it was, is not, IMO, as reprehensible and sociopathically evil as some of the ADULTS who tried to cover-up for them.

    They, supposedly, should have known better than that – and still they didn't do the right thing!

    And, you know who I'm pissed-off at more than anyone?
    The TV news channels which disclosed the UNDERAGED girls name!!!

    How the fuck was THAT allowed to happen?
    You couldn't put a 10 second delay on the video of the conclusion of the trail, and edit/redact her name out?

    I'm sure that a lot of people in the community already knew her identity – and she has already been threatened, via social media, by two other teenage girls in town – but there are a lot of misogynistic adult whack-jobs out there in this country, who might see doing more harm to the REAL VICTIM of the crime, as some twisted form of justice for the boys, and for men.

    The teenage boys were bad enough.
    It's the supposed adults involved, all the way around, from townspeople, to MSM reporters, who concern me more.

    Not only do we need to get away from the "Oh, it's just boys being boys' mentality – it's that we need to make sure that adults act like responsible adults, and if THEY don't, then they also need to face some serious consequences.

  • http://bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1134

    I look at offender rates, and it certainly looks like prisons truly are a jobs program for underemployed rural whites to watch underemployed urban nonwhites. The odd exceptions are the two biggies, murder and rape. Very few murderers are psychopath serial killers. Most, and this is both frightening and so logical, just killed someone for business purposes. When an inmate asked me if I could name any murder victims I knew, I couldn't. He listed four from his family and started naming people from his neighborhood. Drug business is hard work, and stealing from the till is common when it can all end because someone snitches. No pension plans. They challenged me then to tell them any of their victims would be missed. They were actually saying, "Am I worthless?" It was hard to say how I thought they could make something of their lives. So many were planning more for 20-inch rims on the car that'll get than upon any life out in the real world.

    Sex offenders are not the typical convicts. Yes, they claim to be innocent, too. But look at their rates of re-offending: insanely low. Why? I'd say most of it is that they are more educated, wealthier, have better opportunities in life, and so forth. Class matters in this country.


    I don't have a problem with sex offender registries. The few that commit again and again warrant that. I have a problem with only registering sex offenders. I would love a country where a guy knocks on my door and pretty much says if my car turns up missing one morning, here's an address of a house to burn.

  • amil: "Is two years really all that much?"
    Yes. Yes, it is. Two years is a huge amount of time for teenagers; there's a lot of change and growing up that happens in any two-year period, but especially from the mid-teens to the late teens. Maybe these kids were irredeemably Eeeeeeevil! EVIL, I TELLS YA! and wouldn't have changed a bit; maybe being part of a Special, Privileged Class was enough that they (unlike all the rest of us) would have failed to learn that what they wanted wasn't the Only Important Thing, and that anyone who Disrespected Them Deserved to Be Punished. Maybe all that 'drug/rape planning' stuff is a bunch of baloney, or maybe it's all true. I don't know. What I know is that who I was at 18 was not who I was at 16, and it's barely possible that I'm not unique in that. I know guys who were jerks at 16 who are scum now, and guys who were horrible at 16, who deeply regretted it just a couple of years later. It's easy to stereotype and let our biases drive our interpretations. It's what we do, being humans. What those kids did was horrendous. What that poor girl has to handle is horrible to contemplate. How do we serve 'justice', though? What would we do if we were in any of the positions of this whole thing? Would I have done anything different? Probably not – I was not likely to be included in that sort of party at 16, and even if I was, I doubt I would have had the confidence and strength of character to act, other than maybe leave. At 18, I might have been able to take a stand. Maybe. I can only see though my eyes, and what I see makes me agree with Ed. These kids get flooded with shit from their information sources, and their parents and other adults don't seem to set standards of behavior I consider basic decency. It should have been unthinkable for that horrible thing to be done to the girl, or anyone. Maybe those kids are sociopaths, or maybe they aren't. I'm no psychiatrist. I'll tell you what, though; this is a sick country. All we can do, though, is try to fix what we can fix, which is generally only our little bit of it.

  • I don't think it's illogical to not feel bad for them for this crime while I might for another crime. If they were drug dealers and nothing else, I'd probably feel that they weren't inflicting something horrible on an unwilling party. If they engaged in armed robbery but didn't physically injure someone, I'd have less pity than the drug-dealing case because of the psychological harm inflicted, but that would probably still feel like less of a violation than, well, what they did. In both of those cases, they wouldn't have the mystifying support of their communities and national news media figures. Here they do. It's not that illogical to have less pity for them.

    And as for ending rape culture, I think one step is to actually treat rape as a crime that people shouldn't get away with. I don't have a good sense for how long prison terms should be, I'm sure our prisons are worse places than they need to be, and the sex offender registry is pretty troubling (I doubt that forcing these guys to introduce themselves as sex offenders to their neighbors fifty years from now is necessary), but on the whole I think getting a punishment to stick where normally the criminals would get away with it (cf. my understanding of Notre Dame's recent problems) is a small step in the direction you're calling for.

  • Longtime Lurker says:

    I've never posted before, but just wanted to confirm you hit this right on the nose. Perhaps if we had anything besides 'abstinence only' education, we could also educate what to do and what not to do in these situations.

  • American society glorifies coercion and bullying in other areas of life, no surprise that it spills over inappropriately. Can't see this being fixed without revisiting "Winner take all" culture.

  • Often it's people seeing the evil that others perpetrate as the evil that lurks just below their façade of civility and social norms that people are reviling against. Eg. the gay basher who is reacting against their own homosexuality. No, these boys aren't beasts and monsters. They're us. They're what each of us is capable of in the right conditions. You just haven't met the trigger that sends you on frenzy yet that is all.

    They live in a society where "it's only a crime if you get caught." Where you get stopped by a cop for doing 5 over and you tell him, "go catch 'real' criminals." Whether it's a paper clip or an armed hold up, it's still theft. Smoking pot when it is clearly stated as illegal. Well TS, get on with it, you shouldn't have transgressed, whether you agree with it or not. And so-on.

    The boys most likely knew what they did was wrong, and that's probably why they did it. Would anyone have said anything if the boy had been speeding, lost control and the girl had suffered catastrophic brain trauma? Doubt it. But speeding. That's just being young, that's ok…. Well you still have one f***'d up kid don't you? The boy still premeditated to break the law, and didn't think he'd get caught didn't he? But there's still a girl who has to suffer the consequences of someone else's choice to break the law.

    You're angry now aren't you? Angry for my drawing these comparisons. Angry that whether you get caught for going 5 over, crashing a car occasioning bodily harm, or premeditated rape you've still committed a crime. You're still living with a "it's only a crime if you get caught" mentality. Thus you *are* part of the problem. Do you seriously think that easy access to porn, wasn't a contributing factor?

    Somethings are immoral and therefore illegal. Others are illegal, and therefore immoral for you to do.

    So guys. How many of you may have pushed it a little further than you should have when you were 16? — I'm only talking the kissing stage. And *don't* lie. Anyone? Anyone? Exactly. How many got their first snog whilst pissed as a newt? Most likely wouldn't have happened otherwise would it? There you are. The evil in them, is the same evil in you. Most had the presence of mind to realise that she **really** didn't want you to kiss her, and back off and perhaps apologise. For others, "victory is for the bold!!" N'est-ce pas?

    That is part of what society expects of men. Yes?
    And women (being equal members of society) encourage that with, "You're so nice, I'm so glad you're my friend. Let me tell you, I'm so angry with Billy! He's so hunky, such a risk taker, he just grabbed me and kissed me, so I slept with him! Now he's sleeping with Mary!" (Que water works). Well you reward the anal pores, you'll get more anal pores what do you expect.

    So yes, we as a society have some of the responsibility.

  • Couple of points.

    Certain people are born without what we call 'empathy' and when those people are also born without a strong enough impulse control they commit acts like this. These behaviors can also be taught very easily as anyone whose seen prison guards or the prison experiment in action, which can easily confuse people into believing "the evil lurks in us all" when both are true.

    Calling our culture a "rape culture" is really just identifying a symptom IMO. If you wanted to paint with broad strokes it would be fairer to say we live in a "male entitlement culture".

  • And women (being equal members of society) encourage that with, "You're so nice, I'm so glad you're my friend. Let me tell you, I'm so angry with Billy! He's so hunky, such a risk taker, he just grabbed me and kissed me, so I slept with him! Now he's sleeping with Mary!" (Que water works). Well you reward the anal pores, you'll get more anal pores what do you expect.

    Actually, women's inequality is the very root of the problem, and it should be completely obvious that women experience rape culture in an entirely different way from men.

    That controlling, coercive behaviour has been coded as 'romantic' or 'chivalrous' is something that women have fought to liberate ourselves from. Read Reddit on the subject of women who decline to sit in seats that men offer them on the subway / try and open doors for men to see how much even those symbols of male/female difference are being defended.

    (For the avoidance of doubt, I hold doors open for anyone walking behind me, and will gladly thank a man walking ahead of me who waits with a door open. More irritating are those men who refuse to walk through a door I'm holding for them, and insist on me walking through first. Not least because it's awkward holding a heavy door open enough to not rudely slam in his face, all for the sake of his anxious masculinity. Also irritating are drivers who insist on getting out of the car/taxi, opening my door, and handing me out. It makes me feel faintly ridiculous.)

  • Why do I think they should have the book thrown at them?

    Because sometimes rehabilitation isn't enough.

    Because sometimes, somebody does something so heinous, so grievously wrong, that an example needs to be made of them. Because sometimes, you need to send a message to any other would-be perpetrators of the same act: No, you're not going to get off with a year in juvie, we're going to absolutely destroy you if you do this: think about it.

    And society is not responsible for what these boys did. They are not products of some societal instruction that what they did was okay. Whether you want to believe it or not, normal and mentally-healthy humans have a moral compass. I'm not saying it comes from any supreme deity or ether or anything, but if you take an average, well-adjusted, mentally-healthy young-adult-or-older human being and ask them "Is it okay to rape other people?", their answer to you will be "No."

    The vast, VAST majority of people do not have to have their parents or other authority figure sit them down and say "Son/Daughter, we need to have a talk. Just wanted to let you know that it's not okay to rape other people, or to kill them unless you are defending yourself from immediate danger to your life."

    This isn't a case of some fundamental ignorance of the basics of right and wrong brought on by a society that failed to teach them any better. They knew what they were doing. They joked about it. They know it was wrong and hideous.

    They then proceeded to do it anyway, refusing to care because they thought they wouldn't be punished, or if they would that it would be light and trivial. Their mental calculus ran the numbers and decided that even if they did get caught, it would be worth it because the light punishment would be nothing compared to the sweet vengeance they wreaked on that girl.

    And that is why sometimes, you have to make an example out of them. You have to send the message to others like them that know that raping other people is wrong, but aren't terribly concerned about what will happen to them when they are caught. No, you're not just going to get off with a year in juvie; we're going to absolutely, completely ruin you, and you WILL lose your entire life as punishment — if not in the chair, then spending the next 20 to 30 years locked in a small room. Is it worth it?

  • You say a lot that's right here Ed, but you also delve into bullshit.

    I, and the vast majority of other people, bear exactly zero responsibility for this crime. This kind of reasoning was rampant back in the 60's/70's — "we're all responsible for Viet Nam."

    I'm no more responsible for Viet Nam than I am for the invasion of Iraq – or the rape of this girl. I do not have the power to define or even contribute to pop culture and prevailing attitudes. To say otherwise is thoughtless, stupid, and intellectually lazy.

    Robbery, even armed robbery, is a property crime. The criminal's gun is a means to an end, not the end in itself. Rape is a violent crime perpetrated on the body of the victim. Big fucking difference, no?

    Candy Crowley and the other news reporters showing sympathy for these barbarians share in the responsibility, as do the news networks that broadcast that kind of coverage. The football coach who had their back shares responsibility, as does the inside world of testosterone poisoned athletics. You can no doubt define other sub-sets of society that share in this blame. I'll suggest that large swatches of what passes for conservatism are worthy of consideration. I say this because I see a strong association between conservatism and an empathy deficiency. But all of us — no way in hell!

    This act was a personal crime, committed with planning and malice aforethought. My sympathy, pity, or feeling bad for these football players is also exactly zero. They are sociopaths, at the very least.


  • CaptBackslap says:

    Xynzee: Oh dear, there is so much of that I must take issue with, although I agree with you that a lot of societal reaction to crimes is reaction-formation.

    First off, your last paragraph is bordering on some PUA shit, and that's the kind of thing that gives Chris Rock's concept of the Friend Zone a bad name. Assertiveness is, in general, good. But if Billy can't get there with smoothness, the only reason grabbing her would work is if she's intimidated, which makes him more or less a rapist (post hoc rationalization on her part often works in Billy's favor when the incident is later recounted, but this does not change the moral valence of his actions).

    And holy shit I cannot believe you think morality is somehow outsourced to LEGISLATORS, of all people. If something is immoral, it's because of the consequences. Some assholes writing a law saying something bad will happen to you if you get caught just makes it less prudent. I'll admit that seriously risking jail might be immoral if you have others depending on you, but that's a side issue. And many laws don't carry a realistic jail risk at all if broken.

  • I hate prison and lifetime offender registries. I hate hearing supposed advocates of "rehabilitation" transform into AM radio hosts as soon as their issues of choice come up.

    I hate that there seems to be no effective way to protect people from rape through the legal system. I understand wanting to make examples of people, but I'm not sure that really accomplishes anything.

    I hate what these kids did but I take no joy in their convictions. I hate thinking that it might be more complicated than socio-psycho-monsters with no empathy, that it might have societal components and that I can't just wash my hands of it when these particular assholes are dragged out with the garbage.

    I almost wish this hadn't become a national news story. I'd like to think you for your thoughtful and brave analysis, but this whole thing is just a fucking misery to contemplate.

  • Nevermind a harsher sentence for the juvenile perps, I'm waiting for the hammer to come down on the idiot jocko infrastructure that taught them rape was OK. I wanna see every adult who knew about this and didn't report it (recall that Anonymous basically had to prod the cops into action) frog-marched off to jail for a good long time. I wanna see FUCKING BULLDOZERS turning the Steubenville HS football complex into a heap of RUBBLE.

    If "this will terribly scar this other person for life" isn't sufficient motivation to keep rape-happy morons and their adult enablers under control, maybe "OMG, this could cost the whole town SPORTSBALL 4ever!" will work.

  • @Matt:

    My feelings about online vigilante justice in general, and Anonymous in particular, are largely negative. But you make an interesting point about the internet exposing some more loathsome aspects of formerly isolated subcultures.

    There are still people out there defending Joe Paterno. But at least these two didn't go completely unchecked decade after decade.

  • John: I think an important thing you miss, though, is how people define rape. Yeah, if you ask any random person on the street if "rape is wrong," they'll probably respond that it is. But what do they consider rape? Do they consider it rape only if the woman fought back? Do they consider it rape if the woman was passed out, or staggering around drunk? Do they consider it rape that time they were fooling around with a woman and she said to stop but they were almost there anyway, so she was probably just playing hard to get?

    I read somewhere that one of the witnesses was quoted as saying that while he thought what the two boys in Steubenville were doing was "messed up," he didn't think (at the time, at least) that it was rape. He, and probably others (including many of the adults in the community, as well as in the comments section of any given news article) thought of it as some kind of prank gone a little too far, maybe a bit of bullying, but not rape. I think Ed is spot on that the fact that they filmed what happened and passed it around shows that–and furthermore, one of the boys' "apologies" after their conviction was that he was sorry the pictures had been taken and sent around. Not sorry that he raped an unconscious girl and made her the object of scorn among his peers–sorry that he took pictures and passed them around.

    When men can't define what rape is beyond what we see in the movies (some guy, probably brown or at least with scraggly facial hair, coming out of an alleyway with a knife to rape an unsuspecting victim), and when rapes that don't look like that are dismissed, it's no wonder you not only get Steubenville, but Todd Akin. He, like many men in this country, grew up thinking of rape as a single act–a violent, forceful rape of a woman who's fighting back and yelling "no, no, no." A woman who passes out at a party, though? That's irresponsible. Girls have to be careful, and take precautions if they want to remain pure.

    This last sentiment I actually saw, almost verbatim, on a news story in my local paper. The commenter was a father, with a daughter in her first year of college, and he claimed that while his daughter did go to parties, she was always careful, never had more than a couple drinks, never got drunk, etc.–almost certainly, and laughably, untrue, but he believed them–and therefore she wouldn't be raped like this girl was. He thought what happened to her was unfortunate (as though she'd been in a car accident or a plane crash, it was something that "happened to her," not something that was "done to her"), but that she bore some responsibility for being a drunk slut, basically, although he phrased it in a more socially acceptable manner. And even if he really does think it was only "partially" her fault, that's still implying that men are unable to keep themselves from raping a passed-out girl, and therefore it's a woman's responsibility not to make herself so rapeable.

    This is not an uncommon sentiment. Though I think the phrase "rape culture" is often overused, it's the best descriptor here. We live in a culture that still, to a large degree, views rape as something that just sorta happens, especially to women who are dumb enough to get drunk or not watch their drinks or wear short skirts or flirt with men or who have had sex before. So I understand what Ed is trying to argue, that these young men, while their actions were heinous, have been exposed to this sort of culture and reasoning all their lives, and therefore society as a whole bears a portion of the blame as well. Where I disagree with Ed is that I don't believe "hanging them high" is the wrong response. Yes, we need to educate young people about consent, and about sex in general. Yes, we need to discourage culturally-ingrained ideas about men's inability to restrain themselves from raping someone. But we also need to make examples. We need to take people like the Steubenville rapists and make it clear that, yes, they are going to jail, and yes, they will be branded with the tag of "rapist" for the rest of their lives, and yes, that will happen to you too if you do what they did. Boys who are already their age all over the country may not respond to a few weeks in health class trying to undo every narrative they've ever heard about sexual responsibility, but they might respond to fear, and while that's less genuine and not the end we need to work toward, it might be sufficient to keep a few girls from getting raped, and if that comes at the expense of two young assholes so be it.

  • Those of you with a pantload of butthurt over the word "responsible", get over yourselves. He's not saying you are culpable, just that you are living in a place where rape happens partly because of stupid cultural values we generally value. Hero worship happens, and we love having heroes.

    Then we turn on them once forced to. But do we change? The same year we all decried domestic violence and OJ Simpson, this was a hit:


    Take That, bitches.

  • @ Capt:

    1st para – I agree there's a difference between assertiveness v. aggression and we don't teach the first and reward the latter. Also like all learnt behaviours there's the "learning curve". How do you learn? Trial and error. Unfortunately, somethings for this method involve other people, i.e. my point that a high school guy pushes it a little too far and gets his face slapped or some other negative reaction and quickly gets the idea that's not appropriate.

    Do we then label *every* high school kid who's tried to steal a kiss with a sex-offence?

    Part of "empathy" is learning to read the signs the other person is putting out there. Some people get it faster, some people might need a slap and some people just never get it.
    Your final sentence was the nub of what I was getting at. And far more eloquently than I put it, so thank you for that. At no point have I said Billy's actions were valid, just that there's a reward system in place for such behaviour. Which as you pointed out is part of the rape culture.

    2nd para. No, not really. And you missed my point.
    Certain behaviours are considered morally bad, and we as a society educate and condition our members that we do not do such things. Murder for the obvious example.
    A guy I know who served in the military once told me, "The mechanics of killing someone are easy. It's overcoming the social conditioning that's difficult."
    So through proper social conditioning the majority of us would never consider actually killing someone. We are able to control our emotions and not do so.
    Even though we acknowledge that murdering someone is morally wrong, we *still* have a punishment in place for people who do. The idea being that knowing that if you do commit murder, you will be punished. How many people have been stopped from picking up a knife in a fury because some sense of – for lack of a better term – self preservation kicked in? We'll never know.

    The point being, some actions are bad and therefore we reinforce them with a codified punishment structure.

    As to the second part. Remember we live in a "representational democracy". In a perfect (let's not go into gerrymandering and purchased interests that is the reality) vision for the model, the idea that the majority of the people of society have deemed certain ideals to be true. Through their duly elected representatives these ideals are written to be law. In your haste to snark you deny the idea that legislators can get somethings correct, Voting Rights Act? Therefore the majority of society has spoken and now we all have to were purple hats on Thursdays – and yes it's supposed to be a silly example.

    So whether you want to wear a purple hat or not, you need to wear one or be fined.

    A "moral" person adheres to the laws of the given society that they live in. Therefore there's a "moral" duty to adhere to the law. A "moral" person will then adhere to that law and wear their purple hat on Thursdays despite the fact they think its silly and they do not desire to do so. Those who flout the law and refuse to wear their hats, will then be fined. So again, it reinforces the behaviour that society deems acceptable whether the individual sees it as such or not.
    The choices are clear. Either gladly wear your hat, wear it grudgingly, cop the fine *or* work to have the law repealed through the appropriate channels.

    There are times when the "moral" person is required to flout both law and "societal morals". Is there ever a time lying is acceptable? Yes! When the people you are denying the existence of being in your root cellar are Hutus hiding from Tutsis.

  • Echoing Jazzbumpa above, I have a hard time equating property crimes with what went on here (and as a corollary, the respective motivations involved in the two cases).

  • Waayyyy off the thread line here, but, Ed, you really need to get up-to-speed on the emotions and reasoning literature. You can't have the latter without the former. Literally, it turns out. Lot of good stuff on it out in the last few years. Now back to regular programming.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    I'm a heterosexual male, and I don't even understand the thrill of raping a passed-out woman. If a woman's not hungry specifically for my cock, I'll just masturbate. At least I'm willing. I once had a partner who wanted to sleep in my bed and told me to just keep escalating until she told me to stop. I was mortified, because by the time she told me to stop, I'd already done (however briefly) the thing she didn't want done. So I just slept. The next morning she was disappointed that I didn't try more. Not my game, thanks!

  • Ed,

    Thank you for writing this. I can understand your problems with the term "rape culture", which is a convenient shorthand, but tends to lead more to an idea that it is men responsible for it. The truth is, the prevailing attitudes towards rape are indemic to all of our culture, and everyone participates in it. When we let the "hero gets the girl" story slide without comment, when our coming of age stories are about teenage men having sex, when we repeat the punchline of "doesn't matter, had sex" – these are the basic cultural actions we all take part in.

    What many of the commentors here seem to have missed is that they do have responsibility for this, because they do have the power to stop it. A simple, "hey, thats not cool" can go a long way. I appreciate that you used your platform to send out a "not cool" message.

  • I can't believe that a rational adult is claiming, in all seriousness, that someone driving five mph over the speed limit is doing morally the same thing as violently assaulting or raping someone.

    OBEY, sheep. Because there has been A REGULATION passed!

  • I don't know how many cities are running the ad campaigns "Don't be THAT guy," but I do see them here. It's a start. A tiny start. (The ads are various versions of "If she's drinking/drunk/accepting a ride home with you, she isn't telling you she wants sex").

    I do remember when I was in college (back in the Jurassic Age) and in a sorority, we were all counseled to not get stink-o drunk at the frat houses, which boys to avoid because they were known date rapers, and to never leave each other alone. It was just accepted that there was nothing we could do about convincing these guys they probably shouldn't have sex with a drunken girl, so we all protected ourselves. Sad, no?

  • Charles Bird says:

    I was struck by the comment that we live in a time of diminishing rape. No one seems to have brought up the virtual plague of rape and almost complete failure to prosecute in the military. The Steubenville kids in a couple more years would have joined up and played out their sexual fantasies full bore and most likely would walk free. the military is a professional culture of violence that is adulated by almost all our institutions. brutality is a desire able trait on the front lines. As the Bambara proverb goes, " he who kills his vicious dog will be bitten by another's". So yes, we are bringing up our young men and women to fill these roles.

  • Nobody will deny that the classic "pulled into an alley" rape scenario is a hardcore violent crime. Or if the woman is saying NO! and fighting back. These are never in question. Where these conversations always, always, always turn into heated debates is when some combination of two other factors come into play: youth and booze.

    Alcohol complicates everything, and leaves motivations murky. And young people are, well, stupid. To say these two things aren't or true or don't matter makes you an absolutist who's not helping the conversation at all.

    We've all been there. We've all had a bit too much to drink and then done something we shouldn't have. We slept with someone we weren't really attracted to because our drunken state said "oh, what the hell." And THIS, right here, is the crux of the debate. Because men fear having their lives ruined because someone is equating rape with regret.

    And these are discussions that need to be had. Everyone is feeling put upon, and its a minefield of behavior involving intoxicated people who aren't mature enough to hold down a full-time job yet.

    But what does this have to do with these kids who violated an unconscious girl? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. The girl was unconscious!

    So yes, let's have these conversations. But regarding the Stubenville kids? The girl was unconscious. There's no more to talk about. It's rape, and they deserve to go to the slammer. And it's no more the fault of "society" or "rape culture" than the perennial idiot kid who watches Superman, puts a towel on his back, and jumps out the window thinking he can fly. There will always be sociopathic assholes. Luckily, it's not most of us. And luckily – these two particular ones didn't get away with it.

    Right now, there are young women who have passed out at parties, and nobody is raping them. There are dozens of men at those parties who are busy NOT raping. In fact, its very possible a few of those young men are standing guard at the door making sure the girl is just left alone.

    Fuck these two dipshits. They need to rot.

  • CaptBackslap says:

    Sorry, Xynzee; I still think you're pushing slave morality here. Of course many (even most) criminal laws forbid unethical things, and of course it's necessary to have punishments for breaking those laws. But breaking the law is, in itself, an ethically neutral act.

    It's like Megan McArdle's old rants about strategic default: she was trying to impose a duty to keep paying onerous mortgages on homeowners because they had signed a contract (never mind that said contract specifically includes default as an alternative to paying). It MIGHT be the case that strategic default is ethically problematic (for example, it indirectly imposes costs on one's neighbors by lowering property values), but the language of the contract itself is not the reason.

  • I don't know what you guys were like in high school, but in high school it was very clear to me that drugging someone and having unconsensual sex with their unconscious body is very very wrong. I really don't think you guys are giving teenagers enough credit. I'm not saying the rapists were "EVIL" or whatever, I'm saying they were sociopaths. There are sociopaths in this world, believe it or not. Nor am I saying that rape is no longer a problem or that it is nonexistent or anything of the sort. I'm saying if, in this day and age, you don't know that having unconsensual sex with an unconscious body is wrong, then something is very wrong with you, and you can't chalk this one up to society failing to teach you better. After a certain point, the individual is wholly responsible for knowing better. And, again, the fact of the matter is is that these boys did, in fact, know better. As the video attests to, they knew that what they did was rape and that it was considered wrong, but they could only laugh. The only thing they were ignorant of was the real possibility of punishment, but, as I said, this in no way makes them "pitiable."

    Furthermore, I'd like to add that the Platonic view that everyone desires to do good, it's just sometimes they miscalculate, and do bad–that view is laughably naive if you have any experience whatsoever with actual people. People knowingly do bad things. I have knowingly done bad things, though nothing on the order of rape or murder. Fortunately, I'm not that much of a piece of shit. But there are pieces of shit in the world. Again, I'm not saying they're "EVIL," but, accordingly, nor is anyone an angel, or some naturally pure soul that's sometimes corrupted by society. Some people are just shitty. You can pretend to be Jesus and try to blame yourself for everyone's shittiness, but you're really just one-upping the loud self-righteous AM radio hosts you all are so wary of being identified with. Your pity is hardly any less self-righteous than their ire.

    To be clear, I'm not calling for more punishment. I just oppose the notion that these boys are "pitiable" because they supposedly didn't know any better (when, again, they very clearly did know better).

    @Elle The judge? What did he do? Didn't he say that what they did is a very serious crime?

  • @Amil666

    The judge's analysis of the crime (as reported) included a riff on the dangers of drunkenness and social media. It aligns him neatly with many below-the-line commentators on newspaper websites, but speaks ill of his suitability for presiding over rape trials.

  • She was drugged and carried to several different houses. That sounds like kidnapping as well.

    This story is well beyond a girl drinking too much and being 'taken advantage of'. These clowns give date rapists a bad name.

  • God, I'm so saddened.

    Everything Ed wrote resonates. And reading some of the comments makes me sadder, for a variety of reasons.

    But if intellectualize it, maybe I can hold back the melancholy:
    We didn't say "it's ok for boys to drug a girl and then rape her while she's unconscious." We were more specific.
    I mean, I don't think the class outcast at their high school thinks its ok for *him* to do it.

    So, under what conditions do we tell people "the basic rules of humanity, of decency, and of morality are malleable."?
    (Hold on, 'cause I'm not fully attached to my tangent, and my mind is going back to being sad.)

    Were these boys told this because they were male? Because they were athletes? Because they were *good* athletes? Because they were good students? Because of their economic status (in the town, or in the country)? Because of their age? Because of some revenge balance? Why, why, why were they told they were entitled?
    Because it's simple enough to claim "we should tell people they have a social and human obligation to not be a piece of shit." But there appear to be mores and biases that say, yes, some people, or people in some situations, are entitled to be inhuman. The rules don't apply to some people, or to people in some situations, or to people at some time.

    And if we want to stop it, don't we need to understand those biases and mores, which elevate or repress some, beyond just defining what is good and what is not good, Phaedrus?

  • How many of you would have pity for a 17 year old who went around so mercilessly bullying a gay classmate that that gay classmate resorted to suicide? Would you still feel pity for that 17 year old if he felt "entitled" to bully gay kids into suicide? If that 17 year old felt no remorse over the fact that he caused a gay kid to kill himself? If you'd still pity that 17 year old bully, then I really don't even know what you mean by "pity" anymore. I mean, what DON'T you pity?

  • "You're a rapist"

    "Yeah, well, you don't sympathize with me, so you're just as bad in a way."

    "Oh shit, you're right!"

    Excellent logic.

  • This sounds like the David Brooks piece on Penn State. I object to the use of the question "What messages are we sending…" There is no we. There are those people who state emphatically that women's bodies are the property of men, to do with as the man pleases. There are those people who believe that those in a relative position of power and privilidge in a given situation have a right to do as they will, and face no consequences. We call those people Conservatives, Republicans, religious fundamentalists. There is no WE in this.

  • @amil666 pity is when you feel sad because someone else is suffering and you want to alleviate their suffering. like, "you're clearly suffering right now, and i'd like to extend a hand to you and teach you about compassion". that's pity.

  • It boggles my mind that the kids who bullied and raped their peers are the ones we're supposed to be focusing our pity on. I tend to have a lot of pity for criminals. I even had pity for Adam Lanza, because he clearly suffered and acted out of desperation, even though his crime was as heinous as it gets. But if Lanza had decided it'd be funny and cool to kill a bunch of kids, and he laughed about it later–that's where my pity ends. I don't care how many video games and movies made him think it would be cool to kill children, I don't care how entitled he felt to kill children–he would not get an ounce of sympathy for me. I don't see why you all consider rape so much more excusable. I mean, I understand being concerned about the societal factors that allow for shit like that to happen, and wanting to do more to make society better (though, again, at this point, I don't really know what more I can do–I would love for some specific advice here)–but why make the extra step of sympathizing with an unrepentant, "entitled" rapist, who, again, knew better?

  • why is that an extra step? why focus your sympathy on anything? is there a limited amount of sympathy in the world? do some people get thrown under the bus because i've run out of sympathy by the time i get to them?

    i think that the opposite of sympathy would be "feeling happy when people suffer and wanting them to suffer more". so are you telling me that "not being a sadist" is an unnecessary extra step?

  • At one part of the video, when the star shithead is being told that what they did is fucked up and constituted rape and all that, the star shithead says, sarcastically, "Maybe it wasn't rape, I mean maybe she if she weren't dead [i.e. unconscious] she would have wanted it LOL." In case it isn't clear, he laughed because he knew how ridiculous the "justification" he mockingly gave was. Oh, if only he had been taught….what? That what they did was rape and that rape is wrong? But he knew that. Then what? That he'd get punished?

  • how she'd feel the next day? how she'd feel the next year? what it means to watch someone suffer? what it means to suffer yourself? what it means to lose things you can never regain?

  • I don't feel happy that those boys are suffering. It sucks that shit like that happens. I'd rather it didn't. And more suffering does absolutely nothing to eradicate the shittiness of the rape, except for the slim possibility that it will discourage them and others from doing such acts again. But I don't sympathize with them either.

    "Preference must be based on esteem, and to esteem every one is to esteem no one."
    – Moliere

  • "I don't feel happy that those boys are suffering. It sucks that shit like that happens. I'd rather it didn't."

    That's sympathy.

  • It sucks that rape happens, and I wish we never had a reason to punish people, not because I feel bad for everyone who's punished, but because it's not pleasant (to me) to be cruel, just as it's not pleasant to dissect a human carcass–not because I have any sympathy for a human carcass, but because it's ugly.

  • @Capt:

    "But breaking the law is, in itself, an ethically neutral act."

    And *that* is why we have a problem. It comes back and to the mentality of "It's only a crime *if* you get caught."

    These kids think the only thing they did wrong was get caught.

  • I don't think comparing sexual assault to armed robbery or drug dealing or even murder is a fair comparison.

    I don't have to have any sympathy for these boys, they didn't do what they did out of desperation, because society had cast them aside, because their parents were too strung out to care for them, they did this because they wanted to. They got caught because they wanted an audience.

    I'll agree that there is something wrong with our society, that we're sending the wrong message to boys and young men about who has bodily autonomy and agency (i.e. everyone, not just you and your bros). But comparing them to boys who steal or murder because those are the only (or just easiest) income sources for them is wrong. Sure, some kids steal for fun, some people murder because they like it, some people mug strangers for jollies. But at the end of the day, most of these crimes are a means to an end. People are mugged or murdered for the cash in their wallet or their life insurance policy, people steal to buy drugs or pay debts.

    No rapist benefits monetarily from the act of sexual assault. It's entirely for the sake of debasing another person, it's an act of will.
    Every. Single. Time.

    Punishing these boys (and NOT punishing or blaming the survivor) and then discussing why they were punished, and she was not, without mourning the "lost futures" of the attackers is how we change the culture.

    I don't want to see them killed or mutilated. I want them registered for life, I want them educated in a useful trade, I want them rehabilitated, and I want them locked away from potential targets until we can be reasonably certain that they won't do it again.

    Please don't tell me that registering as a sex offender is the end of a man's life. It is not. For two and a half years I worked alongside a man that beat and raped a woman and served 5 years for it. I found out six months before he was laid off, nine months before I was. My employer didn't even tell me, a colleague did. I looked him up in the database, then I made sure I was never alone in the warehouse with him. He found another job less than a year later, during the worst part of the recession.

  • Part-time Jedi says:

    "I mean, I understand being concerned about the societal factors that allow for shit like that to happen, and wanting to do more to make society better (though, again, at this point, I don't really know what more I can do–I would love for some specific advice here)"

    There are a lot of excellent websites with advice on what individuals can do to help dismantle rape culture. One of my personal favorites is http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/. The posts "Meet the Predators" and "Mythcommunications" are two of the best posts.

    Some strategies include:
    -calling out jokes about coercing or forcing people to have sex
    -talking about enthusiastic consent, and what it means
    -stepping in at bars or parties when you see someone who looks like they're preying on a person who is to inebriated to resist their advances.
    -Respecting other people's physical boundaries, even in non-sexual situations, so that people around you become accustomed to having those boundaries respected, and it really stands out as odd when someone doesn't respect boundaries.
    -Normalizing female sexuality, and calling out slut-shaming.
    -Calling bullshit on stories and jokes that are based on the idea that women, as a whole, don't enjoy sex, and have to be coerced or bribed into having it.
    -If you are male, being understanding if women are initially scared or mistrustful of you, and talking to your male friends about doing the same.
    -Telling any friends who are rape survivors that you believe their stories, and that what was done to them was not their fault, and offering support to them according to what they decide is best for them.

    There are lots of things that you can do, as an individual person, to talk with the people around you and in your social circles and break down the underlying culture that lets rapists rape, and get away with it, and do it again and again.

  • GeoX: you're obviously missing the point.

    It is about *attitude*.

    So if you're driving a car and making a *conscious* decision to exceed the speed limit – because you *like* to drive fast – lose control of the vehicle and this girl had suffered traumatic brain injury.

    *How* is that different from what happened to her?

    She's still pretty screwed up.

    You made a decision to break the law, and she has to suffer the consequences.

    20yrs ago, a kid in Portland was shot and killed while breaking into cars and stealing loose change, CDs, ciggies, etc.
    His friends' attitudes were, "We were doing nothing wrong. It's only for fun. It's not like we were doing armed robberies or anything."

    It was only for "fun". I for one hear echoes of that attitude in these boys' attitudes. It's just a natural extension of the former to the latter.

  • So if you're driving a car and making a *conscious* decision to exceed the speed limit – because you *like* to drive fast – lose control of the vehicle and this girl had suffered traumatic brain injury.

    *How* is that different from what happened to her?

    If you are the driver of a car and you drive in a manner that is dangerous, or otherwise frightening to your passenger(s) then that is abusive behaviour, particularly if you are driving in that manner intentionally to frighten your passenger(s). This doesn't necessarily mean breaking the law. It's possible to drive dangerously fast for road conditions without breaking the speed limit, or to drive recklessly at any speed. Conversely, it's possible to break the speed limit and still be driving (relatively) safely and sensibly.

    Accidents happen. Even accidents that cause significant injury and trauma.

    Rape is not like that. Rape is not a thing that just happens. It cannot happen without the rapist either intentionally trying to hurt (whether physically, psychologically, emotionally, or all of the above) the victim, being deliberately negligent about whether the victim is hurt, or not perceiving the victim as a human being who can or will be hurt.

  • mother earth says:

    As a parent of a 22 year old daughter and 24 year old son, this story has caused me much discomfort. I have almost survived the parental years of hell, from high school through college. This story is not unique, but is very common place in our current youth culture.
    I cannot tell you how many stories my daughter has told me about young women who go to parties, get black out drunk, behave very badly then claim that they were drugged the next day. Sometimes they wake up in the hospital with mom and dad there. Sometimes they get text messages from friends confirming their worse fears. Does this give their drunken male cohorts a free pass. NO. But are these women completely innocent? NO.
    If I had to guess, this wasn't the first time the victim got this intoxicated at a party. And this wasn't the first incident in Steubenville where drunk women were sexually taken advantage.
    What happen was disgusting. But I can almost guarantee that all victims in this case knew about previous parties with passed out girls and bad behavior. To this extreme? I hope not. It was not a cautionary tale to any of them, just the usual weekend party reports.
    The best that could come out of this would be a review of the rampant underage binge drinking culture that has developed among our youth. Next up, prescription drug abuse which is rampant. This generation is at huge risk.

  • But are these women completely innocent? NO.

    You may have divided the world neatly into drunken, irresponsible sluts and virtuous good girls, mother earth. Rest assured, though, that if you have two glasses of pinot grigio at an upscale restaurant with a girlfriend, before being raped by a neighbour, then a jury will treat you like you're in a Girls Gone Wild video.

    I sincerely hope you never have to see someone you love denied justice because a jury believes that women invite violent assault by having a social life.

  • Mother earth, you're putting the onus on women not to make themselves so rapeable. Do you not see why that's fucked up? Culpability for rape rests entirely on the rapist. I have been around many drunk women, in a number of situations. I have never raped them. Because, you know, I'm not a rapist. If I had raped them, it wouldn't be "the usual weekend party report" or a result of their "bad behavior." It would be because I was a fucking rapist. Which, again, I'm not, which, again, is why the women who have passed out when I'm present have not been raped by me–not because they avoided the "rampant underage binge drinking culture," but because I'm not a fucking rapist.

    Is it a good idea for girls take precautions when going out? Yes; unfortunately we live in a society where rape is frighteningly common. If they don't take those precautions, is it "their fault" for getting raped? Nope. Because I don't care if a girl passes out drunk, naked, in my bed, with no friends at the party–IT'S STILL NOT OKAY TO RAPE HER, AND SHE IS STILL NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR MY ACTIONS.

    It's sad that I would have to explain that to someone with a daughter.

  • @Xynzee

    Yeah, I'm just going to go ahead and keep believing that the desire to drive recklessly and the desire to violate another human being are entirely discrete and not remotely morally equivalent, if you don't mind.

  • @Nick can you explain why we cluck our tongues and say that "that person shouldn't have been walking through that park late at night?" when someone is robbed?

    Of course the robber or rapist will be tried and convicted, but that won't stop people from commenting on when another person engages in some behavior that is patently risky?

    This goes beyond the good girl/bad girl dynamic. We just observe when something horrible happens, comment on it and then try to avoid having the same thing happen to ourselves or our loved ones.

    YES, Rapists shouldn't rape, YES robbers shouldn't rob, YES, drunkards shouldn't drive, but the fact remains: if you go to a party drunk, if you walk through the park at night, if you go for a walk after a big sporting event lets out: you're taking a big risk and people will say you "shouldn't" have done those things.

  • @deep I dunno, generally I don't say that. I might express a lack of surprise that a robbery occurred in a particular area, just as I might express a lack of surprise that a date rape occurred at a frat party, but in neither instance does that mean that the victim of the crime is culpable.

    The difference is that if I go to a party, and get drunk, and someone steals my car, nobody tells me that I should have stayed sober. Nobody tells me that I should have fought off the thief, or if I was passed out, that it's my fault that my car got stolen because I brought the keys to the party. If I start chatting with a guy, make friends, go outside to smoke with him, and he sticks a gun in my face and tells me to give him my wallet, nobody tells me that it's my fault for talking to him. If I go to a club wearing a Hugo Boss dress shirt, and get mugged walking back to my car, nobody tells me that it's my fault for wearing such an expensive shirt. And at the end of the day, nobody acts as though being victimized was something that I should have expected. Even though I could have taken precautions in all of those scenarios, nobody tells me that I should simply accept what happened as a natural condition of my mere presence. Nobody claims that the robber couldn't help themselves, or the mugger couldn't help themselves. That's the difference between rape and other crimes.

  • greennotGreen says:

    It seems that the victim was known to have a drinking problem; this may have made her a target, but it doesn't make her culpable.

    Many, many years ago, when I was an inexperienced drinker, I was going out with a cute guy I thought likely to be "fast," so I decided I would only have two drinks…which I did. But they were strong, and I had forgotten about the codeine-containing pain reliever I had taken earlier that day (for pain.) So I was plastered. I remember parts of the evening, vaguely being "kidnapped" from the first guy by a second guy (whom I really liked.) Nothing really bad happened to me that night because those guys were NOT rapists. That's what stops rape – guys not being rapists.

  • What I disturbs and enrages (yes, enrages) me is all the sympathy and hand-wringing and lamentations for these rapists' lost golden future. They RAPED a girl. They laughed and joked and posted video of themselves RAPING an actual real life flesh and blood human girl. Where is the crying for all that this girl has had violently stolen away from her? Where is the empathy for her violated life, present and FOREVER? Why do you or anyone else expect me to expend sympathy on people who have willing and eagerly done a grotesquely horrible thing to another human being? THE GIRL WHO WAS RAPED IS THE VICTIM. Not the people who raped her.

  • This comment thread is turning into a debate over culpability of the case and what Ed is criticizing–in my eyes, more than the polarizing schools of thought on rape– is our beliefs on how the justice system handles rape and how we as civilians respond to the punishment, and I'm taking it upon myself to being the focus back to it. For the record, I DO NOT sympathize with the rapists and I DO NOT believe that victims have the onus of responsibility for rape. The problem here lies in the fact that there are civilians who simultaneously believe that rape is a capital crime while perceiving rape epistemically as the fault of the victim. I'm trying to avoid using terms like right-wing extremists, as if this term didn't exist in our political lexicon I would still have a bone to pick with this contradiction, even though I do identify myself as leftist on the common ideological spectrum.

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