This post is gonna be heavy on the feels, people. Like most of you, I’ve spent the morning watching the aftermath of the Steubenville rape verdict rolling across the internet–and it is not pretty. Check out documentation of rape apologist tweets and other social media commentary on the Public Shaming blog and Man Boobz. A quick Google search turns up even more.
When I heard the verdict, I was ecstatic. It is so, so important that the judge convicted these two boys in this particular case, because it was EXACTLY the kind of rape case that most confuses people. She was drunk. It was unclear whether there was penile penetration or vaginal intercourse. There were plenty of witnesses. She didn’t say no. Was it really rape? As one boy says in this horrible video from that night, it’s not really rape because “she could have wanted it.” But she was passed out, so they couldn’t ask. Another teenager from that party says that he didn’t intervene because “it wasn’t violent. I didn’t know exactly what rape was.”
Well, now we know (as if we didn’t before). This verdict sets a very public and very important precedent, and hopefully it won’t be undone by shitty news coverage (thanks, CNN!).
That being said, I do feel bad for Mays and Richmond AND I think they got what they deserved. They did a stupid, cruel thing and now they’re realizing that it is not acceptable. But they don’t exist in a vacuum. They are the product of our culture, and we taught them that it WAS acceptable, and that they COULD take advantage of an incapacitated girl with impunity, plaster it all over the internet, and not have to deal with any consequences. We were negligent. We did not teach them that it was rape, and we did not teach them that rape is a thing they SHOULD NOT DO.
We as a society really need to get the fuck over this thing where we don’t teach kids about themselves. Seriously. Teach them about their bodies. Teach them how their anatomy works. Teach them about how to respect their bodies, and the bodies of others. Teach them to love their bodies. Teach them to love the amazing sensations their bodies can experience. Teach them how thrilling it is to give someone else those sensations, how humbling it is to receive such a gift from another person. Teach them that being safe only makes it better.
Teach people with vaginas that it’s okay to love sex. Teach them that their vagina is their business, to share or not share with anyone they please. Teach them that it doesn’t matter what clothes they wear, what time it is, who they’re with, or what they’ve consumed–they don’t have to let anyone in if they don’t want to.
Teach people with penises that they don’t have to be “alpha.” They don’t have to mock people with vaginas, or other people with penises who don’t measure up to what society thinks they should be. Teach them that they can do whatever makes them feel comfortable–but, until this culture has reformed, emphasize that they must ask and receive clear consent for anything involving another person.
Three kids’ lives have been destroyed, and this is how we could have stopped it. THIS is how we could have stopped a sex offender label from ruining the lives of Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, not by chastising Jane Doe for drinking or wearing the wrong clothes. THIS is how they could have continued being good students, and good football players.
Steubenville, Internet, society: DO NOT blame Jane Doe. This is your fault.