Reactions to guilty verdict in Steubenville rape case spotlight rape culture in the U.S.

Former SkyBank branch in downtown Steubenville...

Former SkyBank branch in downtown Steubenville, Ohio, currently a Huntington branch. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following the guilty verdict in the Steubenville, Ohio rape case, a lot of people, including media personalities, expressed sympathy for the rapists regarding how their lives will be affected now that they’re convicted sex offenders. It’s hard to find nearly as much sympathy for the victim, however, showing that we are still very much a rape culture.

Buzzfeed has a list of 23 posts from people on Twitter, Facebook and even Reddit that demonstrate that. Most of them call the victim variations of “little slut,” and several claim she was asking for it. Some say it’s her fault for getting drunk in the first place, and many of them claim or imply that she cried rape because she regretted her actions after sobering up and seeing the pics. One person said that the DA ruined lives all because of one girl who wanted attention.

All are sickening.

All put our rape culture into the spotlight by making it out to be her fault in some way. It’s not likely that there would be this same level outrage toward the victim if it had been a drunk, 16-year old boy who’d been digitally penetrated while unconscious. If that were the case, it’s far more likely that the rapists would be the ones who were vilified.

I usually don’t see this kind of outrage for boys who are attacked in some way while walking alone through dangerous neighborhoods. I don’t often come across comments that only blame him for being there while forgiving the attackers. The outrage is more heavily concentrated towards those who would commit such a crime against a minor, regardless of where he was. Though there is sometimes some outrage towards the victim from some quarters (further perpetuating the idea that we don’t see fit to teach people not to attack), it’s not to the degree that it is when it’s a raped woman.

That’s rape culture. It’s the idea that women are responsible for a rape when it happens, and that those who rape her are in some way innocent. It goes back to the idea that men are slaves to their urges and can’t be expected to control themselves. The comments on Buzzfeed’s list speak to that as well, with one saying that the two boys only did what anyone would have done.

Under Ohio law, intoxication makes it so people can’t legally consent to sex. In fact, this is the case in most states. The evidence, including pics and videos that were shared online, show that the boys involved knew she was extremely drunk, even discussing how she could barely move, and how she looked dead, how if she moved she’d get sick. That’s not mildly buzzed, that’s severely drunk. Someone in that state is often wholly unaware of what they’re saying or doing, even though they appear to be in some kind of control.

The texts also describe how the boys tried to work out a plausible story later to avoid getting into trouble for their actions.

The defense tried to call her character into question, and now people all over are upset about how the rapists’ promising lives are ruined by the guilty verdict. Even the judge seemed to think that this should be more of a lesson to be careful about what you post on social media than a lesson in just not violating people.

Understand this: the girl gets to spend the rest of her life knowing what happened to her. She gets to spend the rest of her life wondering if that will ever happen again. She gets to deal with the slut comments, she gets to deal with men being afraid of her because “they might be next.” She gets to handle being branded with a reputation of being one of those lying sluts who gets men in trouble either for the fun of it, because she hates men and wants to punish them, or any number of other things. And she gets to deal with whether or not it’d be worth it to come forward a second time, should she ever be raped again.

These two guys ruined their own lives by raping a drunk girl. That is a sex offense, and they are legitimately branded sex offenders. Nobody ruined their lives for them. Those boys needed to be taught not to rape. It was not, is not, her responsibility to keep them from raping her.


4 Responses to “Reactions to guilty verdict in Steubenville rape case spotlight rape culture in the U.S.”

  1. 1 cinderchild

    Rape is rape. Anyway who WANTS to have sex with someone who is passed out? That’s disgusting. And rapey.

    • I saw that. A problem that VS has is that, while they have tried to integrate some more “normal sized” models into their lineup, they get criticized for it.

      The perpetuation of body-image issues by the media is a vicious cycle; they’re blamed incessantly and severely for contributing to eating disorders, depression, the sexualization and objectification of people (particularly women), and more, and when they try to change that by having more normal, average people as models, they get yelled at for having “fat, unattractive models,” which hurts them.

      Look at H&M Sweden. They have mannequins in size 6 and size 10 in their stores there now to show what their fashions would look like on more average sized women. They’re now getting heavily criticized for promoting obesity, though the mannequins aren’t even overweight in appearance.

      So there’s a cultural shift that needs to happen. I hope companies like H&M stand firm, rather than caving to social pressure, because this kind of thing will help shift cultural views of beauty.

      I strongly disagree with marketing skimpy lingerie to young teens, in fact, there’s a lot I strongly disagree with marketing to young teens, and I wish VS and other apparel companies would stop.

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