In the wake of the Steubenville High School students who were convicted of raping a sixteen year old girl, the internet has bounced me from blog to blog, from article to article…
I’m overloaded, and raw, and thoughtful, and angry, and strangely stirred.
The internet is on fire and I’m glad. The term “rape culture” has never seen so much play. Turns out everyone’s got a lot to say. Reactions have been divided and loud… but we need reactions – we need discussion, because something that happens as often as sexual assault should have gotten a hell of a lot more discussion a lot sooner. In fact, let’s all keep talking about it until everyone is so exhausted hearing about it that no one ever rapes again.
There has been a lot of the usual victim blaming in this case, and most of the media coverage has been about the loss of the “promising futures” the convicted boys had ahead of them. The general reaction to the media coverage from the blogosphere seems to be “How did this even happen?” “Glad the rapists will pay for their crime.” and “Holy Rape Culture, Steubenville!”.
Presently, I am struck by the lack of humanizing the young girl who survived the rape. She was violated, photographed, and then those pictures were distributed far and wide – accompanied by various disgusting jokes. Whatever trust she had in the world around her has been violently ripped away, and it’s likely she’ll spend a lifetime healing from this.
I, like many, are shocked at the coverage, sympathy, and rallying behind the rapists. Most of all, I am ill over the arrogance of these football players and those that surrounded them – the arrogance that made them think it was okay to violate another human being the way they did, and the culture that led these boys to believe that what they were doing wasn’t all that wrong – that allowed the complete dehumanization of a young girl.
The rape culture is alive and well. Women are still often portrayed as objects… to be owned or given… to be controlled. Objects aren’t human. Kicking a box is a lot more acceptable to the mind than kicking a person. These football players were raised in a culture that values violence and aggression in its masculinity. They were town football heroes – “better than” and “powerful”. They also sadly ended up doing one of the least masculine things there is – taking advantage of the weak. When they came across a young girl sick from alcohol and barely conscious, where was the masculine urge to protect? When friends witnessed the violation of this girl, where was the instinct to be brave… to stop it… to fight for someone who couldn’t?
A friend in the Steubenville case on the night of the party fought to take keys away from a friend who was going to drive home drunk. Moments later he walked in on a naked girl sprawled on the floor being violated and did nothing.
Yes, the rape culture is alive and well, but I haven’t lost hope.
As a feminist and a survivor, I not too long ago realized why I gave birth to boys… and not the girl I always wanted. Any true change in the rape culture must and will come from the men and future men. Rape is not a women’s issue. Rape is a man’s issue. Trying to teach our daughters not to be raped will never change the culture. We must teach our sons not to rape.
More and more parents, like myself, are steering away from gender stereotyping our young kids. I am teaching empathy and compassion. I am not valuing aggression simply because my kids are male. I am emphasizing respect for fellow human beings and honoring both (classically defined) feminine and male qualities. As my boys get older, I’m hoping to foster the knowledge that violence toward another person is usually done by the weak and out of control.
They will know that the strong take care of the less strong…
and that they can never be brave without first being afraid.
They will always know that they are loved, that they are worthy, and that others are worthy too.
They will know that no person is “less than” another because of their color, sexual preference, or gender.
When they are age appropriate, I will talk to them about sex…
and I will talk to them about rape - because the two are not the same…
and some day a very long time from now, I will tell them about what happened to their mother.
I have no reason to be ashamed of it,
and they should have every reason to want to change it.
We can actually teach our sons not to rape. We can teach them to step up, and speak out against rape (and any other violent dehumanizing act). The groundwork for human decency starts at a young age.
When you truly see someone else as a fellow human being – as an equal, an act like rape is unfathomable – it doesn’t make sense.
We can teach our children to hold the door open for someone, and to cover their mouths when they sneeze. We can teach them to shovel snow off of an an ill neighbor’s driveway. We can teach them to hold a crying friend’s hand. We can teach them to tell the truth. We can teach them not to rape.
This past week has brought a slew of blog posts from parents on rape culture and boys… and how to change it.
There is a new generation of boys rising, and mine will be among them.
I believe it is possible that someday…
and common decency
will be more common than rape.
** Some posts on the subject I recommend:
- Henry Rollins Comments on the Steubenville Rape Verdict - UnderTheGunReview.net
- What You Really Need To Tell Teens About Sexual Assault – TheArtfulFlower.blogspot.com
- Friends Don’t Let Friends Rape – LateEnough.com
- Prevent Another Steubenville: What All Mothers Must Do For Their Sons - HuffPost Parents