Thursday, March 21, 2013

Steubenville Rape Verdict

I went to college in the seventies, which makes me a kind of historical relic.  In 1973, Roe vs. Wade had just made abortion legal, the "sexual revolution" was well underway, and the second wave of feminism was reaching its zenith.

I had just turned eighteen.  I had lost 100 pounds, morphing from a very obese high school student beyond the social pale, into a very pretty, very buxom blonde.  I could hardly wait for my life to begin.  I was all juiced up on my own hormones and fantasies.

But I was also riddled with anxiety and crippled by lack of confidence.  I didn't have a clue... about practically anything.  So I made a lot of foolish, impulsive choices, as many young people do, especially regarding alcohol.

I attended a large public university in a dry state in the midwest, where the only alcohol legally available was 3.2 beer.  I had very little experience with hard drinking.  One night I went to an acquaintance's room in my dorm with several other people.  He was lavishing us with screwdrivers, and I got very drunk very fast.  One of the young men in the group, Simon Kuttab, offered to help me back to my room.

(I call him a young man now, but in fact he was a grad student at least ten years my senior, with a receding hairline and a pot belly, so from my perspective seemed positively middle aged.)

I remember little of the rest of the evening, except coming to, face down on his bed.  He had removed my bra and pulled my jeans down to my ankles.  He was attempting to penetrate me anally; it was probably the pain of this that brought me back to consciousness.  Although I was now aware of what was happening, I was literally immobilized.  I said, "Please stop" before passing out again.  Perhaps an hour later, I stumbled out of his room and made my way back to my own, losing my bra (never to be retrieved) in the process.

In 1973, the concepts of "acquaintance rape" or even "sexual harassment" didn't exist; they weren't.even on the radar.  I knew whatever had happened to me did not fit the legal definition of "rape."  It's true Simon had acted caddishly, but I was the one who had been defiled. I was responsible because I had put myself in the position to be taken advantage of.  Therefore, I carried the burden of shame alone, and never questioned for decades that I should not.

So I never said anything to anyone about this incident, including Simon's "girlfriend," who happened to live on the same floor.  For the rest of the academic year, I passed Simon in the cafeteria or lobby.  He was usually sitting with his friends, bright, angry Palestinians like himself.  Every day I passed through this gauntlet, as they pointed, jeered, and muttered to each other.  I had become an object of their endless contempt and amusement.  One of them once made a clumsy pass at me at a dance; when I politely declined, the ridicule and gossip escalated.  It was as if  by "allowing" myself to be raped, I had lost the right to own my own body.  I pretended to ignore them, praying the scandal would not spread beyond his immediate coterie of pals. It never occurred to me to confront them and make them own my mortification. 

The same year, two girls who lived in the same dorm, and whom  I vaguely knew, were picked up by some boys in a bar.  They were invited to a party.  They jumped into the boys' cars and were driven to an abandoned barn, where a dozen men were already queuing, and where they were gang raped repeatedly.  One of the girls was hospitalized for physical injuries that included abrasions in her throat and vagina.  I don't recall if there were any arrests.  I do recall the charges were ultimately dropped for "lack of evidence."  The girls were pitied, but also ostracized, and shortly thereafter, they dropped out of school.  The message was clear: report rape at your own peril.

You might have thought I would have learned my lesson about drinking with strangers, but in fact, this episode ushered in a period of hard partying, many hours of drink-fueled dancing and relentless carrying-on.  A year later, I was at a party chugging tequila out of the bottle, while the people around me cheered.  The next thing I remember was waking up in the front seat of an unfamiliar boy's glossy Trans Am..

I tell this story to demonstrate that not all young men are opportunistic rapists.  In fact, I suspect only a minority of them are though it's a theory that I cannot prove.

Anyway, the boy was very concerned about me.  He didn't want me to pass out.  He kept suggesting we stop and get some "bread" because the bread would "soak up" the alcohol in my system.  Every time he said the word "bread," I retched, jeopardizing the upholstery of his new sports car.  He finally drove me to a trusted female friend's house, put me to sleep it off in a back bedroom, and disappeared.  I didn't wake up until three the next afternoon and I never saw him again.  (Of course, in light of what I now know about alcohol poisoning, he should have dropped me off at an ER, but I expect he didn't want me to "get in trouble.")  My finger tips were numb for days and I couldn't look tequila in the eye for years, but I passed through the dreadful experience without the added trauma of having been sexually assaulted.

So what accounts for the difference in behavior between these two young men?  Why will one man view a woman's incapacity as an opportunity to have intercourse, knowing full well she would not consent if she were unimpaired, while another man is motivated in the same circumstances to protect her?  This is the question we need to be asking ourselves, and for which we need to elicit the input and support of men too. 

And another question I've been asking myself is, Where were the Steubenville victim's girlfriends while she was being assaulted?   Why do young women so often fail to look out for each other?  (Although I am somewhat reassured by Roosh that this sort of "cock blocking" is a standard part of the clubbing scene.)

It's hard for me to see the convicted football players as "victims," but it strikes me that they also have been badly let down:  let down by their parents, their team mates, their classmates, and just about everyone in their community who had a chance to support their character development and failed to do so.
There is a petition to make "consent" a mandatory part of sex education in school Because all men are born criminals

No, Roosh, not all men are "born criminals," except insofar as all humans are, by our imperfect natures, capable of doing appallingly evil shit to each other.  Education helps.  As civilization evolves, our mores change.  In fact, statistics indicate the rate of rape has fallen fairly dramatically in the past two decades, even as the definition of rape has broadened, and this does seem correlated with the inroads feminism has made in convincing people that women are autonomous beings worthy of respect and compassion.

I appreciate how fast standards seem to change, and that it is hard for some folks to "keep up,"  (As fond as they are of evolutionary psychology, MRAs don't seem to have read enough "Evolve or Die" bumper stickers.)  Although I am not very old, I have lived long enough to see social attitudes change in ways that I could never have anticipated.  Were I now the 18 year old I once was, I would have felt significantly less shame and significantly more anger at Simon and his friends.  Of course, it's likely it would never have happened at all because Simon was a smart, ambitious fellow who would have been loathe to put his academic career and social reputation in jeopardy.  And nowadays he would know what the consequences were, thanks to education about "consent."

By teaching adolescents the concept of consent, girls are also taught to be accountable for their own sexuality.  I look forward to the day when girls who want to be sexually expressive with a partner take responsibility for communicating that and owning it enthusiastically and unambiguously.

I note also this week the kerfuffle regarding Adria Richards and the vicious backlash she is experiencing.  I have nothing to add to this story except to agree with comments that, while I sympathize with her frustration, she seems to have over-reacted, that sex jokes are not necessarily sexist, that it is a shame the offending programmer was fired and an equal shame that Richards was fired.  The social media has evolved faster than our standards of professional etiquette and decorum can accommodate.

I enjoyed the hilarity of the tweets regarding Roosh's "Feminist Victim Fund."  Nice to see at least half of the ridicule coming from men.   I will also confess to a certain cruel satisfaction in seeing the widespread coverage of Roosh as an "admitted rapist" tied in to the mockery, and knowing that whatever he does, he will never escape that label.

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