Steubenville, Ohio and Rape Culture

At least two members of a Steubenville high school football team raped a sixteen year old after she had passed out drunk at a party, as well as videoing themselves exposing her breasts and penetrating her unconscious body with their fingers. They then distributed the videos and pictures around their school to shame her. Y’know, a joke. Funny. None of the self-titled “Rape Crew” (yes, really) were disciplined, until an anonymous group released this absolutely disgraceful video, which has now gone viral. If you don’t feel like watching it and getting your daily dose of despair for humanity, the video shows The Rape Crew Massive calling the victim ‘so dead’, ‘deader than JFK’ and ‘so raped’, whilst laughing about the night’s events.

I’m in a University sports team. I get it. It’s hard to stand up for what you think is right if it goes against the bullshit hierarchies that teams build up within themselves to feel a bit more important. But she was being RAPED at a party in front of people. Come ON. GET IT TOGETHER AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS TO STOP RAPING THE UNCONSCIOUS GIRL. The teams’ coach, Nate Huppard said

“The rape was just an excuse I think. What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that, after a night like that? She had to make something up,”

despite the video evidence. With these kinds of authority figures as their guides, is it any wonder the team found it so funny?

The boys in question aren’t some kind of force of evil in an otherwise happy, woman-friendly culture. They aren’t monsters. They probably didn’t even consider themselves rapists, despite the name of their crew. They are products of their environment, and a society that still tells us that a woman’s body doesn’t belong to her. That it is the fault of a woman if she puts herself into a vulnerable position. That men cannot be blamed for taking advantage of a girl or woman who is not in a position to give consent.

It is easy to point fingers and exclaim outrage at these boys, and rightly so, but it is far more important to take a removed look from the situation, examine our society and realise that rape apologism and misogyny runs deep into our culture. Websites like UniLad notifiying their readers that “85% of rape cases go unreported. That seems to be fairly good odds.” Politicians blurring the definitions of rape. Media images implying that women are playthings, and yours for the taking. Stand-up comedians making rape jokes.  Rappers telling us ‘bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks.’ Nightclub gropings being a casual and endemic part of a woman’s life.

rape ohio

Protesters outside the courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio

Once I got very drunk at the beach with a bunch of people I didn’t know very well, and my friends put me to sleep in the back of our minivan. I woke up some time later with one of the men on top of me, taking my top and bikini top off, kissing and groping me. There is no possible chance I could have consented to this happening. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, and I passed out again while it was going on. And when I woke up the next morning, I wasn’t wearing any underwear. I still don’t know if he had sex with me but regardless of whether he did or didn’t, he treated my body as if it belonged to him. He didn’t give me the right to control what happened to it.

A few months later, he sent me a friend request on Facebook with the message ‘I miss you’ attached to it, which was hugely upsetting because not only did it mean he still thought about me, but that he had normalised what had happened into something acceptable. I told someone close to me about it at that point, who asked me if at the time, I’d been ‘y’know…getting into it. Because you were so drunk and everything.’ Essentially if on some level, I’d wanted it.

This is the kind of rape apologism and victim-blaming that is so prevalent, and that we have to change on a societal level. It’s not enough to condemn rapists and sex offenders individually. We have to attack the culture that normalises and even rewards sexual assaults as ‘banter’. ‘Lads’ of the world, I’m looking at you. Stop it. Stop it now.

3 thoughts on “Steubenville, Ohio and Rape Culture

  1. Although I’m a male, I can relate to what happened to you. Oddly enough. I wrote about it in one of my posts (don’t let the title be too off-putting, however much it is), in light of all this Rape talk on the internet [(always)] lately. There’s the shortlink: http://wp.me/p2yKaE-8J

    But in a nutshell, I passed out drunk, woke up to a girl trying to get me off/ try to fuck me, told her No and passed back out, only to come to with my easily aroused 16/17 year old cock inside of her, after which I threw her off of me, and fell back asleep again.

    This was years ago. Sure, I felt violated somewhat, as I was raped after all. But, I know that I got piss-drunk, she was all over me, and I did what I could, as best as I could to prevent her piss-drunk hormonal rage from pouncing on me like the succubi she was.

    The problem with saying there are “rape-apologists” is the fact that SO MANY men have experienced situations where they were falsely accused of something they weren’t aware they were doing/not-supposed-to-be-doing. However, with the Steubenville case it seems pretty clear that any slightly sane individual would know eiffel-towering a blacked-out girl and joking about it is about as Rapey as rape can get, and deserves no kudos nor laughs.

    In Swaziland women are now imprisoned for up to 6 months if they even dress revealing, the Monarch claiming it’s their fault if they get “raped” as what male wouldn’t be sexually drawn to a woman exposing herself & thinking men won’t treat her as they may be inclined to do. I’m not defending rapists, nor am I saying you weren’t raped or taken advantage of or whatever. It’s just funny how the definition of rape is purely semantic & based solely on the woman in question who may or may not have been raped, based on how she feels.

    I would argue that statistically most rapes go unreported because women who are ACTUALLY raped, are traumatized to the point of silence. And often those who decry rape are the ones who put themselves in the situation to be taken advantage of, or initiated a domino-effect of male-female dynamics that leads to them feeling taken advantage of, unless of course they don’t feel taken advantage of, then it was just an OOPS!

    As a man who has been raped, and as a man who has been accused of rape by women he didn’t sleep with until after they accused him of rape (consensually), I can say that A LOT of women who have been “raped” haven’t, and a lot of men who have actually raped women will never be the wiser, nor caught for what they’ve done. I hope this doesn’t come off as too preachy or defensive of rapists, as I don’t defend rapists, I just need bring up the opposite end – false rape charges, some of which I’ve seen make friends turn to suicide in order to escape the allegations and shaming by both men and women in their community – and sickly, after their deaths, the women come forward admitting they were feeling mad about a break up, or jealous about this or that. So there are many aspects to consider. Rape is rape, however sometimes “Rapist’s!” aren’t Rapists, and sometimes Whoops I got Drunk is Rape and sometimes I got laid would’ve been rape were it not a good lay. See what I’m saying?

    Coffee. Too much. Feel free to point out any errors in this rant. Or respond with any thoughts of yours on the subject. Nice article, keep it up.

  2. The title of your article was exceptionally off-putting so I will stick to the comment you have written here.

    I take objection to your comment that the definition of rape is purely semantic. Rape is clearly defined by british law as outlined here by rapecrisis: http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/Definitionofrape2.php. Rape crisis will also be a good source of support and information for you.

    You say that ‘so many men have experiences situations where they were falsely accused of something they weren’t aware they were doing/not-supposed-to-be-doing.’ If a man is not aware that he is not supposed to be doing something then he should be informed of it. Being unaware of the definition of rape does not make someone who has committed rape innocent. Apply the same concept to murder, to theft, to arson and ask yourself if your logic stands. Everyone has a responsibility to abide by the law or face the consequences of their actions. False rape accusations are a very small percentage of rape accusations and to imply that this is not the case is incredibly dangerous and damaging to victims of rape who fear coming forward. See this article for further information. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/rape-anonymity-and-the-myth-of-false-accusations-8117582.html

    There is a clear definition of rape – penetration without consent and without reasonable belief of that consent. False rape accusations absolutely need to be dealt with correctly in the court of law. Rape cases equally need to be dealt with correctly. We need a judicial system that is balanced and fair and can convict the guilty party in any crime. In rape cases, this is not happening. This article from 2010 shows the effects of a society that is poorly educated in the definition of rape on the judicial system: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/aug/24/george-galloway-todd-akin-rape-comments

    For you to say that a lot of women who have been “raped” have not been raped is a huge and damaging statement. It calls into question the definition of rape. It is silencing. The definition of rape as intentional penetration without consent and without reasonable belief of that consent is clear and it is not up to you to decide who has and has not been raped.

  3. Pingback: Revisiting the Steubenville rape case |

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