my take, takes, or lack thereof, on the Steubenville rape and trial


Just read this excellent article by Jessica Valenti in The Nation.

Have been thinking about this case all week, trying to figure out how I really feel about all this.

The thought process goes something like this:

How awful!

How could she be so drunk that she’s throwing up repeatedly and passing out, and no one’s helping her?

How could they take such advantage of her in such a compromised condition?

Teenage guys want sex, and will take advantage of any opportunity to get it.

But how could they take such advantage of her in such a compromised condition?

Why didn’t someone take care of her? She was clearly incapacitated, a true friend would have taken her home.

But remember those parties in high school, when ________ would always drink too much and end up in bed with someone? None of us did anything, we didn’t think it was our business.

Yeah, but none of us took pictures with our cell phones and posted them on facebook either.

We didn’t have facebook or cell phones, and _______ took that one Polaroid that one time.

Yeah, but __________ grabbed it from him and tore it up. Besides, we’re not talking about that, we’re talking about this.

Where were the parents? How did these kids get so much alcohol? And has no one taught this girl not to drink so much that she loses her ability to make decisions? And what’s up with the coach brushing this off? Was he really so callous? He must not have understood what was really going on.

But has no one taught these boys that it’s inappropriate to take advantage of someone who has clearly drunk so much that are incapacitated?

But they’re teenage boys, they’re suffering from hormone-induced mental illness.

But they still should know better. And how could they continue to be so heartless that really the only thing they are worried about is their reputation and their football career? What about her reputation?

And does he really think that texting her trying to talk her out of pressing charges because he “took care of her” is a valid argument? Really? How well was he taking care of her when he was raping her?

But they’re all young and oversexed and half of them probably go to these parties expecting to get drunk and have sex with someone.

But it’s clearly wrong, they clearly raped her, as she was in no condition to grant or deny consent.

But how could she let herself get into that condition?

How can these boys not know the difference between sex and rape?

etc. etc. etc.

They’re children. They have no judgment skills. Maybe the best solution is to not let anyone out of a parent’s sight until they’ve recovered from adolescence-induced hormone poisoning — girls around 18, boys, I hear, around 26 (sigh). I know that as a parent I have tried to teach my children everything they need to know to be good, kind, considerate, contributing members of society. That no always means no. That they should respect themselves, and everyone else.  I also know that they have, and will, do things on occasion that I don’t agree with (although I am pretty sure none of my children have done anything even remotely like this). I also look back on my 16-year old self and shudder. The only criterion for me liking a boy was if he liked me; I drank too much wine with a friend, whose dad made it himself and stored it in vast carboys, almost every Friday night, we would go to school dances drunk, and throw up on the tennis courts after; I had this other friend I already  mentioned who would always get too drunk at parties, and go to bed with any number of the “popular,” “in” guys. We didn’t do anything to stop it. WE DIDN’T THINK IT WAS OUR BUSINESS.

Granted, my parents didn’t talk to me much about any of these things. They were either too uncomfortable to, or too clueless to know that they should.

There’s a disconnect, probably partially borne of being adolescent and having no judgment skills; of being children who want to believe they’re adults; of living in a society where a blow job is referred to as a “good night kiss” and everyone’s violating their own privacy daily on social media. But don’t we all look back at things we did at 16, and realize how incredibly stupid we were? And maybe most of us were just lucky. Really, really lucky.

I hope you all realize that I am not making excuses for these two boys, nor for all of the people who stood around and not only let it happen, but documented it. I’m also not really making an excuse for this girl. We want her to be respected, she has a right not to be violated, but she didn’t respect herself, either, and removed her own agency by allowing herself to become so incapacitated that she couldn’t even say no. They were all very, very in the wrong. My question is, how far from that wrong were many of us at the same age? Probably (hopefully) not on par with the rapists, but what about the rest?


Is this only me? Am I the only one who sees this this way? I feel/fear that there is something wrong with me, that I’m not so willing just to point my finger and shout “You! You rapists!” Why is this issue, that is usually so black and white for me, giving me so much trouble in this case?


In a strange mental connection (my mind works in mysterious ways), one of the rapist’s claims of being a “nice guy” and “taking care of her” reminded me of this discussion of “nice guys”:

Some of the language is a little raw, but I like his points overall. I think he’s probably a really nice guy.

2 Responses to “my take, takes, or lack thereof, on the Steubenville rape and trial”

  1. March 23, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    You wrote: “…My question is, how far from that wrong were many of us at the same age? Probably (hopefully) not on par with the rapists, but what about the rest?”

    Sure. Good question. My question is:
    “How far from that wrong are many of us now? ”

    I’ll put my hand up with my answer: “Not very far, me included.”
    A few months ago I was walking through the city about 5am and I came across a man dragging an apparently unconscious woman down the street on the other side of the road on which I was walking. He let her go on a street corner and she lay so still and passive that I was convinced she was dead. He moved her a few metres (again no response at all by the woman) and started calling on his cell phone. He moved her again…more calls. Then just when I was thinking of calling someone (police? ambulance? both?) myself, I saw her hand move, so I knew she was alive. I then saw that the concierge of a hotel next to me was watching the scene too. I didn’t know what to do and I left, “knowing” that someone else was “looking after” her interests. Of course, I knew nothing of the kind. I’m guessing she had overdosed on some sort of drug and the man was calling a friend to take her somewhere, maybe ‘home’. But I didn’t know that, and shouldn’t I at least have called police & ambulance to sort it out officially, if not actually walked across the street and talked to the man and looked closely at the woman? If I knew that woman had been my daughter, wouldn’t I have done that – and much more? My actions (or inactions) are no less stupid and immoral that many of the people you wrote about. The only difference is that by pure luck I didn’t end up in court and by virtue of not being drunk at the time, I didn’t post a video on the internet.

    • March 23, 2013 at 11:08 pm

      It’s so hard to know what to do, isn’t it? And so hard for me to call the kettle black, and yet so many do it so easily.

      Don’t be too hard on yourself. We’re a complicated species (or maybe we’re actually not that complicated at all), and altruism (the greater good) is almost always trumped by our own self protection.

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