The Steubenville rape case: This is male culture
Two high school football players from Steubenville, Ohio were found guiltyof raping a 16 year old girl on Sunday. They were both convicted of digitally penetrating the victim, and one was found guilty of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.
The allegations against the young men, Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, came after a series of photos, videos, texts, and social media posts were brought to light last August. One photo showed the victim “lying naked on the floor at a party, with semen from one of the defendants on her chest.” Another, widely circulated, showed the two young men carrying the passed-out girl by her arms and legs. Mays and Richmond have been sentenced to at least one year in juvenile jail, but can be held until they are 21.
These young men have been both pitied and vilified (but mostly pitied). Anyone who followed the reaction online after the verdict was announced on Sunday will have likely witnessed some of the horrific victim blaming that went on (and continues). Matt Binder documented some of the many tweets arguing that the victim should be charged for underage drinking, that if “you don’t want to get raped, don’t get blackout drunk,” or that “of course the girl is going to cry rape once her parents find out after videos go viral.” It got much worse than that. Two girls were arrested after sending death threats to the victim.
I don’t pity these boys. For once, men are being held accountable for their behaviour. It’s abnormal, for sure. No wonder people are shocked. After all, we’re used to dicks reigning with impunity. We’re used to hearing stories, whether in the media or in our own lives, about rapes going unpunished. What’s shocking is not that this happened in the first place, but that these young men were found delinquent (the juvenile court equivalent of being found guilty).
But I’m also not interested in vilifying these individuals. What I think we need to understand is that, yes, this behaviour was absolutely disgusting and horrific and that absolutely this must be treated as a crime, these young men are not monsters. They are just regular guys. Regular guys who play football, go to high school, and go to parties with their friends and who have learned, growing up male in a rape and porn culture, that women aren’t real, full, human beings. They’ve learned, as many boys and men learn, that women exist for the entertainment of men; whether on stage at a strip club, on screen in porn, or blackout drunk at a party.
The transcript of the text messages which led to the convictions in the Steubenville rape trial has been posted online (warning: the transcript is graphic). The conversation between these young men is very difficult to read. They ‘lol’ about raping the girl before realizing that sharing the photos of the assault could be incriminating. Their primary concern is not the well being of the victim; far from it. She is mostly irrelevant. A toy to be played with and mocked. The real concern is getting caught. They knew full well that what they were doing was wrong:
Sean McGee to Trent Mays: U shouldn’t have did it if she was that hammered
Trent Mays: Only a hand-job
Sean McGee: I saw the pics, bro. Don’t lie.
Trent Mays: She was naked the whole time but she was like dead
Sean McGee: If she tells someone, it could get back to her parents and then back on u
Trent Mays: She knows what happened
Sean McGee: No, she don’t
The conversation continues:
Multi-media picture message from Trent Mays sent to Anthony Craig and Mark Cole: (picture is that of a naked Jane Doe; has a caption) Bitches is bitches. Fuck ‘em.
The boys try to plan a cover-up:
Trent Mays to Evan Westlake: Deleate[sic] that off You-tube. Coach Sac knows about it. Seriously delete it.
Evan Westlake: Deny to the grave.
Trent Mays: Her dad knows, and if our names get brought up, if asked, she was just really drunk.
Trent Mays: They knew she stayed at Mark’s. You just gotta say she was asleep by the time you got there.
Trent Mays to Cody Saltsman: Nodi’s running his mouth saying how dead she was. If anyone asks, we just took her to Mark’s, and she fell asleep.
Trent Mays to Mark Cole: Just say she passed out at your house if anyone asks.
Mark Cole: IDK she was fucked up. It was her fault she was fucked up.
Cody Saltsman to Trent Mays: I got you, man. I’ll say that you all were just taking care of her.
They’ve learned the art of victim-blaming well.
My point in sharing this conversation is, again, not to vilify. These boys aren’t monsters. These are men I’ve known. Men I went to high school with. Men I went to parties with. Men who raped my friends. These young men are no anomaly. This is masculinity. This is male culture. Regular, “normal”, everyday male culture.
By no means do I intend to say that all individual men and boys behave in this way. They don’t. All men are not rapists. All individual men don’t literally see and treat women as fuck-toys. I know many men, in my life, who I love deeply and who are men who treat women like human beings. But these young men from Steubenville are also not abnormal men. There’s nothing “wrong” with them. They aren’t mentally ill. This is the culture we live in. Where life is a porn movie. Where rape is punishment for getting too drunk. Where sex acts are filmed and posted online so the world can see what women are really for. So women can be mocked and blamed and assaulted simply for existing in a rape culture.
These are men I have known. These conversations documented in the transcript, are conversations that have happened many times over. What happened to this girl has happened many times over. To women we know. If you’ve managed to avoid witnessing masculinity and male culture manifested in this form, count yourself lucky. I can only assume you’ve never been to a frat party, to a strip club, or watched porn. That you’ve never been to high school. Or, if you have, you were somehow protected from this behaviour and these conversations. You’re lucky if this conversation shocks you. It isn’t shocking. This is no seedy underground. This is our life, our world, our men and boys.
Mar 21, 2013 at 2:03pm
This is not male culture, this is the acts of a few horrible individual people. Megan Murphy is a bigot, just a bigot towards and entire gender. Replace "male culture" with "black culture" or "jewish culture" or any other noun, and you'd have a hate piece.
Shame on you for using this horrible incident to push your hateful and gender bigoted views.
Mar 21, 2013 at 2:24pm
By blaming "male culture", Meghan is essentially dehumanizing the crime. She is enabling these people to avoid personal responsibility for what they did. Contrary to what she claims, these "boys" ARE monsters. They are not "typical males".
Mar 21, 2013 at 2:33pm
The man-haters never let a good crisis go to waste.
Mar 21, 2013 at 2:45pm
Even though the author clearly writes, "By no means do I intend to say that all individual men and boys behave in this way. They don’t. All men are not rapists. All individual men don’t literally see and treat women as fuck-toys. I know many men, in my life, who I love deeply and who are men who treat women like human beings", predictably she's immediately written off as a man-hater and a bigot.
Maybe, just maybe, the butthurt commenters could pause for a moment and try to consider her opinion instead of attacking her. She's not attacking you personally, commenters. I don't see why you are taking it as such.
Your knee-jerk personal attacks on the author just serve to reinforce the point she's trying to make. If we actually lived in a woman-friendly culture, I don't think your first reaction would be to hurl personal insults at her.
Thanks for this, Meghan. It's tough to critique the world around you when this is the sort of reaction you get. It's so difficult to keep voicing concerns and challenging the status quo when so many keep trying to shout you down.
The Pen Is Mightier
Mar 21, 2013 at 2:57pm
[Com|Wom]Bat is absolutely correct. This could never happen here. Or anywhere else. Because young men know better. Inherently. It was just a few horrible individual people. Guys just don't take advantage of drunk girls. Roofies don't exist. Date rape never happens. People don't get addicted to porn. Young girls don't need to worry about being out at night. Or what they wear. Or who they smile at. Or talk to. There are no videos ever taken of candid upskirts or anything like that. We don't objectify. We don't treat people differently based on appearance. No one we know has ever been abused by someone they knew. No one tried to cover up for those little pricks right?
You're probably right. It's just a few individuals. But shit do they get around.
Mar 21, 2013 at 3:02pm
It's tough not to take it a little personally when she keeps saying it's part of "male culture". I think it's her opinion, and how she perceives male culture, but I don't think it accurately reflects on reality.
Adding a line that says "By no means do I intend to say that all individual men and boys behave in this way" kind of has the same tone as "I don't want to sound racist, but..."
Mar 21, 2013 at 3:26pm
No, it's entirely different. Women who critique male culture feel they MUST add some disclaimer that they don't hate men because invariably the first comment out of someone's mouth is "YOU HATE MEN." This is false. If you could honestly understand that, maybe we could start having a rational, thoughtful conversation.
Until you put aside your ego, we can't even begin a dialogue.
If you took the time to respectfully engage with feminists, you'd realize the aim of feminism is to make a better world for ALL people, regardless of gender. It's not a pissing contest of who's better. We are all human and all struggling and ALL want to be treated with kindness and respect.
I have the ability to read a critique of female culture/women's issues and not take said critique personally. I am aware and intelligent enough to understand that a person taking issue with female culture isn't specifically attacking ME.
I understand the frustration of many men who feel like they are getting dumped on personally, and I try incredibly hard not to make dismissive generalizations because they are hurtful and do not further the dialogue. I'm not always great at this, but I'm learning. I hear the hurt in the voices of the men I know when I do this so I try to change my behaviour and respect their feelings while also trying to address larger cultural problems.
But, at least I try to hear the other side of the conversation instead of dismissing it entirely and screaming "BIGOT!!"
Mar 21, 2013 at 3:29pm
This is asshole culture
Mar 21, 2013 at 3:48pm
This is masculinity, this is male culture. Nothing but sleazy hate. I never heard a man say that Lorena Bobbit was typical of feminism or female culture
Mar 21, 2013 at 4:32pm
I don't feel the author hates men, but I still disagree with her choice of words. She's painting half the population of the world with one brush by calling rape, strip joints and porno "male culture".
By calling those who disagree with the author oversensitive or unenlightened, you prove that you aren't really interested in a dialogue.