Why Don't Some Boys See It As Rape? Case Study

Why Don't Some Boys See It As Rape? Case Study

In the Steubenville case, a girl purportedly passed out and was allegedly sexually assaulted by two young men on the high school football team while others watched. What strikes me about the incident is that it demonstrates a split in the boy rape-prone sexual culture. Some young men continue to believe that when a girl gets drunk, staging a sexual spectacle for their mates is part of a night's fun.

They don't think of it as rape. Some of their buddies, however, disagree. In their transition to manhood, they are able to name rape when they see it.

This split opinion is illustrated in the video posted a few days ago by Anonymous showing a young man -- presumably an eyewitness -- egged on by others, telling his version of what happened. The video footage is disturbing, to say the least. He repeats in a litany format that the girl is dead. However, he doesn't mean lifeless, except in the sense that she isn't moving. "How do you feel on a dead girl?" he asks someone in the room. He describes her as "deader than a doornail." When asked "How do you know she's dead?" he answers that she is dead because she isn't moving. He then goes on to describe how dead: "Deader than Andy Reid's son ... deader than Chris Henry ... deader than OJ's wife ... deader than f***ing JFK ... deader than Trayvon Martin." In other words, made only for use by men.

In the cacophony of voices spurring him on, one hears the word "rape" from one or two other voices. One says, "This is not funny," only to be drowned out by the laughter of the main speaker and those supporting him.

When asked "What if that was your daughter?" he answers, "If that was my daughter, I wouldn't care. I'd just let her be dead."

Besides, he says, "Is it really rape because you don't know if she wanted to or not," the teenager says on the video. "She might have wanted to." In response, the onlooker says, "You are sick."

What happened in Steubenville that night in August seems to suggest that some sort of sexual assault took place, at least from this eyewitness account if the video is verified to be authentic. Most rape laws in state that sexual activity on a person who is incapacitated or unable to consent constitutes rape. One of the clauses of the Ohio law states that sexual activity is not permissible when "the other person's ability to resist or consent is substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition or because of advanced age, and the offender knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the other person's ability to resist or consent is substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition or because of advanced age."

The girl's incapacity comes not just from the multiple mentions of her being dead in the video. There is also possibly a photo of her being dragged along held by her wrists and ankles by two boys. Surveys administered from the early 1980s to the present indicate that 20% to 25% of female students say they have experienced nonconsensual sex by the age of 21. Every year, a high-profile case of gang rape appears in the news.

 Confronted with such cases, many explain it away, thinking or actually saying "she wanted it." Why do we think this way? Doing so is behind the strange idea of "legitimate rape." When will our sexual culture change so that an inebriated girl (or boy) is protected rather than abused?

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