Monday, January 14, 2013

Catatonically Speaking: Rape Means Rape

By now most people who are not comatose are aware of the Steubenville, Ohio, high school rape case. If you happen to be emerging from a coma, I recommend Google or some other similar search tool to catch you up to speed on the latest news that will incite nothing but pride in your own humanity.*

Horrifying details of the case aside (and that sounds unintentionally callous), the most fascinating facet of this scandal is how extensively social media has played a role, from the alleged criminals' Twitter and Facebook comments and Instagram pictures to a YouTube video, to, most notoriously, Anonymous hacktivism (again, Google is indispensible if you are unfamiliar with who the hell Anonymous is and what the hell hacktivism is), the latter of which has exposed concrete details about the case that has led to the heretofore slumbering national media finally taking notice.

There are those who would impugn the vigiliante-style actions of the hacker collective known as Anonymous. And while I can sympathize with some of the arguments made against it - its aggressive approach could potentially bring physical harm to the families of the alleged criminals (and possibly even the victim's family), it risks imparting false information that could muddy the waters of the case, and it might violate the constitutional axiom that no one is guilty until proven so - I happen to agree with Anonymous in this instance. Not only did the collective, through computer-geek sleuthing, unearth evidence that had been buried in a cover-up, but its efforts catapulted the scandal to national attention, when the case had been languishing in the background. Such a case deserves to be highly publicized. Not sensationalized, mind you, but disseminated widely to bring justice to the victim as well as delegitimize the misogynistic rape culture that is so entrenched in male high school and college sports.

I am not saying, mind you, that all male atheletes are rapists, or even misogynists. That I should have to even make such a disclaimer seems absurd. What I am saying is that extreme sexism among male atheletes exists all too pervasively. Extreme sexism in general culture exists all too pervasively, indeed. But whenever there is a group of people (whether male or female) who come together under a common banner, societal dysfunctions are reinforced. In this case, the misogyny of general society is exacerbated by the ethos of the herd - i.e., the football team. 
I make no secret of my fierce loathing of American football. Even my loved ones who cherish the sport know this, and we tolerate this difference between us. I have long held that the primitive pseudo-sport induces violence - and indeed, this is borne up through statistical evidence (domestic violence increases on Superbowl days, etc. Look it up!). But of course, extreme sexism can occur in any sports scenario, and I do happen to like basketball and soccer - much more dignified sports than football, physically speaking, anyway. But the hype and idolatry surrounding all sports maims their potential to be transformative experiences. Instead the players get ensnared in the vulgar traps of egomania and avarice, and this feeds into the spectator' baser instincts as well. Plus, too, because of the ferocious fanaticism surrounding sports, they supplant the arts in the hierarchy of What Makes Us Better People. Sports have their place, to be sure, but it's not at the top.

As for any allegations that the internet should not be used as a tool in trying this case (as some have suggested) - well, it wasn't Anonymous who ignited that. The students who made obnoxious tweets and Facebook comments such as "A whore deserves to be peed on" and uploaded pictures on Instagram of the victim's limp, unconscious, half-naked body being carried by two gleefully guffawing males, and made a YouTube video of a student maliciously mocking the rape victim - well, they are the ones who are responsible for initiating the internet portion of this scandal. They merely provided the catalyst for Anonymous to dig further in order to bring justice to the victim - because, as often happens, key details were being covered up to protect the footballers. Anonymous served to re-unmask the evidence that the students had already unwittingly unmasked themselves, and then attempted to cover up - no doubt urged by the adults in their lives. 

And, of course, it's the adults - in this case the coaches (especially), principal and parents - who are ultimately to blame for reinforcing sexist and stereotypical herd behavior among the teens. The coaches should be on trial for allegedly encouraging sexist antics among the players, and the principal removed for not sacking the utterly corrupt coaches. After all, several of the boys on the team have been well known among students as "The Rape Crew." What the hell kind of demonic atmosphere is this for teenagers? Why is this tolerated in any way, shape or form? The adults are meant to be guides for kids; youth merely mirror what they see in the (supposedly) mature world. 

In our society and the world at large, as evidenced by the New Dehli and Steubenville (and countless other) cases, rape is still not treated as the vulgar crime it is. Often the women are the ones who are blamed for being too drunk, too flirty, too scantily clad, out too late, etc. etc. etc. It's always some litany of "excuses" designed to take the heat off the perpetrator. 

But let's be clear about this: RAPE is the fault of the RAPIST. And after that, then society is at fault for shaming the victim and silencing their own consciences.

If a woman is naked, stumbling drunk at 3 a.m. down a dark alley known to be frequented by thugs, it's still RAPE if she does not give consent to a person who might attempt sexual contact with her. Period. Women are not the property of men; we are not their personal playgrounds on which they can perpetrate all manner of vile acts. Sex is consensual or it's not sex; it's violent violation. 

This issue of Clockwise Cat is dedicated to all rape victims around the world. May you find peace and justice, and may we all work to cultivate a saner, safer society, free of the heinousness of sexual violence. 

*Okay, okay, I'll give you ONE link. Keep in mind it's a link to a site that is patterned after WikiLeaks and is in partnership with Anonymous:  Local Leaks

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