If I were attorney general of Ohio, prosecutions in the Steubenville rape case wouldn’t end with the conviction of two high school football players. In interviews, Mike DeWine indicated that he might seek additional charges, possibly obstruction of justice and failure to report child abuse.
Too bad Ohio has no law against criminal stupidity, or he could indict that Steubenville football coach who allegedly told a New York Times reporter, “You’re going to get yours. And if you don’t get yours, somebody close to you will.”
No wonder his players acted like louts. The guy sounds like he’s auditioning to play Coach Knuckledragger in “Fast Times at Neanderthal High.”
But the adults I’d really like to see brought to justice are those who helped a bunch of 16-year-old high school kids get knee-walking drunk and provided them unchaperoned party houses to do it in. Alas, for reasons having to do with our willfully shallow national conversation about “gender issues” (as the deepest thinkers style them), it’s considered controversial to point out that both the victim and her assailants were drunker than...
Well, drunker than what? Than Lindsay Lohan? Than a peach orchard boar, as country folks say? Drunker than Dean Martin, the late crooner and comic from Steubenville who used to impersonate an amiable sot in his nightclub act?
Almost all of the ways we have to talk about intoxication are halfway humorous, although the wonder of the Steubenville case isn’t so much what happened at the party as what happened later on social media. That and the fact that all those drunk-driving high school sophomores made it home alive that night, instead of running head-on into an 18-wheeler or plunging into the Ohio River in somebody’s daddy’s SUV.
My view is that the two perps got off easy. A year or two in an Ohio youth detention facility is nothing compared to the penalties they could have received had they been tried as adults. So no, their lives aren’t over; and yes, I imagine they can be rehabilitated. Once again, probably none of this would have happened if they hadn’t all three been hammered. So where did they get the booze?
Making this observation in a Facebook post, however, brought me a torrent of angry responses from individuals who imagined I was making excuses for Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, the high school football stars who molested the victim after she’d passed out drunk, vomited all over herself and ended up naked at a team bash last August. Photos and videos of the helpless girl carried about like a captured missionary in a Tarzan movie got posted online for her classmates and parents to see.
In their drunkenness, the victim wasn’t a person to them; she was a thing. Possibly the kind of insatiable trollop they’d seen in porn videos, without shame, eager to be degraded; a groupie.
That’s not an alibi, it’s an explanation.
My saying so, however, infuriated a lot of people. To them, mentioning the victim’s own inebriation was tantamount to “blaming the victim.” One fellow denounced my post as “a sterling example of rape culture and everything that’s wrong with masculinity in our society.”
“Drunk,” I was informed, “does not give one a free pass to rape.” Somebody else wanted to know, “How about armed robbery when you are drunk. Is being drunk the most significant fact?”
No, but if you pass out in the street near an all-night bar, don’t expect to wake up with your wallet.
Somebody else linked to an article in The American Prospect condemning “Toxic Masculinity,” defined as “damaging to men, too, positing them as stoic sex-and-violence machines with allergies to tenderness, playfulness, and vulnerability. A reinvented masculinity will surely give men more room to express and explore themselves without shame or fear” (Jaclyn Friedman, Prospect.org, 3/13/13).
Yeah, well, dream on. It says here that if there had been a grown man on the premises — by which I don’t mean Coach Knuckledragger — instead of a bunch of drunken boys, somebody would have protected that girl. Put a blanket over her; taken her to the emergency room; carried her home.
For that matter, what about the girls of Steubenville? Why did none of them speak up? Oh yeah, drunk too. Beyond that, it would probably take a novelist like Joyce Carol Oates to render these appalling events fully comprehensible.
But no, since it’s apparently necessary to spell it out, a girl doesn’t deserve to be raped because she got drunk and naked with the football team. Nothing she could have done justifies the way she was treated. But hers was a reckless and stupid act all the same.
So is providing 16-year-old kids with liquor. It’s also a serious crime. If Ohio authorities wanted to make something worthwhile of this case, they’d enforce it. Somehow, I doubt that will happen.
Arkansas Times columnist Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). You can email Lyons at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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