Steubenville: A Portrait of America’s Rampant Rape Culture

We’ve all heard the arguments supporting rape culture in this country: She shouldn’t have worn that revealing outfit. She should know better than to drink at a party. That’s what she gets for going to a bar. In virtually every instance, the blame is directed at the sexual assault victim rather than the rapist. Why? We’re a culture that assumes that sexual predators are “goaded into” committing violent acts against others. We can’t fathom a world where rape victims don’t “ask for it” somehow. Though few will admit to it, the rampant rape culture prevalent throughout most of the U.S. firsts questions the victim’s motives before asking why the offender committed the crime.

That’s the point though – that’s the thinking we have to change if we ever hope to eliminate rape culture. Whether we’re blaming the victim for causing the action or men for not being able to “control themselves” to prevent rape from happening, the thought processes we exacerbate – from court trials to the way media covers rape – only serve to detract from the fact that rape is rape. No amount of victim-blaming will change that. Take the Steubenville case, for instance: what was the reasoning many used to blame the victim (and protect the rapists)? “She was drunk and at a party – she got what was coming to her.”

And how were the rapists described locally in Steubenville as well as in national media? Rather than also being called drunk, irresponsible teenagers, media portrayed them as rising football stars with bright futures. As in most rape victim-blame-games, many in and out of the small Ohio sports town claim that had the rape victim not attended the party, and had she not had too much to drink, she would not have been raped. The two “rising star” football players (that the town seems to have put on a pedestal) wouldn’t have been forced / tempted / etc. to sexually violate her (and take photos of it for their friends to see). Because of rampant rape culture, people honestly buy into every morsel of that hokum.

The reality is, men can control their impulses. They can refrain from raping a woman – even if she’s drunk and wearing tight-fitting clothing. Men are not a subspecies of human without willpower; on the contrary, they are fully aware of their actions – including the times they believe it’s acceptable to rape someone. As Zerlina Maxwell discussed on Fox News recently, we must create a culture where women are not blamed for the crimes committed against them. Additionally, we must raise children to respect one another (both male and female, as rape is not an exclusively male on female crime) and to understand that sexual assault is not acceptable in any circumstance. Education is what we need. Education and awareness will (hopefully) eventually destroy the ongoing rape culture. Perhaps someday, we’ll have more men like this guy (below). One sentence says it all: “Real men treat women with respect.”

Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he's worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.

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  • Sherri Murphy-Jacobs

    Men are also not subject to mind control by women/women's choice of clothing/women's location/women's appearances that forces them to rape. Men are not helpless creatures caught in a web of rape inducing conditions produced by their victims. Victim blaming says, in effect, that men not only have no self control, but are in the control of their victims.

    Just putting it in those terms reveals how ridiculous and hollow victim blaming actually is.

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