The Steubenville Case – When Will Women Start to Matter?

In the aftermath of the trial of Richmond and Mays, Megan Carpentier writes in yesterday’s Guardian, “Rape is unique in US society as a crime where the blighted future of the perpetrators counts for more than the victim’s.”

Indeed, this is an apt observation, given the sickening way in which CNN, among others, reported on the verdict two days ago. Given the anger this had sparked on blogs and other social media, you’ve probably come across it by now, but just in case you haven’t, here’s what CNN had to say about Mays and Richmond’s being found guilty of rape:

Reporter Poppy Harlow: “I’ve never experienced anything like it, Candy. It was incredibly emotional, incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures — star football players, very good students — we literally watched as they believed their life fell apart.”

Anchor Candy Crowley: “A 16-year-old just sobbing in court — regardless of what big football players they are, they still sound like 16-year-olds. When you listen to it and realize they could stay until they’re 21, what’s the lasting effect, though, on two young men being found guilty, in juvenile court, of rape, essentially?”

Legal expert Paul Callan: “The most severe thing with these young men is being labelled as registered sex offenders. That label is now placed on them by Ohio law…That will haunt them for the rest of their lives.”

Poor, poor rapists. What an unfortunate fate to befall them. Only, it wasn’t misfortune, it wasn’t bad luck that led to the blighting of their “promising futures”. It was their actions, and their responsibility, when they noticed a drunk girl throwing up by the side of the road, and instead of helping her, decided to rape her and take pictures of her for laughs with the boys. Sure, 16-year-olds sobbing in court might be an emotional sight. But what about a 16-year-old who wakes up one day to discover that she had been raped while unconscious the night before? To see pictures and videos of her violation and abuse flung about on social media? To see her rapists and their friends laugh and boast about it? To be humiliated and mocked by people she knows, and even people she doesn’t? To have people call her a liar and a whore, and threaten to hurt her for reporting the crime? What’s the “lasting effect” of that?

While the Steubenville case has garnered widespread media attention, the spotlight has been turned on the jock culture in Steubenville itself, and particularly the high school. Yet as we know, what goes on there — the star status of the football team, the impunity they face for their actions, the disrespect they show towards women — is merely a microcosm of what goes on everywhere else in the world. And it isn’t just male athletes, of course. Male politicians, male CEOs, male media hotshots, any man in a position of power can use and abuse women with relatively little censure. The public rushes to defend them, to sympathize with them. The woman must be lying. She must be doing it for financial gain, or for revenge. Did he hit her? She must have pushed him to it. We’ve heard it all before. And now, even when the rapists have provided heaps of evidence of their crime, in the form of photographs, videos and bragging text messages, some people, including the victim’s own friends, still find it reasonable to label the victim a liar, and media outlets still find it so tragic that the criminals have been made to answer for their crime.



It sometimes absolutely staggers me just how little women matter in society. This is one of those times. Shakespeare’s As You Like It contains the famous lines — “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players.” Perhaps less poetically, but more accurately, I would say that all the world’s a stage, and while the men are players, women are their props, to be adored as possessions and prizes, or despised and used as cheap, worthless trinkets.

Women matter, for we are human too. Is that so difficult for society to grasp?

20 thoughts on “The Steubenville Case – When Will Women Start to Matter?

  1. Something like this happened to me when I was in my last year of college. It was a small party before the beginning of the semester, some beers and a few drinks with a group of a dozen or so rather close friends. We’d all been so close, such good friends, for years…

    Right after I got to the party, a guy friend of ours made a drink for a girl friend in a red solo cup. She drank about a quarter of it, said it tasted gross and gave it to me. I drank it. I don’t remember much after that except feeling super super super drunk. She and I got really crazy, running around doing exceptionally crazy drunk stuff like crashing a party down the street… I don’t remember drinking anything other than that half solo cup and a couple of beers.

    I woke up the next morning with that guy friend’s penis inside me. “Rape” rape. I felt trapped inside myself, sloggy, disoriented, like I was in a nightmare that I slowly realized was real and somehow managed to push him off me. My clothes were somewhere else, I was shaking and throwing up and somehow managed to get dressed and walk back to my apartment. I was engaged, I was in love with my finace, I was not a “slut” even though I did like to drink with my friends. I had never thought of my guy friend as a sexual partner.

    The girl friend had been taken home by someone else who had seen her being uncharacteristically insane in the street. By that time I was tucked up in my friend’s bed to sleep it off. Unlucky me. The next day, girl was sick sick sick and her mother was a nurse who had the presence of mind to get her urine tested. She’d been roofied. By the time I found out about it, it was too late to test me but there’s no doubt in my mind I was drugged too.

    I went to the police and told them everything. They said unless I could convince him to confess and get a recording of it, there was no way to convict him and I’d be subjecting myself to a horrible ordeal in court and probably wouldn’t win. THAT WAS IT.

    I’d trusted this person. He was my friend. That, more than anything else, was the most devastating thing. And the fact that my parents and my grandparents decided it was my own fault for drinking, even while they supported me and helped me pick up the pieces.

    Yep. It was awful, the whole thing was so awful because all of our friends and acquaintances knew about it, and they took sides. It was horrifying, and I’m still not sure what else might have happened to me that night. At least there was no social media and international news circus about it. My heart goes out to that girl in Steubenville, and I am so so so glad for her they were convicted. It’s hard when someone does something so profoundly awful to you, and they don’t even have to acknowledge that what they did was wrong.


    • StephC, I’m really sorry you went through that. The whole legal system thing is messed up – I get that having high burdens of proof in criminal matters is to protect people’s civil rights, against the imbalance of power against the state, etc. But when it intersects with sexual assault/rape situations, it ends up almost condoning sexual violence, because justice is so out of reach for rape victims. I swear Steubenville got the traction it did because it is such a good “example” of rape.

      I have also been raped, in a date rape situation, and the reason I never said anything is precisely that: it would mean putting myself through a horrendous ordeal where his defence would be “she was drunk” (as it was for the defendants in Steubenville). Law enforcement around sexual violence is so useless that it’s almost as if there is no law against it.


    • Steph, I’m so so sorry that this happened. Thank you for sharing it. If the media would focus more on the stories of survivors rather than constantly empathising with the rapists, maybe we’d see a slight drop in the amount of disgusting rape apologists out there. The injustice that you and others have experienced is just enraging.


    • Your parents and grandparents are not great people if that’s how they act, End of story, There’s no reason to love everything about them because family isn’t perfect all the time. While it is dumb to drink in my opinion (for other reasons), it does NOT cause rape. Obviously, if drinking caused rape, drunk men would be raped, and drunk old nuns, and drunk animals.

      Evil men and rapists cause rape, and misogynists, who know exactly what it is they’re doing, cause and cover up rape. I would like nothing more than to personally help you get justice. I’m not a lawyer, but I would totally go all the way for you. Your story made me mad and makes me want to fight back.


  2. Thank you for writing this. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I can’t help but be shocked that the media attention surrounding this incident has been about the “tarnished futures of two 16 year old boys.” They really like to leave out the rapist part. It seems as if they were ONLY convicted because the judge couldn’t find a way around it.
    This entire event is just so disturbing. It really does make you seriously question what value women really hold in american society.


  3. StephC – I’m sorry for what happened to you and that it will always be a part of your story.

    I’m not sure what to say, I’m so angry, scared and bewildered. I’m in my 60’s – I was in college during feminism’s first wave, in the ’70’s. All of a sudden woman and men were acknowledging what some of us had known all along – we’re equals. Yesterday I put on my very worn tee shirt, “feminism in the radical notion that women are people”, and I thought how weird it was that there was a time when that was not acknowledged. But dammit, here we are again, yet, still. How can so much time have passed with so little real change? We’re back to fighting for the same fundamental rights and we see how little value we have in our society.

    Rape is NEVER EVER a woman’s fault – but suddenly now it is? How can anyone see it differently?


    • I thnk it was always known by all, and acknowledged by some, but the handful of powerful men made all the rules, the few good men were branded “sissies”, and it is now said that “back then peopel didn’t know any better because of thier society”, probably because professors and academia today want to defend men by saying “they can’t help it, it’s their culture making them!”


  4. I do feel bad for these boys. I hate that they grew up in a society that didn’t teach them to not rape girls/women. So I do feel for them in that sense but if you do the crime you do the time. I can’t and don’t want to wrap my mind around why I should feel so sorry for these boys that they should be free after what they did to this young woman. Victim blaming continues to leave me speechless and boiling with rage!


    • If you need to be taught not to rape/murder/whatever someone, you’re not too good a person to begin with. There were many things I was not taught not to do, that I still didn’t do because I’m a good person.


    • Besides, our rules do officially say “do not rape women, do not treat either men or women badly”. even if there is a lot of unspoken rule breaking here, the official rules are still there, so they can’t say they were “never taught” not to do it.


  5. Very good post. I’m currently traveling in Latin America and am still surprised, after traveling here 6 times and being a US citizen, at how women in the Americas are either invisible (me, a middle-aged, “average-looking” woman) or sexualized (just about any younger woman) by men.

    I lived in Ohio for 5 years and loathed it, partly because of this football culture. Sports culture made for men exists all over the world, but in other parts of the US, football isn’t dominant the way it is in certain states like Ohio. It’s as if people have nothing better to do with their lives, so that 16-year-old boys have more power than they do elsewhere. I found it bizarre, cult-like, and I was ever so glad to leave that state and move to Massachusetts, a much more liberal state. Mass. has its problems, of course, but the objective in most parts of the state seems to be to EDUCATE the boys, not worship them because they can throw balls and each other around a field.


    • I have never been to the Central US, but if it’s any worse than it is here (Rhode Island) it must be pretty bad. There are some good kids here, but I definitely see enough bad such that if it’s worse elsewhere, it must be serious.

      I see the sports culture (as encouraged by the media, military, and economic system) to be a sort of Spartan “training camp” for male behavior and misogyny, male bonding, etc (and possibly, from that, military service). Our culture idolizes sports heroes the way military “heroes” were once revered.


  6. Reblogged this on Just a link and commented:
    I found this through twitter. Those boys did loose their future, they threw it away. They only have themselves to blame for that. The girl is still being blamed and haunted. She too lost her future. The difference? Those boys took it from her. They felt invincible and bigger than the world. They feel sorry for themselves that their victim refused to remain a victim and stood up to be counted.
    That girl in the Steubenville case is a hero, she deserves to be counted and heard.
    PS the anonymous people that helped the girl are now facing jail. About 4 times what the rapist got, just for showing what a botched job the police did and just because they cared about an innocent woman.


  7. You hit on truth, but men aren’t above it either. When professional sports are involved, especially football, people act shockingly heartless. They would rather have a rapist run free so he can catch a touchdown for his team. People act similarly with celebrities. Because they have fans, they are above the rules of human decency and this country. I disagree.

    Women do have it worse, though, and I hope that will one day change.


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