Real Relationship Advice
Steubenville Ohio up until recently was a little city on the Ohio River with less than 20,000 residents. For most of us in this country unless we really followed High School football, it was a little inconsequential town. For the high school football world, Steubenville had the 20th most winningest high school football teams in the country. Now, again, for most people, that is as impressive as the biggest ball of twine. But for some, especially Steubenville Ohio, the Big Red Football team was everything.
Today, Steubenville Ohio is known for producing rapists who believed that raping an unconscious girl and recording it for posterity and mass dissemination on the internet is all fun and games. Last weekend, two young football players from the famed high school team were convicted of rape and understood that this was no longer ‘fun and games’. When the verdict came down, the boys were visibly shaken and began to cry. The reaction of the media was to grieve the loss of freedom for these two boys who had promising futures and now are condemned to be sex offenders forever more. Yes, what CNN and other news outlets said was insensitive to the victim. Yes, they could have done a better job reporting this. Rape is a violent act and there is no excuse for it. However, lest we forget the realities here, we are talking about two under aged boys who were lauded as gods in a town where everyone knew everyone. These boys are not just rapists as everyone wants to brand them. They are also the very product of a microcosm of male entitlement, violence and the definition of a rape culture.
Many are prone to blame the coaches and how they covered up this act. The football coaches knew that the rape occurred and did not stand up for the victim which is against the mandate of law which requires teachers to report abuse. For this they should be prosecuted. These men fostered the atmosphere of entitlement. They were the gate-keepers of the gods who brought fame and fortune to this little Podunk town. These men taught these boys and encouraged them to feed on the glory they were bestowed and revel in being above the fray. They hijacked the talent of these young men and enjoyed their own fame as being the wranglers of these titans.
However, this is not a rally cry to lynch the coaches. This is a call to put much of the blame on the parents. Yes, it isn’t a popular thing to do. Yes, these poor parents have lost their sons. Yes, these boys, 17 and 16 should have known that rape was wrong but they didn’t. These boys were raised in homes that somehow communicated to them that sexually assaulting a girl was all right. They were raised in a home that somehow communicated that a woman has to protect herself and if she is caught unaware she gets what she deserves. They were raised in a home that somehow communicated that their actions had no consequences. The parents failed them. The parents did not tell them that a woman must be respected and that you cannot have sex with someone if they do not give you permission. They were not taught that women were valuable and not a play thing to be humiliated and abused and used. The parents failed to tell them that their power was a responsibility as role models to the rest of the people in Steubenville. We want to blame these boys of this heinous act but there is plenty of blame to share. These boys were raised to rape.
If we want to understand why it is that women still get raped and our politician’s talk of rape and subsequent pregnancies with the ignorance that they do, this is why. Steubenville is a case study on what small towns really think of women. Women are there to be humiliated, abused and used. The women’s movement only moved the misogyny out of the limelight and into these inconsequential little towns with football teams and balls of twine. Unfortunately, we cannot bleach Steubenville out of the American Collective Unconscious. It is part of who we are as Americans. In a sense, we are all responsible for the rape of a 16 year old girl by not weeding out these places. Perhaps with the microscope trained on this little river town, we can begin to change the conversation from one of don’t get caught to respect.
There are so many authority figures in the lives of these boys who have failed them. Coaches who are so focused on winning they sweep such immoral things under the rug. Towns people who blame the victim. Parents who obviously missed the mark on setting the tone for treatment of others. It's sad.
"Steubenville is a case study on what small towns really think of women." AMEN. Grew up in one, watched football players on the field while wearing ankle bands from prison, thanked God that I wasn't "attractive enough" to be the target of these animals who were like gods among us. Thank you for writing this.
You make such a good point about the failure of the parents. My son will never grow up with that sort of attitude; he's being raised to respect women - and people in general. Other than providing for our children's basic needs, isn't that one of our primary responsibilities?