Unapologetic progressive. Fearless activist. Plucky liberal.

Lessons from Steubenville

(Trigger warning for discussion of consent)

You might have heard about the case in Steubenville, Ohio, in which two teenage boys were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl. It’s tough for me to follow stories like this; reading too many of the details, as a woman in what’s supposed to be a modern world, makes me despair for humanity. So this post is less about the specifics of Steubenville and more about how much work we still have to do to prevent rape. And I’m not talking about telling women not to drink, wear short skirts or walk alone at night. (Here are a few other things that aren’t an invitation to rape.)

I’m talking about teaching boys and men how to respect women and not rape. It’s really simple.

If a woman doesn’t say “yes” to having sex, don’t have sex with her.

She doesn’t have to say “no.” You are not owed anything for buying her dinner, drinks or anything else. Her body is not your property. Unless she explicitly and enthusiastically consents, don’t have sex. If she is drunk, drugged or passed out, she can’t consent. Get her home safely. Don’t rape her.

If you see someone who is impaired and being preyed on, intervene. Even if you don’t know the woman in question, speak up. Call her a cab. If your friend is forcing his attention where it’s not wanted, interrupt and get him away from her. One of the depressing details in the Steubenville case is the dozens of witnesses to the attack who did nothing as a girl was assaulted.

Don’t be one of those people. Don’t walk away and pretend it’s not your problem. It is. Rape is found in nearly every culture in the world. That’s the bad news. The good news is, it’s not immutable. We can teach boys and men to respect the girls and women in their lives, but it starts with you. Don’t avoid the topic out of embarrassment or hope that they’ll learn the lessons they need somewhere else. They won’t. We’ll keep seeing more Steubenvilles until the message sinks in.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: