[T]he cone of silence that surrounds a company college football town is not enough to understand why Penn State’s rape scandal was front-page news the second the Sandusky scandal went public and Notre Dame has been largely protected by the press. The only answer that makes sense is that raping women has become “normalized” in our culture while raping little boys has not. The only answer that makes sense is that the rape of a young boy sets all sorts of alarms of horror in the minds of the very male sports media, while the rape of women does not. The only answer that makes sense is that it’s been internalized that while boys are helpless in the face of a predator, women are responsible for their assault. The accusers are the accused.
This is not just a Notre Dame issue. At too many universities, too many football players are schooled to see women as the spoils of being a campus God. But it’s also an issue beyond the commodification of women on a big football campus. It’s the fruit of a culture where politicians can write laws that aim to define the define the difference between “rape” and “forcible rape” and candidates for senate can speak about pregnancy from rape being either a “gift from God” or biologically impossible in the case of “legitimate rape.” It’s a culture where comedians like Daniel Tosh or Tucker Max can joke about violently raping, as Max puts it, a “gender hardwired for whoredom”. The themes of power, rape, and lack of accountability are just as clear in the case of the Steubenville, Ohio football players not only boasting that they “so raped” an unconscious girl but feeling confident enough to videotape their boasts.
As Jessica Valenti wrote at thenation.com, “It’s time to acknowledge that the rape epidemic in the United States is not just about the crimes themselves, but our own cultural and political willful ignorance. Rape is as American as apple pie—until we own that, nothing will change.”
Yeah. Own it. Right.
Erika Eichelberger at Mother Jones: House Republicans Derail Bill Targeting Rapists. Of course they did. Because apparently the Republican Party—which has sought to redefine the federal definition of rape, and is (Santorum) full of (Akin) contemptible (Walsh) rape (Mourdock) apologists (Koster)—thinks rapists are a cool new constituency or something.
That’s not “willful ignorance” on the part of House Republicans. That’s outright contempt fueled by naked, resentment-saturated fear. And it illustrates how rape culture in the U.S. is directly enabled from the top down.
Perhaps Our Lady’s university wasn’t ever as prudish as billed on those T-shirts that said, “Sex Kills: Go to Notre Dame and live forever.” But it’s become a place that effectively condones what it can’t contain, and can’t contain what it won’t acknowledge. Which is especially perplexing because once I start talking to young women still on campus who speak openly about being assaulted at Notre Dame, I literally run out of time to sit down with them all. One I do meet is Shea Streeter, a 2011 graduate whose parents met at Notre Dame, where her father played football. Not long before, she and a bunch of friends got to talking and realized that “of the eight of us, six had been sexually violated and we’re all good friends and none of us knew that about each other — and the other two had had bad experiences, too. How could we not know that about each other?” When I ventured that if women aren’t talking to each other about such things, they might be even less likely to have those conversations on a date, Shea stopped me: A date? She hadn’t had one of those in four years.
Instead, she explained, students go to parties where they drink until they find themselves making out — and “if the same thing happens the next weekend, then you’re dating.” Though alcohol is involved in more than 90 percent of campus sexual assaults, coerced sex under the influence is still more about power and rage than raging hormones. One guy who wouldn’t take no for an answer, Shea mentioned, had told her on their way to his room, “We’re not going to have sex tonight, because that would be wrong.” It insulted her, she said, that he apparently thought that was a possibility. Hearing her describe this bleak social universe made me wonder whether sexual assault on this very Catholic campus has somehow become more morally acceptable, under cover of drunkenness, than sober consensual sex. Her feeling is yes: “When there’s no language for yes, there’s no language for no.”
Related: Rape, consent and responsibility
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