Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Rapists: The Verdict

3D Judges Gavel

Photo by stockmonkeys.com

The decision came down from Judge Lipps in Steubenville, OH yesterday: the defendants have both been found delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt on two counts of rape, and one count of distributing nude pictures of a minor. As a result, the two young men will spend at least one year, up to their 21st birthdays in juvenile detention, with one spending an extra year for the count of distributing the nude photos.

The Defense That Didn’t Work

With a pile of damning texts from 17 different phones, and testimony from witnesses describing the victim’s state, the defense didn’t have too much going for it. So two things went on trial: first, the victim; then, the concept of active, cognizant consent. Luckily, neither of these approaches worked.

Attacking the victim’s character, dress, or actions is a common response among rape apologists, and a major contributor to rape culture. The fact that someone tried to present this bizarre concept as a legal argument is appalling. It’s a major understatement to say that I’m relieved it didn’t work. Because it doesn’t matter if I’m naked—that doesn’t justify rape. It doesn’t matter if I’m a drunk—that doesn’t justify rape. If people think I’m “slutty,” or I’ve been relentlessly flirting with someone—none of this stuff justifies rape.

And consent? The defense tried to claim that because the victim willingly went to a party with her perpetrators, had been expressing sexual interest in them at one point in time, and had drank alcohol of her own will, somehow that all added up to consent. Umm…what? They even admitted that she was “impaired” while the assaults happened, but claimed that impairment—definition: having weakened human function—somehow didn’t apply to her ability to consent to sexual contact. That’s some serious nonsensical rubbish, and now a judge has confirmed it as such. Thank goodness.

The lesson here: consent is real and required. Learn it. Teach it. Use it.

Did They Not Know it Was Rape?

No doubt the defendants knew what they were doing was wrong. Deplorable. Indefensible. But if they are anything like some witnesses in the case, they may not have recognized it was rape. According to Ohio state law, it was.

Interesting/horrible factoid? What happened to the victim may not be classified as rape in some states, because there was no sexual intercourse and rape definitions vary from state to state. Additionally, it seems like a lot of states don’t require a “yes,” only an absence of or inability to say “no.” (Though that would have been enough in this case, since the judge decided she was too intoxicated to give consent.) If we’re going to be able to ward off and punish rape in its many forms, we need to have a common definition of what it is in the first place. Click here to find out how rape is defined in your state. It might be time to contact your representative. It would be FABULOUS if each state adopted the FBI’s very thorough definition of rape.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I’m relieved to see the judge stood by common sense definitions of rape and consent, and acted accordingly. I’m still appalled by the actions of these young men, the witnesses of the rape, and especially the coaches of the defendants.

I hope from here two things spread: knowledge and fear. Knowledge about what is and isn’t rape. (And for that matter, knowledge about how not to be a douchy creep.) And fear that your actions have real and lasting consequences. And I hope that heady combination will keep at least some young people from growing up to be rapists.

More excellent stuff on the topic:

Blame for Steubenville rape case goes way beyond Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond, says anti-sexism activist Jackson Katz – NYDailyNews.com

Another thought-provoking video from Modern Primate

A petition to get high school coaches trained in and required to teach sexual violence prevention

Mama, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Rapists; Lessons from Steubenville, OH

slutwalk-30.jpg

Photo By rogamuffin via Flickr

Oh look! I’m back to our favorite lighthearted topic: rape! Joy of joys.

Today is the start of the trial for two Steubenville, OH high school athletes accused of repeatedly raping a very, very drunk young girl. I wrote a big long post with a lot of thoughts on this because, well…this is the type of thing that spurs a lot of thoughts for me. I changed my mind, though, and I’ve decided to just say a couple of things, then point you to read some words and watch some videos from people who are way smarter than me. So, here we go:

My Thoughts:

Rape is 100% the rapist’s fault. If I run around in my birthday suit, drink a fifth of Jack, flirt with a dude at a bar, pass out at his feet and then he rapes me, there’s still only one criminal here; only one person at fault. And the person at fault is the freaking rapist. There should be NO QUESTION here. Because, after all, it’s not my job to keep you from raping, it’s your job not to be a rapist. Duh.

The only way to know you’re not a rapist, is to know, know, know your partner wants to have sex with you when you are having sex with them. That’s it.

Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person’s consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent, such as one who is unconscious, incapacitated, or below the legal age of consent. (via Wikipedia)

Consent. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had sex before, if you’re dating the person, if they’re dressed provocatively…none of that matters. You have to have consent. The easiest way to do that? Ask. Tell your partner that you’d love to have sex with them, and ask them if they’d like to have sex with you. If they say anything other than yes, don’t have sex with them. Blammo. Now you’re not a rapist. Whew! Isn’t that a relief?!

Somehow young men and women aren’t being taught this very simple rule of sexual conduct. So mamas, (and papas!) don’t let your babies grow up to be rapists. Have clear talks early and often about what consent is, about why reciprocity in relationships is so valuable, and about how everyone has a right to their own bodily integrity. Mamas, stand up for yourselves and other women. (You can do it! You deserve it!) Papas, be men that we can all be proud of; men that show respect as a default, and that stand up for women because it’s the right and awesome thing to do. Young men are absorbing the lessons you teach with your life—make sure you’re teaching well.

This horrible, sad Steubenville trial has taken on an even worse tone: consent is on trial. According to an article on Cleveland.com, the defense will argue that because the young girl got in the car with the defendants—even though she was later described as “dead” because she was so drunk—she consented to whatever sexual activity happened that night. Friends, that is a giant pile of bullshit. No matter what happens in this case, I’ll never accept that definition of consent, and I won’t sit by and let other people teach it. We all deserve more than that.

Ick. I’m so bummed.

Enough of me, here are some other people.

Check out this video from Modern Primate, which I found via Upworthy. This guy has it right. A billion high fives worth of right. Mamas and papas (heck, everyone): take note.

Zerlina Maxwell, a super smart person and rape survivor, recently got shouted at on the Sean Hannity Show (and threatened afterward) when she asserted that we shouldn’t try to curtail rape by telling women to carry guns, we should just tell dudes not to rape. There was so much barking in the segment that it was hard to hear her point, but luckily she followed it up with this piece on Ebony.com. Give it a read.

Here’s another great piece by Elizabeth Plank about the Steubenville case, consent, and rape culture.

I think that’s enough for now. It’d be great if we had such a colossal culture shift that these conversations weren’t necessary. We’d just all drink margaritas and play the tambourine. And I could get back to writing about french toast waffles and sarcasm. But sadly, these conversations ARE necessary. Join in, won’t you? But be nice, okay? Thanks.

Update: the two defendants were both found delinquent (the juvenile court equivalent of guilty). Click here to read my final thoughts, along with some other great links.

It’s National Hug a Republican Day

sometimes, a hug is all what we need

Photo By jessleecuizon @ Flickr

So, it happened. Last night, both the US electoral college and the US population decided they wanted to keep our democrat president, Barack Obama, at the helm for another four years. Leading up to election day, the polls had citizens split—47% were pro-Obama and 47% were pro-Romney. Which meant no matter what happened, a bunch of people—nearly half our country—were going to be disappointed.

Now listen, kittens.

We need to be nice to each other. The people that oppose your particular brand of views are not stupid or evil or ignorant. They just have a different perspective. And that’s okay. In fact, having differing views is what makes the US great. It is GOOD for us to have some push back on our ideas so we can inspect them from a different angle, and see them with eyes that differ from our own. Putting our ideas to the test ensures that they are good not only for us and people like us, but for our neighbors, friends, family and co-workers. We build our communities together—differences and all—and we should be thankful that there are so many good-hearted people employing people in our cities, working hard at our schools, and paying taxes so we can pay for our shared infrastructures. We all contribute, regardless of our political leanings. Thank you, citizens!

And here’s why you should hug a Republican: we are afraid of each other. Do you hear that?! AFRAID. I’ve heard that sentiment repeated many more times than I can possibly be comfortable with. We’re afraid! We’re afraid of the people that buy milk next to us in the grocery store. We’re afraid of the parents whose kids go to the same school our kids go to. We’re afraid of our neighbors. We’re suspicious of their intentions. We’re fearful of the origin of their beliefs. We’re sure, deep in our bones, that if “they” win, it will mean doom and destruction for “the rest of us.”

To that I say: absolute rubbish. I refuse to be afraid of my fellow citizens, even if their beliefs seem totally wacky to me. I commit to remember that they worry about paying their bills just like I do. I commit to remember that we are united by our humanity…and a secret addiction to Joss Whedon’s television shows.  I commit to remember that we all want bright futures, a financially sound country, good health, and another piece of chocolate. We share more than we think. We are more connected than we think. And I LOVE that.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” Yeah. That. And here’s another quote from my friend Kate, who had just the right words last night, “And we go to bed with the same job description we woke up with: take care of each other. Take care, take care, take care. Rest easy friends.”

Bottom line: don’t be assholes to each other. Don’t give people a reason to fear our collective minds and hearts. Go hug a Republican. And maybe, just maybe, next time your side suffers a loss, you’ll get a hug back. And we can keep building this country together.

How to Land a Job Like a Politician

Our public servants are gleaming examples of how to succeed. They’ve pushed forward through adversity, overcome tremendous obstacles, and weathered the storms of life to get where they are today. Awe-inspiring. Tear-jerking. Eagle-spurring.

Thank you, politicians.

The last two weeks, both the Republican and Democratic parties have put on their Cirque du Serviteur and we’ve all had the fabulous opportunity to see their tactics in all their splendor and silliness. Now, because these people are our examples for success and responsibility in our societies, I think it’s best that we pay close attention to how they live, and try to live the same way.

To help us in this effort, I’ve adapted the aptitude and artistry of America’s finest citizens to a circumstance we will likely all face in our lives: the job interview. Aaaaaannnnnd…here we go:

Put a Bow on It

The first step is to make a nice, pretty, shiny package of yourself. You want something that is clean, and simple, but too abstract to actually say anything specific, but emotionally manipulative enough to make someone feel that if they don’t like it, they’re a terrible person. Eagles, stars, swoopy things—you should work in these elements as much as possible.

Boom. You’re gonna have to hire that.

History Doesn’t Matter—Your Version of History Does

Has your life thus far been rather unimpressive? Who cares?! Just don’t admit that on your resumé. Instead, take whatever banal, bland goings-on you have under your belt, and add a little razzmatazz. This is also known as “lying.” But we’re going to be doing that a lot here, so you should probably get over it. (And I do mean a lot, a lot. Not a little. Like, a truckload.) If you need some guidance on this, here are some options:

“Worked at McDonald’s” becomes “Fed the hungry with speed and efficiency.”

“Administrative Assistant” becomes “Organization Architect” where you were “the keystone for success in inter-departmental relations.”

“Crossing Guard” becomes “Guardian of Safety for the Youth of America”

“Sandwich Artist at Subway” can stay just the way it is—there’s no way to make it sound more pretentious. Well done, Subway.

Blow the Competition Out of the Water

You’ve bluffed your way to the interview. Now’s the time to really roll out the big guns. Here are some key phrases to really make an impression:

“I want to thank Jesus Christ for getting me this interview.”

“If I don’t save you enough money in my first three months here to buy a herd of elephants, you can fire me.” (Don’t worry about the “fire me” part. You can always just threaten to sue for discrimination, or fabricate a story about sexual harassment. There are lots of options here.)

“The applicants in the hallway are communists and plan to give all of your assets to lazy people. You’ll be out of business before anyone can say ‘herd of elephants.’”

“The applicants in the hallway kill babies. Now, that may not affect their work, but do you really want be in a workplace where people have to literally hide their kids?”

“The applicants in the hallway hate America. I know, I’m shocked, too.”

“The other applicants aren’t like you and me, Sally. They just. Don’t. Get it.”

“If you care about your family, your neighbors, your business, or—really—your life…you’ll do what’s right: you’ll hire me.”

After delivering that last line—the clincher—just get up, raise up your arms, smile, and wave off in the distance. Say, “Thank you! Thank you!” and do that hands-together-at-your-heart-falsely-humble bowing thing as you make your way out the door. Then, just wait for the congratulatory calls to come a-rollin’ in.

Well done, you brave Pinocchio, you! Well done.

Lots of thank-yous to the leadership of both the Republican and Democratic parties for doing some truly trailblazing work in the art of lying. Bravo.

Problems That Lions Don’t Have

Have you ever had a frustrating moment in your day and thought, “If I were a lion, I wouldn’t have this problem”?

Really? Me too. Those lions. They have it made in the shade. Here are some common people problems that wouldn’t be problems for lions.

Getting “Burn” by Ray Lamontagne Stuck in Your Head

You know when you get a song stuck in your head and it just plays over and over and over and over again, and you sing it in your car, and in the kitchen while you’re doing dishes, and you try to figure out how to bleep out the g-d part because you don’t want your toddler singing that? And then finally you have to look up the guitar chords so you can get the full effect in your living room?

Yeah. Not a problem for lions seeing as they don’t have CD players, and even if they did, Ray Lamontagne might be a little too indie for the average plains-dweller.

Listening to Angry People Talk About Politics

Civility in politics is dead, and if you take the civility out of politics, you’re left with annoyance. If some yammerhole gets all red-faced and absurd about politics while talking with a lion, the lion wouldn’t have to feign interest or try to find an interesting segue to plants or (obviously) Ray Lamontagne. No, the lion has simpler solutions.

Deciding What to Make for Dinner

I’m pretty sure lions just eat whatever’s running by. Sure they probably get bored with zebra from time to time, but their lives are simple; they’re not bombarded with a thousand restaurants, and 400 kinds of soup, and a million new uses for the crock pot which they discovered on Pinterest. See it. Catch it. Eat it.

Yes, the life of a lion: so simple, so bloody. Plus, they look really comfortable when they take naps. Which of your problems could be solved by being a lion? Do share.

The Rape Rainbow (A Guide to all the Kinds of Raping)

First, a note: the beginning of this piece is what they call “satire.” If you’re new to the idea, satire means that if you find yourself agreeing with this stuff, you might also have a rusty nail wedged in your brain, or maybe you were raised by squirrels in the forest*, or perhaps you’re trying to win a contest for the dumbest human alive. Whatever led you to this point, you should probably see a doctor and/or read all the books in your local library. Also, please refrain from talking unless it’s to call a doctor or ask for directions to said library.

You know they say that you learn something new every day? Well, guess what I learned the other day? I learned that there are lots of different kinds of rape and—here’s the real fascinating part—a bunch of them are okay! Well, not TOTALLY okay, but some kinds of rape can’t get anyone pregnant, and therefore it’s probably not that big of a deal. And if you DO happen to get pregnant from rape, it’s because it wasn’t all that bad, and probably you were wearing a short skirt, or smiling, or having breasts and a vagina—you know, you were asking for it.

I know, it’s crazy! I had NO idea. I feel so silly for thinking that rape was always rape when you weren’t 100% sure that your partner—pssht, I’m sorry. “Partner?” What am I, some crazy liberal? Let me try again. I thought rape was rape when you weren’t a 100% sure that your sex receiver was into the whole thing. Boy, was I wrong. There’s “forcible rape,” “non-forcible rape,” “legitimate rape,” “sneezy rape,” and they all have different causes AND consequences. Fascinating stuff.

So, as to not be an irresponsible community member, I thought I’d come up with a handy guide to knowing when it’s the okay kind of rape, or really RAPE rape, which, you know, is bad. I now present you with…the Rape Rainbow!

Red Rape

Stop! Red rape is the bad rape. Maybe you have a knife, or a gun, or your strangling someone, and then you have sex with them. CLEARLY this one is super terrible, but on the upside, you can’t get your victim pregnant (according to the Czar of No Science Ever). I know you’ve got your heart set on raping someone, but we have to draw the line somewhere, so the line is brutal force. Brutal force + sex = Red Rape.

But you’re in luck! There are other kinds of rape that are kinda almost fine!

Orange Rape

Orange rape is still pretty freaking terrible, but if you get really douchey about it, you can explain how your victim didn’t say no, so, you know…you’re in the clear!

Now, how do you get someone to let you do something you know they don’t want you to do? Drugs! Alcohol! They key here is to make sure your lovely lady is either completely unconscious, or that she doesn’t remember how words work. She won’t even remember what happened until a few weeks later when—blammo!—she discovers the gift of a human embryo you left her in her insides! See? You gave her a present! What an ingrate.

Yellow Rape

Yellow rape is all about prostitutes. Buying a prostitute is like buying a house.  When you buy a house, you can do whatever you want to it, because you PAID for it. Same thing goes with a prostitute. It’s not like prostitutes are people with feelings. And if they didn’t want to get raped, they would have chosen to be florists or a senators, right?

Green Rape

Green means go! Green rape is all about finding the most ambiguous signal that could be interpreted as sexual interest, and then using that to make the victim feel like she WANTED to be raped (because we all kinda do, right? Of course.). This can be wearing “slutty clothes,” smiling at you at the bar, feeling overcome by your coolness because you’re 10 years older…all kinds of stuff. And if you’re dating someone, that’s just blanket permission to rape. It’s kinda like all those terms of service things that we don’t read; she signs up for dating, but you know that she’s agreed to giving you sex whenever you want it, even if you have to use a little muscle or emotional threats or whatever.

And then…um…

Okay, people…sorry. I can’t get through it. I can’t keep up with my own sarcasm because…well, this is crazy. What’s crazier is that Todd Akin is out there is propagating these toxic beliefs and trying to get people to PAY him to make legislation on their behalf.

I know there are a lot of issues on which to hang our hats, and it’s hard to make progress when we’re drawing so many lines in the sand, BUT there’s no excuse for trying to minimize rape. None of us want to be raped. None of us want our daughters, or sisters, or aunts, or cousins, or coworkers to ever experience such a painful violation.

We have to communicate to our representatives that if you’re not willing to stand up for victims of violence in our communities, then you’re simply not qualified for the job.  There’s only one kind of rape. If you believe in degrees of rape, you don’t belong in our government. Sorry, but it’s not a liability we can afford. Maybe try the florist route. There are lots of shades of things there.

*No offense to those of you with rusty nail heads and squirrel parents. I know you’re better than this.

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