By FINN WIGHTMAN
I’m writing this letter after watching the parents in the Steubenville Rape Trial crying over their son as he was found guilty of rape.
I’ll be completely honest with you; I can’t say that I found much pity in my heart for their pain. Instead I found myself thinking, ‘yes, you should be crying. Your son treated that girl like a toy, a rag, a nothing.
You raised a boy that lacked even the most basic compassion for that girl as a fellow human being.’ I’m imagining your face right now, thinking ‘okay mom, not quite sure why you’re telling me this…’ Yep, brace yourself; mom’s got a bee in her bonnet. Just bear with me and carry on reading.
You see, somehow this crying couple’s son and his friends were convinced they had a right to do as they pleased – either because they were brought up believing themselves to be above the rules, or because they were so lacking in common decency that they had no concept of how to treat other people.
Whichever it was, the parents and coaches of Steubenville failed their sons and contributed to a culture where a girl was treated in the most heartless and disgraceful way for these boys amusement. The horrible truth is that as long as parents anywhere allow their boys to think that their wants are more important than other people’s rights this will continue to happen. I’m writing this letter to you because I don’t want to fail you in the same way. I love you too much to leave these things unsaid.
I need you to know that writing this doesn’t mean that I think you would act like these boys did. Discussing the potential for bad behaviour doesn’t mean I think it’s inevitable, or even likely. It just means I need to know (for both our sakes) that I taught you what sexual freedoms and responsibilities really mean.
Educating you about proper consent doesn’t mean I see you as a potential sexual predator, any more than my educating you about the safe use of matches presumed you were a potential arsonist. This is about safety; your safety and the safety of any potential sexual partner.
I want you to consider a scenario. Imagine an average weekend when you’re staying at your mate’s house. You’ve had a good day laughing and joking with a group of people, some of whom you know and a couple of friends-of-friends. You’ve had a couple of drinks, laughed at stuff on the internet, played x-box for hours and then gradually drifted into various stages of getting comfortable, shedding some of your clothes and sleeping.
Now imagine waking up to discover a man on top of you, having obviously had some kind of sex with you. I know that’s a shocking thought. Something you’ve probably never considered, even though male victims make up 8% of reported rapes. Imagine your shock, your disgust and your anger. Now imagine everyone telling you that it’s your fault.
Would you feel that the fact that ‘you didn’t say no’ while it was happening made it okay? Or that the fact you were drunk or partly clothed or sleeping in public meant you’d put yourself at risk and were ‘asking for it? Would the fact that you’d spent some time together, been friendly, or accepted his offer of a drink, mean you were ‘sending out signals’ to him? Would the fact that you made a sexual joke earlier in the evening mean you were ‘up for it’?