Steubenville’s Promising Young Rapists

Earlier this week, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond were found guilty of raping a 16-year-old girl. The media coverage of this case has been…honestly, it’s been pretty much what you’d expect, given the way we treat rape in this country. That coverage is being justifiably condemned for the pathetic, victim-blaming, rape-apologetic bullshit it is.

Trigger warning for rape and lots of Jim swearing after the cut…

Let’s start with a few excerpts from this transcript of CNN‘s story on the verdict.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I’ve never experienced anything like it, Candy. It was incredibly emotional — incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believe their life fell apart.

You know what? Harlow’s right. These were good students and talented athletes, with very promising futures. They were kids with a hell of a lot going for them. And they’re fucking rapists. These weren’t filthy, nasty-looking strangers hiding in the bushes. They’re “good” kids who’ve learned that girls are nothing but meat whose only purpose is to be screwed by guys. You don’t rape, photograph, and film a girl if you see her as a human being.

Why was this so hard to watch, Harlow? Was it that you felt sorry for these poor young rapists? Or was it that they forced you to recognize that the so-called “normal” kids can be rapists too?

TRENT MAYS, FOUND GUILTY OF RAPING IN JUVENILE COURT: I would really like to apologize to (INAUDIBLE), her family, my family and community. No pictures should have been sent out or should be taken. That’s all. Thank you.

You’re apologizing for taking the pictures??? I can’t even articulate a response beyond “Fuck you.”

MA’LIK RICHMOND, FOUND GUILTY OF RAPE IN JUVENILE COURT: I would like to apologize. I had no intention to do anything like that and I’m sorry to put you guys through this. (INAUDIBLE) I’m sorry.

You had no intention…I’m sure that’s tremendous comfort to the victim, to know that you “accidentally” raped her. Wait, who are the “guys” you’re apologizing to here? Are you sorry for committing rape, or are you sorry because you got caught and now you and your town look bad?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: …there’s always that moment of just lives are destroyed. And lives have already been destroyed by the crime. And we got a chance to see that. But in terms of what happens now, yes, the most severe thing with these young men is being labeled as registered sex offenders… That will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

“Being labeled”? Their actions label them rapists. Their choices are what should haunt them for the rest of their fucking lives. Don’t give us this passive-voice, everyone’s-a-victim bullshit.

KURTZ: And, you know, some of those pictures might not have been carried by the traditional media. That’s why social media is such an important pipeline here. Thanks for that.

Translation: Thanks, Twitter, for doing our fucking job for us!!!

CNN isn’t alone in their priorities, of course. Fox News included the following note in one of their stories about the case:

The Associated Press named the minors charged due to the fact they have been identified in other news coverage and their names were used in open court. will not name the defendants.

This didn’t stop them from joining CNN and MSNBC in releasing the name of the victim.

Then you’ve got ABC News doing a story which spends an awful lot of time describing this flirtatious, drunk girl who wouldn’t listen to people who warned her not to get into a car with boys…

This is how we talk about rape in this culture. These are our priorities and assumptions. Those poor boys’ lives are ruined! It’s such a shame that this horrible crime just kind of happened, through no fault of anyone except maybe the victim who showed such poor judgment. They were such good boys with such promising futures…

The only unusual thing here is that the media is actually getting pushback for following their normal, victim-blaming, rape-apologizing playbook.

You want to reduce the number of rapes in this country? Teach boys and men to take some fucking responsibility for their action. Teach them what rape is, so maybe one of the bystanders will have the guts to speak up instead of standing around videotaping and taking pictures. Teach them that the natural consequence of a girl drinking too much is a hangover. Rape, on the other hand, is a consequence of a rapist choosing to commit rape!

And a special shoutout to the media–if you’re one of the reporters teaching people that the rapists were victims, then congratulations. Your bullshit reporting is laying the groundwork for the next Steubenville.