Should we have any sympathy for teen rapists Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond? Headlines for the convictions were still fresh when I noticed my friends expressing outrage over the sympathy reporters gave the Steubenville rapists. CNN's Poppy Harlow said she found it incredibly difficult "to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart."
Watch what happened to them? Poppy, what the hell are you talking about?!? This is something Mays and Richmond did to themselves! They sexually assaulted a girl, and now they're facing the consequences. Will their actions haunt them for the rest of their lives? God, I hope so. But if I do feel any sympathy for them at all, it's that they were apparently raised in a community that set them up to rape.
Last week I wrote about Zerlina Maxwell's call for men to be taught not to rape. And while a lot of people get that, many others seemed to think that was just a crazy, irresponsible idea. Why do we need to teach men not to rape? Don't they already know? Isn't that common sense?
No, it's NOT common sense. Not for everyone. When Mays and Richmond raped their victim they didn't seem to recognize what they were doing as rape. They probably had this one rape scenario in their minds: Rape is when a stranger holds a knife up to a woman's throat and forces her to have intercourse with him. If she says "no" clearly and loudly and maybe a bunch of times so you know she's not just a dick tease, then you know it's rape. But rape can take many different forms.
Richmond and Mays didn't act in a vacuum. They were surrounded by friends who witnessed the rape and did nothing. Their friends laughed and passed around photos and video of the victim. It was all just a big joke to everyone until arrests were made.
Reports on Steubenville have painted a portrait of a town where football stars can do just about whatever they want. They can party as much as they want, they're entitled to sex, and they can treat women as props for their jokes -- and there will always be a grownup who will clean up the mess and keep them out of trouble. That's not just a parenting fail. That's a whole community fail.
Meanwhile, all over social media people are sticking up for the rapists and blaming their victim. Houston, we have a problem.
You would think everyone would have learned something here about how rape is defined by the law and how it's wrong to have your way with an unconscious girl, but it'll probably happen again. Why? Because too many people don't believe you can teach boys and men not to rape. Because too many people refuse to believe "nice" boys rape girls and women they know. Because too many people are in denial. Because it's always easier to blame the drunk girl for putting herself in danger. Because we still lack the courage to change our culture of rape.
Do you feel any sympathy for Mays and Richmond?
Image via CNN