Rape: Is it a manly thing to do?
I remember my school days, I was 15 and we were practicing for the inter-school parade competition for the Independence Day. Our school took pride in winning all the major sports tournaments that were held in the city. It was an all boy’s affair. While I was practicing in the open sun, I started to wheeze with all the heat and dust in the play ground. Our P.T Teacher came barking on me. I walked towards him, with a handkerchief covering my mouth and pleaded that I would not be able to participate because I was asthmatic. He looked at me for some time, perhaps analyzing my weak physique and replied, “Get lost, you are not man enough”.
As I have grown up through all those years, I have come to understand that there is a difference between being a male and being a “man”. A male is a gender while calling someone a man or a boy is a social definition which changes from culture to culture. I hope that there are cultures where debating, reading and other intellectual endeavors are considered manly.
In the society that I have grown in, there is a strong emphasis laid on what is considered manly and what is not. Parents start teaching their boys from a young age about what “they” think the boy should do in the society or how he should behave among his peers to gain social conformity and become a “man” in their eyes. Riding a motorcycle or playing football, hunting or flirting with girls is acceptable because these activities make you a man. Of course, one should be ashamed if he is unable to perform in manly activities because that would mean that he will remain a boy forever.
Steubenville is a county seat in Jefferson County, Ohio. Last year August, two boys named Trent Mays (16) and Ma’lik Richmond (17) raped a 16 year old girl. They both belonged to Steubenville high school and played for the Big Red, a high school football team in which the city takes a lot of pride.
Although this news is all over the media these days, I would like to detail the reasons why it is such an important incident.
In the early morning hours of August 12, 2012, a 16-year-old girl, incapacitated by alcohol, was raped by two high-school football players; quarterback Trent Mays and wide receiver Ma’lik Richmond. For a roughly six-hour period the unconscious girl was taken by the teenage boys from party to party, photographed nude and semi-nude, assaulted in a car, and taken to a basement where Mays tried to make her perform oral sex.
All of this happened before the eyes of the friends of the two rapists. It happened not only in the presence of one particular group but many, as the girl was taken from one party to another. Instead of helping her, the boys took pictures of her, made a video and even posted comments on their twitter accounts. Former Steubenville baseball player Michael Nodianos tweeted “Song of the night is definitely Rape Me by Nirvana” and “Some people deserve to be peed on,” which was reshared later by several people, including Mays. In a 12-minute video later posted to YouTube, Nodianos and others talk about the rapes, with Nodianos joking that “they raped her quicker than Mike Tyson raped that one girl” and “They peed on her. That’s how you know she’s dead, because someone pissed on her.” In one text, Mays described the victim as “like a dead body” and in another he told the victim that a photo of her lying naked in a basement with semen on her body had been taken by him, and that the semen was his.
A blogger from the same city, Alexandria Goddard noticed the tweets and took a screenshot of them before they were deleted. It was because of the efforts of the evidence saved by her and the massive outrage shown by people on social media that the boys could be arrested. Alexandria has been criticized by the Steubenville residents for bringing a bad name to their city and its football team.
Even many media outlets like CNN have been criticized for showing sympathy for the rapists and its biased coverage of the incident.
As I have gone through the reports of many newspapers, these were the focus words that were used for the victim and the rapists. While the teenage girl was mentioned as “inebriated”, “drunk” and “careless”, this is what CNN’s Poppy Harlow stated after the verdict was given to the rapist boys:
“”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 believed their lives fell apart”
Victim blaming has become a part of our culture. If the girl was drunk or was wearing revealing clothes then she was asking for it. Even if the girl was unconscious as in this case, people totally overlook the fact that she wasn’t inviting anyone to rape her or assault her. Our culture has become dismissive to the faults of the men, because after all, drinking and flirting with girls is a manly thing to do. People advise girls to stay in modesty while boys can do anything because they are boys.
Although there have been several studies that reveal why rapes and sexual assault happen in society, I think that associating some activities as I have mentioned above and attaching extraordinary value to them is one reason why some boys would consider sexually assaulting a girl as not a big issue. After the verdict was passed to Trent Mays, he said that he didn’t even think that what he did that night was wrong.
What does that say about our culture? I remember having a discussion with one of my friends in my graduate school. He was planning to propose a girl for date and then have sex with her. I don’t think that this is anything wrong but his emphasis on sex was just too much. I asked him what he will do if the girl refuses. He said and I quote, “I will force her because that’s what any men will do. You don’t know (he told me), all girls want a boy that would force himself on her. That is how you look strong”.
This pervert idea stems from years of conditioning of boys, constant hammering in which parents, teachers, family and friends weaken their apathy and reasoning and make them such douchebags who would consider forcing themselves on a girl as a manly thing to do. If you are in a group where some boys are sexually assaulting a girl, would you step forward and stop them or would you cheer them up and even participate?
Cheryl Araujo was gang-raped in 1983 at age 21 by four men on a pool table in a tavern while other patrons watched and cheered. This became one of the most notorious rape cases in USA which drew a lot of media attention. In another case of India, A young girl in Guwahati was molested while she was returning from a friend’s party in a bar. As the girl left the bar, some men grabbed her, molested her, pushed her, slapped her, abused her and ripped her clothes. This all happened on a very busy road, before the public view. Some other people saw this happening. But instead of helping the girl, they joined the molesters and started touching and stripping the girl.
Why does this happen? One reason is that when some crime happens in a crowd, the collective guilt is distributed among the individuals and everyone feels less guilty. Second reason is that when men see such things happening before them, they seek an opportunity and the peer pressure of making others feel that they are also “men” makes them participate.
We have prosecuted Mays and Malik for what they did to the girl. But when are we going to prosecute the people, the parents and teachers who made those boys such apathetic, callous animals? I as a male believe that a manly and honorable activity is to step up when you see something wrong and take action against it. Help the person in need; do not suspend your reasoning even at the cost of losing friends or family. A real man for me is someone who respects a girl as a person and respects her rights. If she is inebriated in a party, help her get to her home. If you see a girl being harassed on the road, move forward and help and if you are afraid then call the police. This is what makes us a man. This is what makes us a better human being.
Author: Sourabh Tiwary
I am an atheist, freethinker and humanist, though some of my friends just call me a ”geek”. I like to read a lot and write on eclectic topics ranging from science to education. I like to travel and communicate with new people. I hope that with education and scientific progress, world will certainly become a better place to live. You can find me on Google+