Unconsciousness Being The Opposite of Consent, and Other thoughts on the Steubenville Shit Show
I've been out of high school for a while now. I'm a different generation than the Steubenville students, but not by much. As a young precocious girl in a house where we regularly watched 60 minutes during Sunday dinner, I grew up hearing background noise debates about consent, date-rape, (a newish concept in the late 90s) and platitudes like 'No means No' - even before I really knew what sex was. Once I knew what sex was, I also came to understand that as a female, my relationship to sex included protecting oneself from a lot of bull caca no one should really have to deal with. From tweendom onward I had to really re-iterate to men on the street I did not want to talk to them or be followed home (oh the perils of being thick at 11, damn those GMO foods). And later, I'd have to be sure to inform boys that if I kissed them – it didn’t mean they had the green light to impregnate me. As wide as the gap between making out and insemination may seem, this is our burden as females. We have to say NO loud and clear, not be coy, except, when we're trying to be sexy and mysterious, because men love the chase and it's not feminine to come out and just say what you want or don't want, because who wants to buy a cow if you can get soymilk at the deli...argh it’s all so confusing.
I digress. Anyway, alcohol always factored heavily into these debates about consent because If a woman is being the drunken, moscato-guzzling slut that we all know she really is and leading everyone on , she can't consent because she doesn't know what she's doing. 'No', 'yes', 'maybe', 'just the tip'…none of these answers properly qualify as consent if a woman is drunk. Some people are aware this is law, and some aren't. Most if not all of us, however, have an inkling that people can’t fully agree or disagree with what is being done to them if they are unconscious. As in, you drank so much you passed the f@$* out. And yet, one of the witnesses in the Steubenville case reported he did not try to stop the attack because he was “not sure what rape was” I of course wasn’t present in the court room, but if I had the pleasure of cross examining this deep thinker I would’ve asked if he had a good working definition of ‘unconsciousness,’ and whether that definition meant ‘automatically willing to have things inserted into your body.’
For those unfamiliar with the details of this horrific case, the crime in question is the sexual assault of an unconscious 16-year-old girl at a series high school parties one night in Steubenville, Ohio. Other students present took video and pictures as the young woman was penetrated, coerced into oral sex, and possibly urinated and ejaculated upon by high school football players Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond, who are now, thankfully, convicted as rapists. These images surfaced on various social media sites including facebook and twitter. Anonymous.com released the infamous video of several students watching video of the night and offering delightful commentary like: “[she is] deader than" Trayvon Martin, and "she is so raped her p**s is about as dry as the sun right now." Still the reaction of the Steubenville community and the nation at large were divided by everything from the type of penetration (Is it real rape if it's fingers? Yes DUH….if you did not consent), to the fact that well, the boys' football player status makes them somehow more valuable members of society than this young girl whose life may be, if not ruined, quite bleak right now. Ron Hubbard, a volunteer coach on Steubenville football team Big Red opined: “What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that…She had to make up something. Now people are trying to blow up our football program because of it.” Clearly his priorities and empathy buttons are working really well.
The drunkenness factor of this case fascinates me because of its ability to polarize a conversation, shifting the blame from the rapist to the victim. We live in a victim blaming culture where instead of enforcing that men should (obviously) not rape people, we place the onus on women to not drink too much, or to be smart and not to wear short skirts, as the NYPD advised Brooklyn women after a series of sexual assaults in summer 2011.  Yet as alcohol shifts blame to women, it simultaneously operates to somehow alleviate blame from rapists. News outlets have heavily emphasized the drunken partying aspect of the night in question as if to suggest it obscured the acts in question, and the judgment of the perpetrators. Tom Ashbrook of NPR Boston’s On Point dedicated an hour of his radio program to the case. The blurb underneath the podcast reads: “The little Ohio river town that has become a national symbol of all that can go wrong on a bad night of booze and teens and social media.” Woo-hoo. Everything was just soooo CLAZY!! Mr. Ashbrook – let us be clear – booze makes people drive in wobbly lines. It doesn’t make non-sociopathic men rape defenseless women. As my Momma says – alcohol is a truth serum. It only makes you do what you really want to do. It makes me sleep, because I want to and don’t get to enough, or dance on couches and tables because, well, same. Those are among the interests of the average (or even weird) inebriated non-rapist. Assaulting people more drunk than me has never crossed my mind.
We’ve already established that women are viewed as irresponsible, amoral, trashy, and a bit to blame for whatever happens to the them if they get drunk in public. But what about the distinction between culpability and willingness? Being unconsciousness is the ultimate state of surrender. We are without choice, without the ability to speak, or move our joints. We are somewhere between comatose and dead. Stay with me as I get a bit metaphysical. At the third party of the night in question, a witness said he didn’t respond on behalf of the unresponsive victim because the assault “didn’t seem very forceful.’” But how could it not be forceful if a woman is physically unable to respond or participate? This is the ultimate objectification, implying that in its purest resting state the female body is merely a blank surface to act upon. Leave the body topless and passed out on the floor and boys will be boys and use it because...why not?
I’m not sure how we got to this point as a society. Actually I have several theories, but the point is we need to stop being scared to take a stand against things that are clearly heinous and wrong and entertaining a lot of ratchet discussion because, like, blogs have comment sections or something. Here - I’ll start today, right now: Welcome to my blog - if you think this case ain’t open and shut you are WRONG. Rape is wrong. Ask yourself, if your daughter/sister/mom got drunk at a party and men ejaculated on her, would you want to know whether they had a chance at winning your stupid town’s football trophy before reporting it to the authorities? I mean, is it seriously just because I’m an actress who watches ice dancing and doesn't give a flying fuck about football that I can’t believe I’m having to ask this? I hope not.
That’s all on this topic for now – off to nightmare about being Molly’d by Rick Ross and dying from un-erotic asphyxiation…between him and Wayne I just can’t right now.
 Yellin, Emily. “Waking Up To The Enduring Memory of Rape.” New York Times, March, 2, 2013. Web. March 28, 2013
 Bennet-Smith, Meredith. “Steubenville High School Students Joke About Rape In Video Leaked By Anonymous.” Huffington Post. January 1, 2013. Web. March 28, 2013
 Macur, Julia and Schweber, Nate. “Rape Case Unfolds on Web and Splits City.” New York Times. December 16, 2012. Web. March 28, 2013.
 Noel, John. "NYPD Warns Women About Skirts in Brooklyn Sex Attack Probe." NBC New York. September 30, 2011. Web. March 28 2013.
 Ahsbrook, Tom. “Justice, Social Media And The Rape Case In Steubenville.” On Point with Tom Ashbrook < http://onpoint.wbur.org>. March 18, 2013. Web. March 28, 2013