Rape culture? Whaddya mean?

I’m catching up on the Steubenville (Ohio) rape-and-Twitter-and-football case. It’s not unfamiliar. Years ago I read a shocking but not surprising book about a New Jersey rape case that also involved high school jocks seen as heroes and the girl they raped seen as oh who cares. Our Guys, by Bernard Lefkowitz.

Lefkowitz’s sweeping narrative, informed by more than 200 interviews and six years of research, recreates a murky adolescent world that parents didn’t–or wouldn’t–see: a high school dominated by a band of predatory athletes; a teenage culture where girls were frequently abused and humiliated at sybaritic and destructive parties, and a town that continued to embrace its celebrity athletes–despite the havoc they created–as “our guys.” But that was not only true of Glen Ridge; Lefkowitz found that the unqualified adulation the athletes received in their town was echoed in communities throughout the nation. Glen Ridge was not an aberration. The clash of cultures and values that divided Glen Ridge, Lefkowitz writes, still divides the country.

Steubenville sounds as if it fits the pattern quite neatly. The Steubenville High School football coach didn’t bench the players involved. The Times tried to ask him about that.

Approached in November to be interviewed about the case, Saccoccia said he did not “do the Internet,” so he had not seen the comments and photographs posted online from that night. When asked again about the players involved and why he chose not to discipline them, he became agitated.

“You made me mad now,” he said, throwing in several expletives as he walked from the high school to his car.

Nearly nose to nose with a reporter, he growled: “You’re going to get yours. And if you don’t get yours, somebody close to you will.”

Because football.




  1. Rodney Nelson says

    I’m reminded of the Penn State fiasco where thousands of people objected to criticism of Joe Paterno not reporting a crime he had knowledge of.

  2. Shplane, Spess Alium says

    Honestly, this is exactly why I’ve always thought that schools should not have official sports teams.

    If someone else wants to set up a private league or whatever, then they can go for it, but it shouldn’t be part of the education system or connected to it in any way. Maybe professional football could suck it up and foot the bill for its own early training and minor league, instead of shunting that responsibility onto the taxpayer and leeching money meant for education.

  3. A. Noyd says

    What the hell do the people of these towns think their sports teams’ victories do for them that could ever make up for the players raping and abusing women?

  4. Who Knows? says

    What the hell do the people of these towns think their sports teams’ victories do for them that could ever make up for the players raping and abusing women?

    Sports builds character and team work. See how these fine young mean worked so well together to trick this young woman into coming to their “party” so they could drug and rape her.

    It’s working.

  5. theobromine says

    The PhD in Parenting website has a thought-provoking post about how to raise sons not to be rapists. One of the comments is exceedingly disturbing:

    Here’s an excerpt:

    I think women are responsible to some degree for what happens to them ,that doesn’t condone rape , but it shouldn’t free up a destructive and abusive common society like we have today .
    … So the answer to your question is YES , THE ODDS YOUR SON WILL DO HARM TO A FEMALE is extremely high and the mentality of society puts your son at an overwhelming risk to be chastized BY BOTH YOU AND SOCIETY .

  6. Jubal DiGriz says

    I’ve suspected nationalism and “our local sports team” activates the same part of the brain. It’s become apparent to me that the defense mechanisms are also identical.

    Poisonous nationalism is curbed when there’s a large variety of backgrounds and people with little institutional preference toward a particular one. A parallel solution could be encouraging extracurricular academic groups with the same effort as sports. But the damnably hard part is getting the people involved to acknowledge there’s a problem that needs solving.

  7. says

    “But the damnably hard part is getting the people involved to acknowledge there’s a problem that needs solving.”

    It’s hard to admit that the biggest show in town is corrupt.

  8. says

    I’ve seriously considered taking the two degrees I received from Penn State off my resume.

    PSU is a text book example of how an institution can turn a blind eye to abuse because of the stature of the people involved. Paterno wasn’t just a popular coach. He was a god at Penn State.

    There’s a lot of turnover among college football coaches. One or two losing seasons can get you shown the door. Most coaches can expect to spend their careers moving from school to school several times. Paterno started at Penn State as an assistant coach in the late 1950s, rose to become head coach, and remained there until they fired him last year. No other coach in the NCAA held on to a job that long.

    Unless you’ve actually been part of the Penn State culture, it’s impossible to truly appreciate the hold he had on the university. He had the alumni association in his back pocket and was a fundraising machine. Not many football coaches have a university library named after them. Paterno did, because of the money he raised to build it. A word from him could cause a lot of wealthy donors to open -or close- their checkbooks.

    In many ways, he was Penn State.

    Which is why I find his betrayal unforgivable. He had a chance to do the right thing and didn’t. He let a child rapist get away with it for years. He deserved to be fired and have his legacy trashed. I only wish he’d lived long enough to have been indicted next to former university president Spanier.

  9. Kate says

    I immediately thought of “Our Guys” as well. That book was very difficult to read (and the TV movie and the “Law & Order” episode based on the case were hard to watch).

    I am filled with a Pandora’s box worth of rage, sickness, sadness, fatigue, contempt, and a complete lack of surprise at all these assholes rushing to protect the Our Guys of the world.

  10. screechymonkey says


    They don’t think about it in those terms at all. It’s just…the team victories are everything and an occasional gang rape is just…a bit of dust.

    And the rapes don’t happen to “good girls.” Because good girls don’t get raped. QED.

  11. StevoR, fallible human being says

    Except, of course, they do. Disgusting attitude and horrific way to treat people. Depressing.

  12. StevoR, fallible human being says

    Our guys.
    Our sons of bitches.
    Our rapists.

    Not our responsibility of course.
    Looking the other way.
    Turning a deaf ear to the screaming girls, the suffering,
    Who cares as long as we win eh?

    Well, the victims care.
    Other decent humans might.
    But we win .. what?
    At what cost?

    Is it that important?
    Enough to pay the price
    Of such agony and lifelong misery
    For individuals who deserve far better.
    Who will endure and stand strong one day .. hopefully.
    Despite it all.

  13. Robert Bauer says

    Also aware that adolescent athletes are predatory and that adults don’t care about it: Nerds. And gay kids. And gay nerds. Like Ophelia, I find this entirely unsurprising – this particular event is news, but the predatory, violent, anti-compassionate culture behind it is not.

    (Though rape is much more heinous than the stuff this gay nerd went through, I don’t mean to imply otherwise.)


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