Brock Turner is far from the first guy who got off easy because the victim was drunk.
As a man, a father, and a human being, I can’t tell you how disgusted I am at the verdict in the Brock Turner rape case. However, the only thing that might be worse than the verdict itself is that way that SO many of Turner’s supporters are denying that rape culture exists. Completely ignoring his son’s culpability, Turner’s father blamed his son’s repellant crime on “alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity,” which suggests that rape is something that can be excused.
“Well, if a woman is drunk enough or known to be promiscuous enough, she might have been asking for it.”
No, no, no.
How the hell does this keep happening? We don’t make excuses like that for ANY OTHER CRIME. Why, as a society, do we keep using those factors to blame women for their own rapes?
In America, we routinely make excuses for rape, just as long as the perpetrator has the right things going for them (i.e., they’re white, male, or wealthy).
Ask yourself — If you’re privileged enough, why is rape the ONLY illegal thing you can do to a drunk woman that the American legal system will consistently excuse?
If I hit a drunk woman, I will go to jail.
If I push past a drunk woman and steal everything in her house, I will go to jail.
If I make a drunk woman give me her ATM code and I wipe out her bank account, I will go to jail.
If I murder a drunk woman, I will go to jail.
But, if I force myself onto a drunk woman and rape her — and I’m a well-educated, financially secure Caucasian man — there is a very decent chance that a judge or jury might say "Well, what was she expecting would happen if she got that drunk?"
Why can we blame the drunk woman for THAT crime and NONE of the others?
(Let’s also acknowledge the privilege and power imbalances that accompany those excuses. If you look like Brock Turner, those excuses work. If you look like Brian Banks, you don’t get the benefit of that doubt.)
Going back to my examples, if Brock Turner coerced an inebriated woman into giving him her banking information and he used it to steal all of her money — even if he’s a white dude — he’d be arrested. And it wouldn’t matter if he had a cell-phone video of the woman giving him her consent to take her money. It wouldn’t matter that she had personally told Brock her banking passwords. A judge would look at that evidence and say, “She obviously didn’t know what was happening. She was under duress and did not have control of her faculties. He took advantage of the situation and we do not recognize the validity of her drunken consent.”
NO ONE in their right mind would think, “Oh yeah, she wanted Brock to take all her money.” Society would blame Brock.
And, more importantly, there would also be the unspoken acknowledgement of “Hey asshole, it doesn’t matter what she said — YOU KNOW STEALING IS WRONG.”
If Brock Turner had stolen property, beaten, or killed his victim that night, he would’ve gone to jail for a very long time.
Instead, he RAPED his victim, and he gets a laughably lenient sentence. He gets defended by his family and friends, who blame alcohol and “hook-up culture” and never, ever acknowledge that he did anything wrong.
Why does rape get such a pass in criminal courts if the attacker looks enough like a banker? Why does our legal system defend inebriated women against almost every other crime EXCEPT for rape?
It’s because of POWER.
In his fantastic 2010 comedy special, Hilarious, Louis CK went on a spectacular rant about the lunacy of parents hitting their children. He points out that “kids are the only people in the world that you're allowed to hit” and he’s right. If you hit a DOG, you might go to jail. But if you hit your kid in public, so many people get off on it. They grin and nod, because, in their minds, the parents are teaching the kids a LESSON.
“THAT will teach them to be loud in the grocery store.” They like seeing a parent exert POWER over their kids.
Rape culture in America follows a disturbingly similar dynamic. Even our whitest criminals can’t beat, steal from, or kill a drunk woman without being blamed for it, but they sure can rape that woman, because WHAT DID SHE THINK WAS GOING TO HAPPEN? Having a few drinks, putting on a cute outfit, going out for the night? HOW DARE SHE? How dare she not realize her EFFECT on men?
How can we teach her not to play with fire like that? How can we remind her that she’s not the strong, empowered woman that she wants to be, but rather she’s VULNERABLE? How can we exert power over her and show her that we think she should be powerless?
We can blame her for her own rape.
If her car got stolen or she got murdered, it would be all “Ohh, poor girl, that’s not right.” But, instead, she gets raped and we’re like, “Well, who knows what really happened that night? Maybe she wanted it. Guess she knows better now.”
Brock Turner KNEW that rape was wrong and he did it anyway.
But, thanks to American rape culture, there are people in the world — including the presiding judge on the case — who barely acknowledge that he did anything wrong.
As a society, we need to start treating rape just like we treat EVERY OTHER CRIME.
We need to acknowledge that, regardless of their skin color or status, the perpetrators KNEW that what they were doing was wrong. We need to stop treating inebriated women like they’re some kind of subhuman species that deserve to be punished and start treating them the same way we treat EVERYONE ELSE. We need to stop make excuses.
Rape is rape. No one is asking for it. It is not an educational experience or some cautionary tale that will teach women to be more careful in the future. It is RAPE.
And the fact that we keep using those insane, old excuses for rape and for NO other crime should tell you, more than anything, that rape culture is still alive and prospering in the United States.