Verdict in the Steubenville Rape Case:

There is some justice—but there's no cause for joy—in the Steubenville verdicts

March 21, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


On August 11, 2012, a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio, passed out at a party. While she was unconscious, a number of men stripped her naked and raped her. The unconscious girl was dragged to different parties, violated and degraded at each. In cell phone footage taken that night and posted online, one of those at the scene laughed and joked about the rape of the girl, "Is it really rape, cuz you don't know if she wanted it or not. She might have wanted it. That might have been her final wish." While this girl did not die, a group of guys can be heard laughing as one of them goes on for a full 12 minutes saying things like "She is deader than OJ Simpson's wife," and "She is deader than Trayvon Martin."

As the story came to light, throughout society people were shocked and outraged.

On March 17, two Ohio high school football players were convicted of raping the 16-year-old girl, and one was convicted of distributing a nude photo of the victim online. One of the convicted young men was sentenced to a minimum of one year in juvenile detention, the other to a minimum of two years, and both teens face possible maximum sentences to age 21.

Revolution received the following correspondence in response to the verdict:

To be clear, what was done to the young woman in Steubenville, Ohio, was absolutely horrific—a horrific sexual assault, rape, total degradation and dehumanization...she truly was treated and mistreated as an object, a plaything, and not looked at by those two youth and the many others around (who later circulated degrading texts and pictures via social media) as a full human being. The whole thing is an absolute horror and absolutely sickening, and also, without a doubt, an all too common occurrence. It is a clear example of the rampant and systematic—and systemic—direct and indirect degradation and dehumanization of ALL girls and women, in this country and all around the world. And it has to STOP. But while this young woman must be vindicated and supported, and this crime cannot in any way be excused or forgiven or swept under the rug, we can take no joy from the fact that two still young teenage boys (16 and 17 years old, one white and one Black) will now go to jail, be marked with a record, and have to register as sex offenders (in the same category with adult serial rapists and pedophiles [sexual molesters of children] and so on).

Now that it seems to have become clear through the legal procedures that these youth were, in fact, involved in this dehumanizing degradation, it is right that there should be serious consequences (including likely such things as the juvenile jail sentences issued in these instances). A slap on the wrist for such crimes would further contribute to the initial degradation and could not be tolerated. But there is no joy to be taken from seeing these youths' (and their loved ones') lives also get flushed down the toilet—there is absolutely nothing to celebrate in this. Again, what was done to that young woman (and what happens routinely in this culture) is absolutely horrific and CANNOT BE TOLERATED OR EXCUSED. It is, and should be, a source of rage, and we in no way should want to, or try to, dampen that rage. Quite the opposite. But where and toward what should that be fundamentally directed?—that is the point. And in this connection it is striking that the one thing the various pundits and commentators don't seem to want to touch with a 10-foot pole is anything even approaching a real, correct analysis of WHY does this happen, what and who CONDITIONED AND TRAINED these teenagers (and their friends) to THINK about girls and women in such ways, to ACT to blithely degrade and dehumanize girls and women in such ways, to not even think there was anything WRONG about what they were doing. Again, what and who TRAINED AND CONDITIONED them in this way, very systematically, very regularly, very routinely, and from a very young age? Who or what is more profoundly to blame for all this? Yes, the culture which mythologizes football and football players played a part, as did the culture of alcohol and binge drinking, as did the culture of reckless and heartless defamation and degradation through social media...but these kids didn't invent this stuff or decide on their own that it was OK to develop and tolerate such a culture. As for blaming the parents? The whole issue of the systematic degradation and dehumanization of girls and women here is something that is WAY bigger than (and way beyond the control of) even the most principled and well-intentioned of individual parents or teachers. And THAT is the issue that none of the pundits and commentators seem willing to explore and address—the fact that there is a whole systematic social conditioning of boys and men that is systematically undertaken from the earliest years, and actively tolerated and encouraged in countless ways, including through the encouragement and official acceptance of and involvement in the multibillion-dollar porn industry, as well as the global sex trade which teaches kids from an early age that it is normal, routine and perfectly OK to buy and sell girls and women as literal chattel, to manipulate and torture their bodies for sexual titillation.

The things these youth did to that young woman? They were no doubt imitating things that they can see every single day in culturally tolerated and mainstreamed porn—in which girls and women are routinely depicted as objects of rape, urinated and defecated upon, covered with semen, penetrated with objects, and all manner of horrific degradation...this is all routine, mainstream, and objectively officially tolerated by the people who hold state power under the current system and who do less than nothing to stop it. It is literally BUILT INTO the culture and whole way this SOCIAL SYSTEM is organized. The people who run this system put more daily effort into enforcing traffic regulations than in trying to prevent this kind of exploitation and degradation of girls and women or systematic training of the youth in perpetuating this degradation and dehumanization (the boys to enact it; the girls, too often, to accept it).

And WHY does this system promote and tolerate such a foul culture? Not just because it is big business (which it is) but because the oppression of women as something less than full human beings is part of the very structure and "fabric" of such a society and has been institutionalized as part and parcel of this exploitative and oppressive SYSTEM from the very beginning. And THAT (and the need to get RID of that through systemic revolution) is what they really don't want people to talk about, or even think about. So much more convenient to just jail a few teen-agers, spill a few tears and bemoan football and booze and lax parenting...anything to avoid getting into the deeper causes...and the deeper solutions. So no, we communists don't "cheer" and celebrate when 16- and 17-year-olds get hauled off to jail and labeled sex offenders for life in an overly simplistic retribution for a young woman's lifetime of nightmares. We're more serious than that...about REALLY stopping this shit...for real...and at the SOURCE. So we can bring to an end this endless degradation and dehumanization of living girls and women (and ultimately of the boys and men as well, who are systematically trained since childhood to think in these ways and to enact all this, consigned to perverting much of their own humanity in the process).

So, while once again the acts that were carried out by these guys can in no way be excused, or covered over, or even allowed to be met with simply some kind of meaningless "slap on the wrist," there is nothing to "cheer" in Steubenville—but there is a great deal to rage and rail and fight against!

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