Rape Culture

From    yes means yes blog


Please go leave comments for the author at – http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2009/07/23/this-is-what-rape-culture-looks-like/

I often get asked what the phrase “rape culture” means. And while, honestly, the answer is no further away than wikipedia, it’s sometimes easier to grasp a concept by observing it in the wild.

This Is What Rape Culture Looks Like



Ben Roethlisberger is the Super-Bowl-winning QB of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last summer he was in Lake Tahoe for a celebrity golf tournament. While there, he flirted up a female host at Harrahs, the casino hotel where he was staying. Whether or not she voluntarlily flirted with him is unknowable – as a rich, high profile celebrity, he knew that it was her job to flirt with him, and so did she. That’s rape culture. When men make choices about what women do with their sexuality, that strengthens the idea that men can control women’s bodies.

The following night, he called her to say his TV wasn’t working – would she come take a look? She couldn’t find a tech person to do it, so she went herself, knowing that she had to do everything possible to keep her celeb guest happy. Once up there, she discovered a perfectly functioning TV. And then, allegedly, Roethlisberger blocked her exit and raped her. That’s rape.

When she reported the attack to Harrah’s security chief Guy Hyder, he declined to investiage and allegedly told her that she was “overreacting” and that “most girls would feel lucky to get to have sex with someone like Ben Roethlisberger.” He also told her to either keep it from their boss at Harrah’s, or to tell their boss they’d had sex voluntarily, in order to keep everybody happy. That’s rape culture. When people in power refuse to take women’s rape charges seriously, it means there are no consequences for rapists, which makes them more free to rape.

Later, while she was hospitalized for depression as a result of the assault, Hyder convinced her parents to give him the key to her house. He and other Harrah’s employees used it, allegedly, to enter her home without permission and erase information from her computer. That’s rape culture. When authorities use their power to deliberately silence rape victims instead of helping them find justice, it not only leaves rapists free but intimidates other victims from coming forward.

And now, as these details emerge, ESPN has instructed its entire team of reporters to not report any of this information. [Update: ESPN may be easing its ban, but it’s still unclear how much and what will be reported.] Yes, the same network whose sideline reporter is currently being exploited all over the ‘net in a peeping tom video. You’d think that would make them more sympathetic to the sexual exploitation of women just trying to do their job, but they’re too focused on protecting access to the star athletes who are their cash cows to even do their basic job as journalists. That’s rape culture. When our media won’t talk about rape, people think it doesn’t happen, and the rapists face no consequences. That emboldens rapists.

Gossip blogger Perez Hilton is already suggesting she may be a lying golddigger. That’s rape culture. As this woman’s case proceeds, her body, her actions, her mental state, motives and her history will be put on public trial in a way that would never happen if she were accusing someone of kidnapping or attempted murder. That’s rape culture. When women are too afraid of being re-victimized by the courts and the media to come forward, and when the public gets the message that women who accuse men of rape are lying or did something to deserve it, the cycle continues.

There is only one rapist alleged here. But there are so, so many participants. That’s rape culture, and it has to stop. In this case, let’s start with holding the media accountable for their role. Contact ESPN here.

[UPDATE #2: Read NBC Sports’ spot-on takedown of ESPN’s excuses for their “do not report” policy here. h/t Anna Clark]

This entry was posted on July 23, 2009 at 10:45 am and is filed under fight the power, media matters . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


9 Responses

  1. Rembering the study that found 1out of 3 male college students would rape if they knew that they wouldn’t get caught. The misogynony that was evident in the last election helped to convince some of those 1/3 that it was an OK and probably safe thing to do. The fact is that women can protest from here ’til the cows come home but men’s behavior is much more influenced by other men.We now have the leader of all free men ignoring the Sarah Palin is a cunt tee-shirts but taking time from a so-called news conference to protect his friend Skip from a (probably racist) and stupid Cambridge police officer. I’m afraid that anyone who sees this man as a friend of women is going to be bitterly disappointed.

  2. Guess he is not as skillful as he used to be- he is getting tired of hiding behind the mask – he and Skip are quite obviously playing the race cards to the hilt since they learned it works.
    Our job is to get our sisters of color to walk away from this silliness and start concentrating on what helps women! this does not help the nation or women- let’s move on and hope this has proven to us all how futile this is- the magic has worn off the golden boy and it is time to come down to earth and get to work now.
    Calling all sisters. The Majority United wants you!

  3. You know BettyJean, there was someone in NOW at one time (who was actually on some board he calimed) that called date rape “exciting” and has his pedophilic views published in Penthouse magazine. This is Warren Farrell, now “co-president” of the National Organization of Men (http://www.orgformen.org/7101.html). Here is some of his quotes:

    ” The VAWA and VAWA II are blatant violations of the 14th Amendment…”

    “We have forgotten that before we began calling this date rape… we called it exciting.”

    “…millions of people who are now refraining from touching, holding, and genitally caressing their children, when that is really part of a caring, loving expression, are repressing the sexuality of a lot of children and themselves.”

    as quoted in December 1977 Penthouse article, “Incest: The Last Taboo,” by Philip Nobile

    See “The Pig Page” for more: http://tinyurl.com/lk4aqk

    You could have a couple posts/blogtalkradio shows just covering these gems of society.

    • This is the most disgusting of things – just when I think I have heard it all – I haven’t have I – yes we can do a show or two just on this. Do you have a professional we can count on to call on? If so – contact and let me know – we have so so so much work to do – where or where do we start?

      BettyJean Kling M.S, M. Ed The Majority United Free-US-Now.com FreeMeNow.wordpress The Majority United Radio Founder: Free US Now- “A victim’s first scream is for help; a victim’s second scream is for justice.” – Coral Anika Theill

  4. The Sarah Palin t-shirts are shameful and awful, as are the comments and jokes about her “sexiness” which are meant to degrade her. There was actually a porn film made with a SP character in it. There was no outcry. HC was spoofed as well. We do not sexualize male politicians in order to humiliate them. These pornographic films only prove that porn is made to degrade women, and that is porn’s chief purpose. Porn is not simply about freedom in regards to sexuality.

    I am a supporter of Obama, but I wish he would address the mean-spiritedness of the media on both sides of the spectrum. I wish he would denounce sexism against all women who are politicians. I wish he would criticize comments made about Palin looking “slutty”, the t-shirts, the insults about her mothering and her children, the comments that slam her for having five kids. Letterman’s octomom comment about her left me speechless. Same with the “family planning” jokes we hear going around. Do we have conservatives making jokes about women who are famous and who have openly admitted to having abortions? Can you imagine if that happened? I think the large women’s organizations would go crazy. But they stand by when liberals judge Palin for having five kids, or a later in life baby. They stand by when she is criticized for having a child with a disability as opposed to doing what they think she should have done– have an abortion like a “responsible” person would have done. Of course, what is missed here is the argument that could be turned around on them: Why can you say that, but you cannot say that women who have abortions are irresponsible because they did not take their birth control?

    Let me be clear that I am pro-choice. However, I am no longer giving money to the large women’s Pro Choice orgs because they only defend some women against the sexist “You’re an irresponsible bad woman” argument and not all women. In fact, some liberal feminists have blogged about SP’s irresponsibility for having the later in life baby. They do not see their own hypocrisy and they do not believe that women who have abortions and did not use birth control are irresponsible. Again, I am pro-choice. But they are unfair and do not acknowledge their bias.

  5. Lynn,
    You bring up a really really really good point. And while I do not want to stray away from it – I can not help that the following jumped right out.

    It begs the question- how Mr. Obama can you carelessly come out on behalf of your friend Skip on a racial matter without knowing the facts and yet with all this facts so clearly presented regarding blatant sexism and misogyny- he you not said one word?

    May I use your comments above or invite you to draft those comments into that same question as another blog piece?

    I would also like to draft it as an open letter to the president- I think it is a valid question and you are a fine writer who would be able to articulate it without appearing snide. Perhaps a little nudge at this time might be appropriate.


  6. I would be happy for you to integrate what I wrote into your question and a blog piece. I would be happy for it to be an open letter. If you want me to add anything more just let me know.

  7. There was some more info on Erin Andrews and what she is going through on O’Reilly tonight. Meghan Kelly was on and she said that reporters are camped out at Andrew’s house, prompting Andrews to call 911. Apparently, not much can be done. Kelly also said that the response on this is slow, police have not contacted the owner of the website that put up the video. As we all know by now, at least one woman who is a sports reporter blamed Andrews, saying that the way she presents herself basically asks for it. Fox continues to be the network that is most sympathetic and understanding of the situation…How could anyone not see how terrible this is? If your attractive, you ask for violation? Who would want naked images of their own self put up on the net against their will?

    lynn/world traveler

    • Again – it’s the double standard/ we raise girls to either fit in by living up to the Barbie standard or be bullied as a nerd. Then when they do – they are asking for it. As I have said a hundred times before – damned if you do – damned it you don’t.

      As for professional women- we only have to look at Hillary and Sarah this past election cycle to see the two women the antithesis of one another, yet both raked over the coals just the same.

      BettyJean Kling M.S, M. Ed The Majority United Free-US-Now.com FreeMeNow.wordpress The Majority United Radio Founder: Free US Now- “A victim’s first scream is for help; a victim’s second scream is for justice.” – Coral Anika Theill

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