The Steubenville rape case: This is masculinity

Two high school football players from Steubenville, Ohio were found guilty of raping a 16 year old girl on Sunday. They were both convicted of digitally penetrating the victim, and one was found guilty of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.

The allegations against the young men, Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, came after a series of photos, videos, texts, and social media posts were brought to light last August. One photo showed the victim “lying naked on the floor at a party, with semen from one of the defendants on her chest.” Another, widely circulated, showed the two young men carrying the passed-out girl by her arms and legs. Mays and Richmond have been sentenced to at least one year in juvenile jail, but can be held until they are 21.

These young men have been both pitied and vilified (but mostly pitied). Anyone who followed the reaction online after the verdict was announced on Sunday will have likely witnessed some of the horrific victim blaming that went on (and continues). Matt Binder documented some of the many Tweets arguing that the victim should be charged for underage drinking, that if “you don’t want to get raped, don’t get blackout drunk,” or that “of course the girl is going to cry rape once her parents find out after videos go viral.” It got much worse than that. Two girls were arrested today after sending death threats to the victim.

I don’t pity these boys. For once, men are being held accountable for their behaviour. It’s abnormal, for sure. No wonder people are shocked. After all, we’re used to dicks reigning with impunity. We’re used to hearing stories, whether in the media or in our own lives, about rapes going unpunished. What’s shocking is not that this happened in the first place, but that these young men were found delinquent (the juvenile court equivalent of being found guilty).

But I’m also not interested in vilifying these individuals. What I think we need to understand is that, yes, this behaviour was absolutely disgusting and horrific and that absolutely this must be treated as a crime, these young men are not monsters. They are just regular guys. Regular guys who play football, go to high school, and go to parties with their friends and who have learned, growing up male in a rape and porn culture, that women aren’t real, full, human beings. They’ve learned, as many boys and men learn, that women exist for the entertainment of men; whether on stage at a strip club, on screen in porn, or blackout drunk at a party.

The transcript of the text messages which led to the convictions in the Steubenville rape trial has been posted online (warning — the transcript is graphic). The conversation between these young men is very difficult to read. They ‘lol’ about raping the girl before realizing that sharing the photos of the assault could be incriminating. Their primary concern is not the well being of the victim; far from it. She is mostly irrelevant. A toy to be played with and mocked. The real concern is getting caught. They knew full well that what they were doing was wrong:

Sean McGee to Trent Mays: U shouldn’t have did it if she was that hammered

Trent Mays: Only a hand-job

Sean McGee: I saw the pics, bro. Don’t lie.

Trent Mays: She was naked the whole time but she was like dead

Sean McGee: If she tells someone, it could get back to her parents and then back on u

Trent Mays: She knows what happened

Sean McGee: No, she don’t

The conversation continues:

Multi-media picture message from Trent Mays sent to Anthony Craig and Mark Cole: (picture is that of a naked Jane Doe; has a caption) Bitches is bitches. Fuck ‘em.

The boys try to plan a cover-up:

Trent Mays to Evan Westlake: Deleate[sic] that off You-tube. Coach Sac knows about it. Seriously delete it.

Evan Westlake: Deny to the grave.

Trent Mays: Her dad knows, and if our names get brought up, if asked, she was just really drunk.

Trent Mays: They knew she stayed at Mark’s. You just gotta say she was asleep by the time you got there.

Trent Mays to Cody Saltsman: Nodi’s running his mouth saying how dead she was. If anyone asks, we just took her to Mark’s, and she fell asleep.

Trent Mays to Mark Cole: Just say she passed out at your house if anyone asks.

Mark Cole: IDK she was fucked up. It was her fault she was fucked up.

Cody Saltsman to Trent Mays: I got you, man. I’ll say that you all were just taking care of her.

They’ve learned the art of victim-blaming well.

My point in sharing this conversation is, again, not to vilify. These boys aren’t monsters. These are men I’ve known. Men I went to high school with. Men I went to parties with. Men who raped my friends. These young men are no anomaly. This is masculinity. This is male culture. Regular, “normal”, every day male culture.

By no means do I intend to say that all individual men and boys behave in this way. They don’t. All men are not rapists. All individual men don’t literally see and treat women as fuck-toys. I know many men, in my life, who I love deeply and who are men who treat women like human beings. But these young men from Steubenville are also not abnormal men. There’s nothing “wrong” with them. They aren’t mentally ill. This is the culture we live in. Where life is a porn movie. Where rape is punishment for getting too drunk. Where sex acts are filmed and posted online so the world can see what women are really for. So women can be mocked and blamed and assaulted simply for existing in a rape culture.

These are men I have known. These conversations documented in the transcript, are conversations that have happened many times over. What happened to this girl has happened many times over. To women we know. If you’ve managed to avoid witnessing masculinity and male culture manifested in this form, count yourself lucky. I can only assume you’ve never been to a frat party, to a strip club, or watched porn. That you’ve never been to high school. Or, if you have, you were somehow protected from this behaviour and these conversations. You’re lucky if this conversation shocks you. It isn’t shocking. This is no seedy underground. This is our life, our world, our men and boys.



Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • martin dufresne

    Thank you for this tremendous piece, Meghan. You really bring the problem home by acknowledging that the Steubenville horror is really masculinity, a culture almost all men grow up in, fueled by the casual distate for women we learn in humor and pornography. I am glad you had the clarity and the fortitude to insert that insight between the “Sicko Monsters!” and the “Poor babies!” compteing parodies of an understanding – and this in spite of the harrassment people (well, men’s rightists…) have subjected you to, on Twitter and elsewhere.
    Keep telling it like it is: you’re an inspiration!

  • We are handed this mentality. For my 15th birthday, I was given porn by a trusted father-figure in our family. My friends were invited over and our education began. This was a mere acknowledgment; I found porn when I was 10 and it has affected my consciousness to degrees I can’t even track down! Value was set, subject and object engaged.

    I’m not blaming either. But how do we actually challenge this “rape” indoctrination? How do we acknowledge that no means no, even when you can’t hear it. In my own history, several times I had sex with women who said yes but I knew it was not a yes to me and my interest, but a yes to the pressure of patriarchy, a yes to a greater form of dominance that permeates down to our dollar, our land base, our beings.

    Our sexuality as males is completely obscured by enumerable inputs. I don’t know what to say. It grieves me that the only cure that comes to heart is not in line with my vows as a Buddhist. Loving kindness is not as fast a bullet.

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  • ELF

    “This is masculinity. This is male culture. Regular, “normal”, every day male culture.”

    No, this is not “masculinity”. These are masculine people doing cowardly, violent, misogynistic, cruel, abhorrently wrong, wrong things.

    No, this is not “male culture.” If you called it the dark side of male culture, or male culture at its worst, that would be fair. This is macho jock power culture, old boy’s club bullshit, and because I bet most men find it somewhere between regrettable and reprehensible, it’s not fair to define “male culture” by this terrible example.

    And no, fortunately, it’s not regular or normal, even if it happens everyday, many times a day, and in a day and age that we ought to be a hell of a lot closer to never. Regular, normal males don’t rape, and regular normal every day male culture doesn’t advocate rape

    Even as we can find many examples of the worst of male culture, it’s best not to describe with a single example anything as complex enough to be called a culture. This may be more than a “seedy underground”, but it’s also not masculinity, either.

    I appreciate that you’re not interested in vilifying these guys, but I don’t think the way in which you normalize their behavior is true or constructive. It’s true that this is an example of a certain, shitty form of masculinity and male culture, and that within this culture, these two boys are normal. But in the quote I led with, you’re drawing the line in the wrong place.

    The line should be drawn not between men and women but between right and wrong: men by and large are against this stuff, even though few are what we might call enlightened about such things. At the same time, you see in this example how many women victim-blame and rape-apologize.

    For me, I condemn these boys and I want to sympathize with them. Obviously they did live in a space where it was all too easy to think this was ok, or forgiveable, or possible, and many people are responsible for that. In this case, if you want a clear and abominable representative of the worst of male culture, I think Reno Saccoccia is a pretty strong example.

    None of which is to exonerate the boys, and none of which should overshadow concern for and respect for the girl.

    • Meghan Murphy

      If you think “regular, normal males don’t rape”, you’re delusional. And if you think I’m responsible for “normalizing” rape, you’re an idiot. At best, you’re a troll.

      • Paul

        Hear hear. There is nowhere to draw a bright line inside our masculine culture. The decent men you speak of are not decent because their manhood teaches it. They’ve just been lucky not to have been in a place where other men didn’t insist they man up.

        • Radiant Sophia

          No, decent men are not “Lucky not to have been in a place where other men didn’t insist they man up”. They are decent because they didn’t do such things regardless of the consequences.

          If you seriously think the only thing separating rapists from decent men is being “lucky”, then men are incapable of controlling their actions, and thus, not morally responsible for them.

          • vouchsafer

            @ Paul

            I think what you’re saying is that amongst men, behaviour such as this is known as ‘manning up?”

            Wow. That is really illuminating to me as a woman. So in other words it’s the pressure between men to prove their loyalty to ‘the group’ which is all men by acting as though they share the group consciousness that women are sub-human, and so to prove this they commit acts against women even though they understand them to be wrong in order to prove their allegience to this mind-set.

            thank you, Paul, for your honesty.

            Naming the problem is the first step towards dismantling it. You have armed me with a weapon I can use to counter dude-speak when I come across it, which is all the frickin time.

          • dans tes bras

            “Men use women’s bodies in prostitution and in gang rape to communicate with each other, to express what they have in common. And what they have in common is that they are not her.”

            Andrea Dworkin

          • d-fens

            Thanks for this excellent insightful article. Clearly, this incident isn’t isolated, and isn’t an example of “bad apples”. The statistics alone on sexual assault are enough to demonstrate this.

            One thing I want to point out: it’s rare to hear of the dudes from the A/V club doing something like this. It’s dudes from the football team, lacrosse team, hockey team. Male-only spaces that teach dominance, power, and control. Those spaces tend to permit (and therefore promote) homophobia too.

          • Lela

            So you don’t think “nerds” commit sexual assault or consume porn?

          • MLM

            “Nerds” are not immune to these cultural messages. Just look at the rampant misogyny amongst online gamers. For example, the response to Anita Sarkeesian’s kick starter campaign – an online game appeared, where the aim was assaulting her and a “coordinated attack was launched by various online video game forums” which “included attempts to get my accounts banned, a torrent of hate on YouTube, plus countless threats of violence, death, sexual assault and rape. As part of that intimidation effort the Wikipedia page about me was vandalized with misogynist language, pornography and racial slurs”.


            Being infected with rape cultural messages isn’t specific to a particular male demographic.

          • Lela

            “Just look at the rampant misogyny amongst online gamers.” So true, MLM. My partner, a former game addict, has confirmed this to me. Guys need to think twice before passing the misogyny buck to “those” jocks.

          • MLM

            Definitely, Lela. My husband was a once a huge gamer as well. I can remember hearing him advise a friend of mine’s young daughter to “pretend to be a guy” if she wanted to play games online because “it’s safer”.

    • Lotus

      “No, this is not male culture.”

      Yes, unfortunately it is male culture.

      I work as a secondary school teacher, and I see similar kinds of attitudes reflected in the words and behaviour of young men ALL THE TIME. And unfortunately, I see young women internalizing this misogyny also.

      In fact, a couple of years ago, a young man was removed from my class because he was charged with sexually assaulting a young woman. The same kind of sympathizing of the young male perpetrator (who was also an athlete) and victim blaming of the young woman ensued.

      The case in Steubenville is all too common of a story for there NOT to be something wrong with male culture.

    • Missfit

      ‘Obviously they did live in a space where it was all too easy to think this was ok, or forgiveable, or possible, and many people are responsible for that.’

      This space is not located some place far far away. This space is called male culture. And it can be found everywhere. What does our culture has to offer men? This: ‘(…) that women exist for the entertainment of men; whether on stage at a strip club, on screen in porn, or blackout drunk at a party.’ This add to the general idea (wich can be learned through general culture, history, religion, language) that men are the default human beings and women secondary, subordinate.

      Would you say regular normal men don’t watch porn? Rape can be made into porn and nobody could see the difference. An unconscious girl being ‘taken advantage’ of is a common feature in porn. A teenage girl lying on the floor covered in cum is a common feature in porn. Boys are growing up consuming these images and scenarios which are presented as cool, exciting, acceptable.

      I hear ‘what about consent’? Isn’t consent the key that makes it all acceptable? Since there is no way to know if the girl you watch on the screen being subjected to pain and humiliation have freely consented (you, regular normal man, wouldn’t; but hey, women are just different!)and knowing all the stories of abuse surrounding the porn industry and what passes for it, you better adopt the thought, consciously or not, that consent is not a serious issue or is implied. And this thought will follow you. And implied consent might be even more easy to justify when a girl is dressed in a sexy way, or drunk; these girls must be up to ‘party’ (i.e. sex, i.e. having men orgasm using their bodies).

      When I hear ‘regular normal every day male culture doesn’t advocate rape’ allow me to have serious doubts. It may not advocate for it overtly, but it does in some ways, not always subtle.

      • MLM

        “Would you say regular normal men don’t watch porn? ”

        Plus, how often is the idea put forward that “all men” watch porn, or that the men who don’t are somehow “abnormal”.

    • Hmm. ELF, did you ever go by the moniker Elfeminista? Just a wild guess.

      • ELF

        Why do you ask, Aletha? Are you doxxing me, or hoping to “out” me or someone you think I might be? Whatever your intent, I don’t really believe this is “Just a wild guess”. It actually seems quite the opposite of a wild guess, so I’m asking you to be transparent about your question.

        • joy

          Of course! That’s the only possible reason.

          Not that she’s trying to draw a line between your commentary here and your commentary elsewhere, to get a better understanding of your mindset, your political platform, and what you might be talking about.

          Note for other readers: from what I’ve observed from years of both being online and knowing real people involved in the underground-techie scene, it is predominantly men who doxx women for fun. Doxxing is a form of instilling terror, and even just from interacting with most of Meghan Murphy’s commenters for a year or two, I can guess that none of them would enjoy doxxing another woman even when they disagree with her. What purpose would it serve, after all?

          • Meghan Murphy

            It’s true. The commenters here, for the most, part, are very well-informed/intentioned. It’s highly unlikely anyone would be trying to dox you. We just want to know what’s behind all this/what your intentions/goals are with regard to feminism/this conversation.

        • ELF, I thought you had disappeared. No such luck. You remind me in some ways of Elfeminista, a man who has developed quite a reputation as one who billed himself as a radical feminist but whose lack of comprehension belied that, so I thought I would ask you to confirm or deny my suspicion. I find it telling that instead of simply answering me, you choose to ask me why I ask. In response to my first post ever on a feminist discussion board, Elfeminista wondered about the fact that no writers are identified on There are reasons for that, which I attempted to explain in my response, but I guess that lack of transparency bothered him. Does that bit of information jog your memory, or give you a clue about my motives?

          “It actually seems quite the opposite of a wild guess.” Oh, is that because it is accurate? If I was wrong, I would say it would qualify as a wild guess, though I do know that Elfeminista and ELF were sometimes used interchangeably.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Ah. So it sounds like my initial dude/troll assumption was correct, @Aletha. It’s funny how easy they are to spot, even when they try on disguises.

    • vouchsafer

      IF You Think That “obviously, they did live in a space where it was all too easy to think this was ok,” why are you so determined to come out against what Meghan is saying in her piece?

      I thought that was kind of her point.

      I’m so tired of seeing a good, well-thought-out feminist perspective impeded by other aspects of feminism for no good reason. Your saying the exact same thing as Meghan, you’re just presenting her points back to her to be argumentative.

      This is not a competition, there’s plenty of room for different perspectives within feminist discourse, but when we get caught up in policing each other’s viewpoints, we lose the momentum of our own objectives.

      obviously you both, hell, we all acknowledge that there is a problem with the way the capitalist media (porn included) propagates this type of bullshit mentality. That is the battle we should be fighting, but instead, for some fucked up reason, we seem to be fighting a battle of semantics.
      Do we really want that to be the legacy of our generation of feminists? I don’t.

      • copleycat

        Maybe Meghan is asserting that rape and rape culture permeate masculinity and Elf is asserting that they don’t?

        • Meghan Murphy

          I think ELF wants to draw a line between the ‘good’ men and the ‘bad’ men and that’s just not the point. The point is, as you get at, copleycat, we all live in a rape culture and that masculinity is, in a patriarchy, based on power, dominance, and exists in relation to ‘femininity’. In a rape culture, women are to-be-fucked. This is what men learn. As I made clear in the post (but ELF chose to ignore for the sake of argument – also known as trolling), I don’t actually believe ALL men think rape is fine or that rape is ‘normal’ in the sense that it’s ‘ok’. The point is that, the fact that we live in a rape/porn culture, men (and women) understand sex on that basis and it impacts our interactions. Men learn that they should/must try to coerce women into having sex with them.

          ELF says: “No, this is not “masculinity”. These are masculine people doing cowardly, violent, misogynistic, cruel, abhorrently wrong, wrong things.” Yes. This behaviour is wrong and misogynistic. I think everyone here would agree on that point. But also ‘regular’ guys behave in this way (i.e. they aren’t monsters). See, this post:

          ‘Brad’ is, yes, a sleazy asshole. He’s also a ‘regular’ guy with ‘regular’ friends who is perceived by many to be ‘nice’ and ‘normal’ and ‘good’. Do you see what I’m saying (question directed at ELF)?

          • vouchsafer

            You’re both saying that women are getting the shaft in this culture

          • ELF

            It isn’t so much about good and bad men as it is about right and wrong acts. Its also about speaking clearly and precisely. You say “In a rape culture, women are to-be-fucked.” OK, so where is that? At the party and in the room where the rape occured? In the locker room of the Steubenville football team? In the town of Steubenville? The state of Ohio? Everywhere?

            I didn’t ignore your disclaimer about “ALL men”, I referred to it in my response to you when I said that I appreciate that you’re not interested in vilifying these guys. And I read your response about Girls, but I don’t have HBO and I’ve never seen the show, so I can’t comment on that. But the issue for me is “be precise”, as opposed to taking the easy shortcut of saying “this is male culture” or “this is rape culture”.

            This is not to suggest that we don’t consider culture, or society, but the same rules apply: be precise. Name the agent(s). Specify the action(s). Identity-derived categories like “masculinity” or “male culture”, or even “patriarchy” aren’t helpful here. Better to oppose specific wrongs, and promote specific rights.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “It isn’t so much about good and bad men as it is about right and wrong acts. Its also about speaking clearly and precisely. You say “In a rape culture, women are to-be-fucked.” OK, so where is that? At the party and in the room where the rape occured? In the locker room of the Steubenville football team? In the town of Steubenville? The state of Ohio? Everywhere?”

            What do you mean ‘where is that’? IN A RAPE CULTURE. OUR CULTURE. IN LIFE. AT PARTIES. ON THE STREET. ON FILM.

            Read, please.

      • copleycat

        I should add I think it is long past the time when we should have abandoned the concepts (and practices) of masculinity and femininity. They demand that people become psycho-emotionally deformed and for what exactly? To preserve the existing, unjust, power dynamics between women and men? To help both sexes avoid growing up and being responsible fully functioning adults? To provide a series of scripts and goals for people too lazy or cowardly or both to do the quintessentially human job of figuring out what to do with their lives?

        The masculine / feminine divide is pernicious enough that probably even when rape isn’t included in what any male is taught as being masculine it eventually comes into the picture. There’s too much fear of being caught, so to speak, on the feminine side of the fence and really how can that not happen? The fence is an artificial construct cutting through peoples minds and it doesn’t work, it needs constant propping and patching and some people are willing to do that at any cost.

        • joy


          I nearly laughed aloud when I read a commenter insist “It’s not *masculinity* [that’s the problem], it’s *masculine people doing bad things*!!” Because “masculinity” and “masculine people” are apparently not related at all, somehow, and the concepts can be completely divorced from one another for the sake of rhetoric?

          Those arguments are prevalent in modern feminism (and “postfeminism”), but they just seem like so many semantic games of theory as opposed to honest assessments of reality like the one Meghan put forth in this article.

          • Meghan Murphy

            As though it’s just a couple of bad nuts…

          • Morgan

            Exactly. Who are these “masculine people”? I don’t think “masculine” women are the problem with the pervasiveness of rape. Once again it’s back to being able to name the agents.

  • sharon m.

    1. They are monsters and deserve shunning.
    2. Sorry, most men I know do NOT rape and would have intervened on this womans behalf. They also would have beat the shit out of these creeps.
    3.I cannot help but feel that the whole stupid jock culture contributes to this bullshit.
    4. A perfect example of the women hating that is ingrained in our society.
    It makes me sick when other women are just as mysogenistc and men.

    • Meghan Murphy

      To be clear (again), my point about men who rape not being ‘monsters’ isn’t to say that their behaviour is ok.

  • sporenda

    “2. Sorry, most men I know do NOT rape and would have intervened ”

    I don’t want to rain on your parade, but how do you know?
    Men who rape don’t advertise it, they are everyday, ordinary guys (as well as creeps of course).
    There is nothing that can tell for sure that a man is or is not a rapist.
    Wives think their husbands don’t rape, sisters think that their brothers don’t rape, friends think their pals don’t rape.
    And one day, they find out and they go “who would have thought, he is such a good guy”.
    Even some convicted rapists protest vehemently they are not rapists; in their eyes, it’s only the other inmates who are rapists, not them.
    The rapist is always the Other: not me, not my friend, not my brother.
    People have secret lives, and things are not what they seem.

    The guy who tried to rape me when I was 13 was an acquaintance of my parents, upper middle class, an upstanding citizen respected by all, a pillar of the community, Rotary Club etc.
    He had lots of friends, he was married and I knew his daughters.
    Nobody would have believed me if I’d told what happened.
    For the people who know them, men like that don’t rape.
    But they do.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “Men who rape don’t advertise it, they are everyday, ordinary guys (as well as creeps of course).
      There is nothing that can tell for sure that a man is or is not a rapist.
      Wives think their husbands don’t rape, sisters think that their brothers don’t rape, friends think their pals don’t rape.

      …The rapist is always the Other: not me, not my friend, not my brother.”


      Same with abusive men. It’s ‘other’. Some psycho monster. Sometimes these dudes are *obviously* psycho monsters. Sometimes they’re your buddy, your neighbour, etc.

      • vouchsafer

        Until they turn on you.

        That’s why there is an underlying threat behind the gray rape. Who hasn’t been in a car getting driven home by a guy after a party and you see something in their eyes shift and they become all predatory?
        And you get that vibe that ‘he’s gonna fuck me either way so I might as well go along with it.”

        • copleycat

          Oh God ya, that is a horrible moment and it’s why I try to have as little contact with men as possible.

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  • marv

    There are also many people who think rape and violence against women is a result of mental disorders or psychological factors in men. Although these are sometimes present the aggression is primarily politically based. Political analyses do not contradict the significance of individual pathologies and temperaments, just that cognitive illness is rarely the foundational cause of assailants’ harm to victims. The political is usually denied by society in favour of a psychological explanation. A psychology model then serves as a form of social control that keeps subordinate members subordinate. The high status bestowed on the profession shields aggressors from scrutiny as a power group. The beauty of feminism is that it sees behind the man shit (better descriptor than bs) of much psychoanalysis by naming male supremacy as the culprit and the need to abolish it.

    Abolition in general is the clash of two forces, intrinsically opposed to one another: equality vs. inequality. The abolition of rape and male sway is quite simply the substitution of masculinity for humanity. It is true that we could also emphasize the reorganization of the nation state, the economy, the family, education and all of society. But the end of the identity of manhood is a precondition for all further social change. Its distinctive importance is that it constitutes the minimum requirement of sexual equality. The whole social pyramid cannot be rebuilt without this fundamental cornerstone. The extraordinary significance of sexual reordering is terrifying to men as a class (numerous dissenters acknowledged) because they owe the fact of their very selfhood, that is to say the domination of women, to their psychosocial development in the patriarchal matrix. They will never face the heinous nature of their political system without a fight.

    In addition here are some precious gems you may not want to overlook : as well as the forthcoming by the end of March.

  • Nathan

    Masculinity (or masculine), as defined by

    1. pertaining to or characteristic of a man or men
    2. having qualities traditionally ascribed to men

    I am a man, 27 years old. I know many other men, parents, siblings, friends, and co-workers. Grown, adult, masculine men, who have never, and would never, under any circumstance commit an act of sexual assault, rape, or in any such manner disrespect or degrade any women, not matter her condition, in the manner described above.

    The insinuation that sexual assault, rape, or similarly violent acts or attitudes towards women is masculinity is utter reprehensible and insulting to me. I also believe that the billions of truly masculine men out there who, like myself, have never, and would never, under an circumstances, commit the types of acts described above would agree.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I’m not sure is fully addressing the context, implications, and history of socialization and patriarchy in their definition. How does it define rape culture?

      • Nathan

        If you want to argue that there is a cultural problem in America, that maybe porn and rampant sexuality has aided in the increased occurrence of rape and/or sexual assault you may be able to make a valid argument. But to insinuate that this sort of activity is so intrinsically male as to be a defining characteristic of what it means to be a man (aka masculinity) is both wrong and highly offensive.

        It would be similar to me stating that due to the large number of predominantly female prostitutes in America that prostitution is femininity. I am sure that the large number of women out there who are not prostitutes would be offended by such a statement.

        • Meghan Murphy

          “If you want to argue that there is a cultural problem in America,” ummmm, thanks bud. That’s what I’ve been arguing for years (though not necessarily *just* specific to America, as patriarchy exists everywhere, though the U.S. seems particularly immersed in porn culture and is most definitively opposed to progressive values and creating an equitable society).

          “But to insinuate that this sort of activity is so intrinsically male as to be a defining characteristic of what it means to be a man (aka masculinity) is both wrong and highly offensive.” – that’s actually the opposite of what I said.

          I think you need to understand the difference between biologically male vs. masculinity/male CULTURE (i.e. socialization).

        • Me

          You’re getting this all wrong, Nathan. By writing as you just did, you make sure the women you know who are raped won’t trust you or turn to you when they need help. In effect, you align yourself with those who protect rapists because you don’t acknowledge it’s a problem of masculinity. I suggest you read Jackson Katz’s The Macho Paradox, it’s a good book directed at men who want to say no to this kind of thing.

          • Missfit

            ‘By writing as you just did, you make sure the women you know who are raped won’t trust you or turn to you when they need help.’

            And especially because of this: ‘I know many other men, parents, siblings, friends, and co-workers. Grown, adult, masculine men, who have never, and would never, under any circumstance commit an act of sexual assault, rape, or in any such manner disrespect or degrade any women’. What I hear is ‘no, I don’t belive you, this man can not have done that’. How do you know? One point made here is that men who rape are not identifiable monsters.

        • BK

          Intrinsically male? Um, no. Hegemonic violent masculinity is socially constructed. Men do not have to take part in it.

    • Me

      Don’t feel insulted, feel outraged that men do this and act to stop the men who rape. Make it clear to everyone that you don’t approve this kind of behavior and that you intend to stand with every woman and child you’ll ever meet who needs to get away from or stop a rapist or an otherwise abusive man.

      • Motherofsons

        Following this debate about intrinsic masculinity, I feel it is necessary to point out that not only did the two (or was it really more than just those two?) jocks find sexual release through playing with, and assaulting this sixteen year old girl, they also found it necessary to film their acts (trophy hunting?) and further humiliate her by walking on her hair, urinating on her, and allegedly taking money from others to allow them to do the same. What does that say about male culture, the place of men (or boys) in our society? I cannot help but feel that, yes society is largely responsible for the demeaning of women. But the word humanity was used here. And surely that is the key. You can be a man, brought up in a world with confusing signals about the place and value of women in society, and still know the intrinsic difference between right and wrong. Between giving in to your ‘male urges’ and respecting a woman as a human being. That is what has been highlighted in Steubenville.

      • vouchsafer

        Yes, ME!

        Or how bout don’t laugh at jokes Or film / TV shows where the underlying message is the subjugating of women.
        In Toronto this year it was discovered that the person responsible for sneak-attacking a bunch of women from behind and raping them was a fifteen year old boy.
        We talk about these things here because we’re the ones these things are being done to. If there are so many men out there that would never act this way, they should speak up and help us stop it

    • copleycat

      Biological sex (maleness) and masculinity (a cultural construct) are not the same thing. The fact that you want to insist that they are is an excellent example of a person clinging to an identity handed to him – got nothing better to do?

      • ELF

        Thank you, copleycat, my point exactly, though I would say we all (him and her, he and she) sometimes cling to the identities handed to us, even when the identities are pejorative. I’d rather focus on ethics and action. What happened in Steubenville (the actions of Mays, Richmond, and Saccoccia, among others) was wrong. And people who apologize for it are acting wrongly. But this can’t be reduced to women versus men, or female versus male, as evinced by the number of women (including those charged for making death threats against the Steubenville victim) who apologize for the bad actors. We need to focus on acts, for identities are ultimately made up of actions.

        • Meghan Murphy

          “But this can’t be reduced to women versus men, or female versus male”. Well yes, actually, it can. Because men are the ones doing the raping/violence. And women’s complicity is as a result of living in a male-domanated/misogynistic culture.

          • vouchsafer

            Focusing on acts = Reaction

            Focusing on what causes them = Pro-action

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  • Kyle G. K.

    I am a 23 yr old male who has never and will never rape or push myself on anyone. I know that no means no. I grew up with a single mom for most of my childhood, and was taught this at an early age. Although I never went out partying, at frat houses or clubs, I am masculine. Masculinity is what you make it. Please don’t take this personally, but I do think that if we say that these boys, and boys like them are “normal”, than of course, it does purpetuate the idea of rape being normal. It is NOT. Don’t get me wrong, I am not blind to the fact that something like 33% of women have been sexually abused, but it is not normal behavior for a man to rape a woman. Essentially, a big part of the argument I see in these comments is based on differing opinions on the definition of NORMAL. The author, it seems would argue that normal means what many people do. And others would say that normal implies what everyone knows is right and wrong. So in short, I appreciate this author’s article. It has plenty of facts that many people need to see. And I also appreciate the fact that the author points out how many men actually rape, or sexually abuse women. She is bringing to light an important point; that many more men are sexually abusive than most people realize, and that many more women are sexually violated than we realize. I am just worried that some boys may misunderstand your point when you call this disgusting behavior normal. No, not your intention, like I said… your intentions are just. Anyway, I hope I didn’t offend anyone, I just wanted to help bring about an understanding amongst us, because I think ALL of us can agree that we need to fight for women against behavior like this.

    P.s. I know that many members of my family would never think of women in that way. When I say that, you should take my word for it. I also concede the fact that some people who I know MAY have raped, but they will not admit it. But for the people you know intimately, you just know they would never, with their current ideals and behavior sexually violate a woman. You can tell when someone thinks a certain way about women, or other races, or religion or sexual oriorientations..not by them saying “I am not sexist or racist” but just in regular conversation…so don’t tell me, or someone else that they don’t know what they are talking about when they say that their brother or husband never raped. Because in reality, YOURE the one who doesn’t know. I know plenty of men who I don’t think have ever raped, but because I think they may have just a spec of a feeling of superiority over women, I will not say I know for sure. But then again, neither do you. Anyway, my hopes in writing this post script was to show women that not EVERY man will rape them, and that you CAN still trust a man.
    Kyle G. K.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “The author, it seems would argue that normal means what many people do.” — Well, partly. I also mean that it isn’t ‘abnormal’ — i.e. these young men aren’t monsters. This is acceptable behaviour in our culture. We see this because it happens over and over again and these boys’ friends/bystanders do nothing.

      I realize that not ALL men behave in this way, but I also think it’s important not to pretend as though this is some kind of anomaly (meaning: “Deviation or departure from the normal or common order, form, or rule.”)

    • Me

      Thanks for your comments Kyle!

      When I don’t know if a man is abusive or violent to women, I think its best if I keep my mind open to the possibility that he might be. Men need to prove ourselves, and I mean really prove ourselves. It’s only fair to expect that.

      Being asked if you’ve acted violently should strengthen the bond between two men who abhor the violence. Instead of creating defensiveness, it should make the one who’s being called to prove himself proud of his buddy for putting him through it. I hate to admit it, but I don’t know nearly enough about most of my male friends to be able to tell how they behave when they’re alone with the women and children in their lives. I still don’t talk to them routinely about male violence, but I will change that.

  • Kyle G. K.

    by the way, to all those men AND women who say that this girl, or any other girl is to blame, and deserves to be raped… have you ever drank more than you should have? you could have been raped. (yes, men raped by another MAN too). if not, have you ever been to a public restaurant? because roofies can be put into ANY beverage, not just alcohol… so you could have been raped. a large percentage of sexual abuse victims are children…I suppose it’s their fault for having parents, huh…I can’t believe there are women who choose to vilify the rape victim. consider yourself lucky if you have never been raped, because just being a female means you are at risk, try to empathize with the victims before you point your fingers. And if you are a man who says that those boys didn’t deserve to be punished, or worse, that the girl deserved to be raped…its pretty obvious that you think that rape is justified in certain situations. I guess if another MAN decided to drug and rape you for no reason other than you were available, you would wake up to find the whole country looking at photos of you being raped half naked, covered in semen, and laughing at you… you’d say, “well I deserved it, ill never show my face in public again… cause thats just askin for it”

  • malowski

    >These boys aren’t monsters.


    Definition of MONSTER
    a : an animal or plant of abnormal form or structure
    b : one who deviates from normal or acceptable behavior or character

    They certainly committed the latter.

  • fiona

    In fairness, that Sean guy was not joining in at all. His actual comment was that he was furious with Mays and was going to ‘choke the life out of [him]’. “You are wrong, dead wrong” he said. And in that infamous video, several boys in the background can be heard chastising Michael Nodiamos: “Have you heard yourself, Nodi?” “that’s not funny, dude”, “I got a little sister” “what if it was Amanda?”
    Some of these boys are nasty pieces of work. It seems to me Cody Saltsman is the ‘alpha male” (and when I say alpha, I don’t mean it as a positive thing) and Trent Mays is weak and a follower. I got the strong impression he really liked the girl and may have been really sorry for what he’d done, but among his friends, when Cody calls her ‘sloppy’ and another’ loose’ he can’t find the manhood to stand up for her. He weakly agrees. He isn’t going to ‘wife her up’ (indicating he had actually wanted to go out with her) he’s just going to ‘fuck her on weekends’.
    As to Ma’lik, I believe he is innocent. Only Evan Westlake gave any substantial evidence against him, saying he saw penetration. Anthony Craig did not say that, nor anyone else. Westlake’s motives should be investigated, not least the motive of getting immunity. I am sure racism was a factor too.

  • Matt in Virginia

    Great thread! Brilliant article; thanks. I just wanted to add that, while I don’t have a problem viewing the macho, horrific words and actions of the boys/men involved in this case as the epitome of masculine culture/masculinity, something else that keeps coming up is a problem: The notion that such behavior (whether its “dude-talk,” watching porn, or, far worse, gang rape) is always motivated by a love of humiliating and hating women. Of course there are those whose behaviors are solely motivated by the joy in seeing others in pain (or true sadists), I think that’s absolutely not even close to the norm.

    A problem arises when the all too frequent argument is made that masculine behaviors are fueled by hating women, or in the case of a gang rape, showing other men that “not being her” is the bond. That’s way too simplistic; it essentially reduces behaviors down to 1) He/they did it because they enjoy humiliating and hating women, or 2) They have rejected this hatred and now “see women as human beings.” As the above case shows, things are more complicated than that. Motivations that cause teenage boys to talk in such disturbing ways about women, or in the extreme, rape women, can include peer pressure, alcohol, insecurities, etc- or the previously mentioned sadist motivations- while not having anything to do with bonding over the “joy of hating and humiliating women.” Especially in group situations and in adolescents, fitting in, acting a certain way, etc. can be very powerful, sadly . Please understand that in know what am I saying somehow that makes sexual assault any less horrific; it doesn’t. But so many feminist arguments I read are excellent until I get to the part where the conclusion is, inevitably, that most men enjoy the suffering of women.

    The vast majority of men don’t watch porn because we “enjoy humiliating women;” we watch it for the same reason women watch porn: Libido and the desire to jerk off. And, just to point out, several of the football jocks who texted back and forth expressed outrage at the very thought that their friend could have done this to a girl. T found the text from May’s best friend especially telling: “I’m gonna beat the shit out of you if you did this.” “This” was the sexual assault. Though it was worded in a very violent, aggressive, masculine way, the message was clear: What you guys did was wrong. I also found the fact that he boasted about the rape initially (“yeah I fucker her, lol”), he sent other texts saying he did not “fuck her.” And once the macho encouragement was replaced by the panic of reality setting in, the macho behavior was replaced by stuttering denials and tears (or weeping during the trial. As you said, these boys are “not monsters,” but their behaviors were monstrous. I am not going to presume to know the thinking of these guys, but I am quite confident that it wasn’t for the sole desire to hate and humiliate a women.

    The culture needs to change so men and boys can hear of something like this and not feel the need to act cool and macho with their male peers automatically. In other words, the default version of masculinity is “dude talk” (“yeah I fucked da bitch, lol”) when it needs to be “that was wrong.” Whats key is that most boys/men really do sincerely feel the latter, but due to the culture usually pretend they don’t; this entrenched dude talk masculinity, or put another way.. avoiding any sign of vulnerability or honesty, as the default way of acting around other male peers.. it results in the erroneous conclusion that most men simply take pleasure in hating girls/women.