The unintended consequences of being a rape apologist journalist: Upholding Rape Culture for Beginners

[TRIGGER WARNING for discussions of sexual assault. Take care of yourself, y'all.]

I started my weekend off on the wrong foot this morning by reading a truly vile, pedophile-apologizing piece in the Washington Post.

Interestingly, when I posted the piece to my Facebook feed this morning, it was called "Sex between students and teachers should not be a crime". It has since been changed to "The unintended consequences of laws addressing sex between teachers and students". It's clear that I'm not the only one who went ballistic this morning.

Oy! Where to begin?!

It is shocking to me how people can buy a 'well-articulated' piece of writing that makes excuses for sexual assault between a teacher and a student. Because let's be clear here: It is sexual assault. And the reason it is sexual assault is because sexual violence is about power; not sex.

People wrongfully assume that 'consent' laws (and in turn, statutory laws) are based solely on the notion that young people don't have the maturity to properly give consent. That is certainly part of the equation; certainly. But the bigger piece at play is that at its core, child abuse is exploitation. You are exploiting a position of power that you hold. We live in a world in which power comes with age. Furthermore, when adults interact with children, it is always in a power relationship. Parent-child. Teacher-student. Coach-athlete. 

The article in question completely erases the power dynamics between teachers and their students. It is an intentional glossing over of the reality that teachers always hold a certain level of power over their students. Ironically, the author contrasts her childhood friends' 'consensual' relationships with teachers to the high levels of workplace harassment those same friends went on to experience. She attempts to argue that workplace sexual harassment is horrible and under reported and in turn, rarely prosecuted. Ignoring the obvious fact that WE CAN (AND SHOULD!) PROSECUTE ALL FORMS OF SEXUAL ASSAULT, she misses the blindly obvious link between both cases. Both are cases of abuse by a person of authority; whether it's the teacher-student relationship or the boss-employee relationship, it's the same shit, lady.

What Betsy Karasik does in this piece is hand pedophiles a defense on a silver platter. Arguing that the law should be used in real cases of sexual assault rather than in the case of 'consensual' relationships with students is the exact same logic used by pedophiles the world over. Do you simply think that victim-blaming happens to adult victims only? If only! Nope. Child abusers routinely argue that "She was asking for it." "She was begging me for it". "She was very precocious". "She wasn't like other girls". And clearly, it's not just the men themselves that do this.

Remember when the New York Times infamously covered the story of an 11 year old girl who was gang raped and littered the article with the most heinous victim blaming imaginable? It was full of "She was mature for her age" and other defenses for why the men "confused" her with an adult womyn.

The last thing this world needs is another 'expert' voice arguing that we need to be more lenient on child abusers and focus instead on the 'real rapes'. Is the sexual abuse of young girls the new 'gray rape'? That was a rhetorical question. If you believe 'gray rape' is a thing, please show yourself out now. Seriously. GTFO.

To live in a world in which young womyn take their own lives because of sexual abuse by a teacher and our collective response is "Well, it wasn't rape-rape" is to throw all victims of sexual assault under the bus. The thing about victim-blaming is that it's all or nothing, folks.

Karasik is right in recognizing that young womyn do have sexualities that they are exploring, navigating and trying to define for themselves. Emily at XoJane has penned a super powerful piece about her experience of this very thing. Read it. It's a difficult but important read.

Perhaps Karasik was trying to do something similar and give nuance to the sex lives of young womyn? What's more likely is that she spent several paragraphs pulling the 'Good guys are negatively impacted by laws meant for bad guys' schtick which is Upholding Rape Culture For Another Day 101.

I ain't buying it.

I have supported too many victims of child sexual abuse who spent decades living in silence because they feared the very real victim-blaming response that Karasik wrote in the Post. I wonder if she would have thought twice had her child gone to Penn State summer camp, for example?

I'm often asked to define rape culture. It's how I spend 90% of my time and energy, so it's an honest question. My short and simple answer? Rape culture is a society that teaches womyn not to get raped, rather than teaching men not to rape. But more than that? Rape culture is the systemic defending of the wrong people.

People suspected Jerry Sandusky was a child abusing pedophile but people were more concerned with defending his 'reputation' and the reputation of a fucking football team than children. That is rape culture.

Stacey Dean Rambold got 30 days in jail for the sexual abuse of his student, because the judge argued that his life was already ruined by the whole ordeal. Never mind that the student in question is fucking dead because she took her own life.  That is rape culture.

And so I ask you:

The coach spends extra time with a player - on and off the field. Do you tell someone?

A teacher is carrying on with a student - before and after class. Do you investigate?

When news breaks of a sexual assault, who do you defend? If you need to think about that, then you have your answer.