Rape, Culture, Responsibility, and Brock Turner

Woman Being Stalked (stock photo from Pond5)

“Rape culture hysteria is devastating society, and it does so even as the rate of rape falls sharply,” writes Wendy McElroy in the preface to her new book, Rape Culture Hysteria: Fixing the Damage Done to Men and Women. McElroy quotes an anonymous poster:

“‘Rape culture’ did not slip sleeping pills into my drink. One man did. … Don’t let rapists go free of responsibility by saying their choices are made for them by society.”

How dangerous is the “rape culture” construct? Convicted sexual assailant Brock Turner ably demonstrates the risks of blaming collective culture for individual behavior by aiming that weapon in the opposite direction. In his pre-sentencing statement to judge Aaron Persky, asking for probation rather than prison time, Turner writes:

“I know I can impact and change people’s attitudes towards the culture surrounded by binge drinking and sexual promiscuity that protrudes through what people think is at the core of being a college student. … Before this happened, I never had any trouble with law enforcement and I plan on maintaining that. I’ve been shattered by the party culture and risk taking behavior that I briefly experienced in my four months at school.”

See what he did there? With a few glib turns of phrase, Turner turns the same logic underlying “rape culture” claims to his own purposes. He ceases to be an assailant and becomes another  victim.

Brock Turner didn’t sexually assault an unconscious woman next to a dumpster outside a fraternity house. “Party culture” did that.

Brock Turner didn’t penetrate that unconscious woman with a foreign object (Brock Turner’s finger). Binge drinking, sexual promiscuity and risk taking behavior did those things.

Blame booze. Blame college. Blame culture. Just don’t blame Brock Turner. Poor, poor Brock. Bad culture! Bad! Go stand in the corner, culture!

Well, no. In reality, Brock Turner did what he did, and only Brock Turner is responsible for it. His “culture” excuses are just that — excuses.

And how did our REAL culture — as opposed to the “rape culture” we supposedly live in — respond to Turner’s crime? With universal outrage.

More than a million people have already signed a petition calling for the removal of judge Persky, who sentenced Turner to a mere six months for his crime, from the bench. Stanford University has banned him from its campus, and USA Swimming (which controls Olympic trials) from its events, for life.

Some “rape culture,” huh?

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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