Quiet Mountain Essays; vo.I, no.III

No One Scored

by  Suzanne Sunshower

The recent celebrity rape case being hocked-up and spewed forth before the public like so much projectile vomit is a sad reminder of life in the real world, on so many levels.
Deep down, the allegation that the sports star raped a young woman is titillating to many people not simply because he’s rich and well-known but because he has, unlike most men, documented, unconstrained sexual access to unfamiliar women. The athlete says the sex was consensual. I submit, many people not only believe it was consensual, but that furthermore, isn’t he lucky to be able to simply pick ‘em and screw ‘em as he wishes. It is hardly a secret male fantasy: willing women, readily available for the man’s disposal.
To be clear now, a man is innocent until proven guilty, however, I summarily disbelieve all alleged rapists whose sole defense is their claim that the sex was consensual. The claim has historically (and successfully) been posed to legally, conveniently allow for the existence of evidence of bodily contact (explaining the presence of the male’s hair/semen/etc. upon the victim), while burdening the woman to insist and then prove that the contact was unwelcome, thus opening the defense’s line of attack: Did she fight? Was she battered? Prove it was not consensual. This is always a no-win situation for the woman. The tidy package, the smugness, of the “prove it wasn’t consensual” defense, is repugnant.
In my mind, until the end of rape, as soon as a man says that an alleged rape was consensual sex, I know not to believe him.
My own prejudices aside, there is far more to this case that is foul than the charge of rape. The identity of a rape victim is supposed to be shielded from the public, because of the stigma of the crime. Rape is, after all, a most personal attack – although, truthfully, the perceived stigma of the attack really is more about this society’s ingrained perceptions about a woman having been smudged or tainted by this illicit contact with a male who is not her husband. Instead of seeing rape for what it is – a violent transgression by the male against a woman – rape is seen as something a woman endured and was made dirty by, and so she must remain anonymous.
Nevertheless, this case being little different (from a media standpoint) from others involving celebritized males, the woman’s name may have been withheld, but the media storm has certainly washed her personal life out of the closet. The pretense of shielding the woman becomes moot when a photo of her, with a black stripe across her eyes, is flashed upon the t.v. screen, along with a shot of her college campus and dorm, whilst a college boy she may or may not have known muses about her past party habits, until her ‘girlfiriends’ can cozy-up to the camera to speculate on her integrity, giving their friend Las Vegas style odds for truth-telling: Is She or Isn’t She?
How is it sparing the woman’s past from trial, for the media to belabor stories of her liking to party and nightly stay out late? As if college girls who like to party never get raped. Do people still believe that ‘party-girls’ can’t be raped? Drinking or not, midnight or daylight, rape is still rape.

Perhaps, not having a name, hearsay that would be inadmissable in court is all the media and the public have with which to flesh-out this woman. However, what does it matter who she is? If the sports star is telling the truth that the sex was consensual, seeing as he is already married, he is in effect saying that it didn’t matter who this strange girl was – he didn’t care about her grades, address, party habits – he just wanted to have sex with her. By his virtual admission, who she was as a person had no bearing on what transpired between them. If he didn’t care who she was when he had sex with her, then it does not matter to the case now.
Which leads me to another sickening twist to this case. The man’s wife. What’s up with her? Does she believe the ‘Beemer’ and the big house, or the privilege of being the ‘thing’ attached to him in public, is worth her loss of dignity? Talk about, to quote Hillary, “…some little woman standin’ by her man…” How does she do it?

Stand by your man if he says he is innocent – that is understandable. But when he admits there was sexual contact, how can she be so sure it was consensual? Moreover, when the man publicly says that he loves her, that his wife “means the world” to him – are we to assume that having sex with a stranger is how he typically shows that? Is that the standard she set?
At the infamous press conference where he made his love proclamation, basically, the wife who had just been screwed-over and humiliated by her husband, was then given chocolates – which she chose to accept in front of the whole sport-obsessed world. Why didn’t she just bend over and also kiss his butt before lovingly stroking his hand, to further convince us of her fidelity to him – in the wake of his infidelity and trauma to her? Yeah, baby, disrespect me some more to show me how much I mean to you.

When the wife in this case says she forgives him his indiscretion(s), she is perpetuating the male myth (which is conveniently used in times like these) that men are childlike and impulsive, know not what they do, and have no control over it. A variation on the ‘boys will be boys’ theme. In doing this, she either does not realize or does not care that she is just another female pawn being played by her husband. That young woman, whatever the case was – forced or consensual sex – was used by him, and now his wife has given herself over to manipulation, too, for his personal end. May she hope she never has to find out how much ego he would eat, how far he would bend over for her troubles.
From college dorm rooms to offices and kitchens, women should use the opportunity of this case to give honest and open discussion to the role that women’s self-esteem (or lack of) plays in helping shape and solidify dangerous presumptions of male sexual privilege. Women must ask themselves what are the behaviors they themselves exhibit that aid in making it so difficult to put to bed (pun intended), once and for all, the male myth of naive indiscretion, that in turn, sets up women to become possible victims on multiple levels?
Why does a woman give her man a ‘pass’, thus tacitly challenging the veracity of another woman?
Men do not risk their bodies, their egos, their souls for women; and, no one benefitting from a system has ever changed it. Society’s attitudes toward women, and our place in it, change when we women make that so. When all women have the self-esteem to come to the realization that having a man, sleeping with a certain man, keeping a man – at the cost of body, soul or dignity – is too high a price to pay, then the other half of society (men) will have no choice but to become liberated from false conceptions of just how much privilege they really have.