Society » The Law, Culture: "How “Teaching Men Not to Rape” Won't Prevent Another Steubenville"

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How “Teaching Men Not to Rape” Won't Prevent Another Steubenville
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Last week, Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond were sentenced for the rape of 16-year-old “Jane Doe” at an alcohol-fueled party in Steubenville, Ohio. In the aftermath of this horrific crime, pundits are calling on the country to “teach men not to rape” to prevent a repeat of this obscenity – but that message is utterly ridiculous.

  But there is something the rest of us can do.

Perhaps what was most chilling about the night in Steubenville wasn’t the rape that Mays and Ma’Lik committed, but how dozens of onlookers were complicit in it.

Text messages, tweets and YouTube videos reveal that there were potentially dozens of people who saw this girl being manhandled and abused and did nothing about it. To me, those are the people who need to be “educated.”

In Sergei Bondarchuck’s adaption of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, the narrator solemnly warned: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” That is what happened that night in Steubenville.

Dozens of onlookers – people who probably consider themselves “good” people, stood round and watched something wrong being done and did nothing to stop it. Text messages were sent to Ma’Lik and Mays warning them that what they were doing could get them in trouble, but no further action was taken after Mays blithely replied; “Nah, don’t worry.”

It’s one of the failings of human society, that large groups of people will stand idle while atrocities are committed. It’s what led to the election of Hitler, and the murder of the Jews in concentration camps. It’s what led to “Jane Doe” being raped and brutalized that night.

So if we want to teach men anything, it’s not to be one of those people.

I won’t “teach my sons not to rape” because they already know that rape is wrong. But as they grow up, I will teach them to take a stand when they witness something wrong being done – because if they don’t, they as guilty of the crime as the sociopathic young men who committed it.



Amazing article! Couldn't have said it better myself. This SO needed to be said, so thank you for doing that.


"Rape is a crime, which is clearly and obviously wrong, and the men who commit rape do so knowing that it’s wrong."

I think this is a questionable claim. Most rapists I've spoken with, albeit college-aged cis-men/women, didn't think of the rape they committed as rape. Whether this was because they were dating, the other person led them on, or some such thing, it didn't match up with the public conception of rape which tends to be forcible evil stranger in a dark alley. These people knew rape was wrong, they simply had a rather limited definition of rape.

I do think having a higher cultural awareness of rape, and having a better definition of rape and consent, would actually lower rates of rape. You mention domestic violence which is interesting, given domestic violence decreased as it was vilified in the 70s. I simply don't believe that every rapist is a sociopath, thus education can do something productive. (I also don't mean this in an apologist sort of way, obviously rapists should be held accountable for their actions.) Though I certainly wish our society was advanced to the point that the only way someone would ever rape someone else, was if they were indeed a sociopath.

I do completely agree that bystanders should take more active roles in calling out problematic actions. Sorry for the long response, I just work with sexual assault victims and perpetrators rather often, and disagreed with your premise.


great article


You make good points in this, particularly about bystanders not doing anything, but you also seem to completely miss the mindset of a LOT of people who commit rape. Yes, there your garden-variety sociopaths who are perfectly aware that what they are doing is rape and do it anyway. However, most of the guys who go after girls who are blackout drunk, or stoned, or push a bit too hard when they should back the fuck down, aren't aware that what they are doing is, at best, sexual harassment, and at worst, full-on rape. We women experience this almost every day of our lives. Men who don't notice the signs that their flirting is unwanted despite our body language and sometimes our words, and think it's just us being shy instead of just NOT interested, but sometimes too scared to say it straight in fear of reprisal. Men who whisper obscenities to us on the street, thinking it a compliment. Men who step just a bit too close into our personal space, thinking that it might magically get us aroused, or that rubbing bits of their anatomy on bits of ours without asking for our permission is what is "the done thing," because they've seen their pals do it and get away with it with no-one telling them off (because most of the time, the girl will be too scared of repercussions to do anything other than silently scurry off). Men who think that just because we dressed in such a way that indicates that we feel sexy and want sex means we want sex with THEM and think anything we say stating the contrary is just us "playing hard to get". Most of the men doing these things aren't aware that what they are doing is criminal, because SO many fucking men do it and get away with it. These are the men who would benefit from being taught how not to rape, because literally no-one is telling them that it's wrong and criminal to do these things.

Should these guys be forgiven for what they do and avoid punishment simply because they weren't sure it was rape? Hell no. A crime is a crime is a crime, and it should ALWAYS be punished. But I'm sure many of the guys who do these disgusting things would check their behaviour a bit more, if they were aware just how wrong it is.



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