To the editor:
Brian Watson’s exploration of the Steubenville rape case (“Ohio rape case indicts social media,” March 28) is riddled with problems. Never mind he cannot bring himself to say the teens raped the young victim (their “crime was to sexually molest”), he described it as merely “wrongful behavior” and that the use of social media “compound(ed) the damage” like this was a mere car accident. The passivity he assigns to the perpetrators speaks volumes: “a video of the incident was uploaded” and “the two young perpetrators were influenced and encouraged.”
But here’s the rub. He focuses on the rapists’ use of social media to the detriment of what the rapists actually did. He states that teens don’t understand that social media “carries no inherent meaning.” He calls upon a celebrity-centered culture as a major contributor to the event. Finally, for teens, “Does all that is actually real need to be affirmed by its presence on the Web?” Actions need verification through social media.
But that’s a hindsight approach to the event that waters down the actual crime. The decision to rape happened first, and then, they sought to extend the experience of the rape by posting it. This is essential. The use of social media as spectacle after the fact just further elaborated what they had already done. The entirety of the event has less to do with celebrity status and more to do with the fact that this was acceptable by all present because she was a “girl” — an object. We have been and continue to be a rape culture. And while Watson can write that off (“Long before the Internet existed, adolescent boys have molested drunken girls”), I refuse to ignore the fact that the culture at large informed those young men of what were acceptable ways to treat other human beings.