Traci Lords makes a connection that the media have by and large (and, in my opinion, quite willfully) missed. Actually, several connections. One, the connection between rape and prostitution (and porn, which is also tied to prostitution). She says the fact that she was raped in her hometown — Steubenville, Ohio, near the West Virginia border — is “absolutely the reason” she ended up on the streets, prostituted, and later, “starring” in porn while still under 18. The report doesn’t elaborate, but the reason isn’t hard to guess: Rape degrades, it inflicts a sense of being less of a person than those who raped you. When you’re already beaten down in mind, and constantly reminded of what happened by the fact that you have to see these same smug, hypocritical people every day, the only escape is often to run away to the big city streets. And those streets can be motherfucking MEAN. You do whatever you must to survive. And for many runaway girls, that’s spelled prostitution. Which, by its very nature, often repeats and reinforces the initial trauma of the rape.
Another connection: the fact that small towns where jocks enjoy a special, elevated status (especially in such heavily commercialized team sports as football) are NOT “great places to raise a kid”. They are actually places where bullying, beatings, sexual assaults, pedophilia, and even gang rapes happen all the time, but are rarely ever brought to the light of day. This is because the guys who commit the crime are lionized not merely in spite of, but sometimes BECAUSE of what they do to girls. It’s a sexist culture, where jocks are elevated and girls are relegated to second-place status. You get to bask in the reflected glory of the jocks if you’re a cheerleader and/or girlfriend of a jock, but that’s about it. It’s all about the guys, in the end. And the whole town, its authorities, its police, its lawyers and judges, will move heaven and earth to shield the perpetrators from anything that might damage their “bright futures” playing commercial football…and perpetuating the jock brand of rape culture.
And this is the Steubenville culture that has Traci Lords so angry and outraged still, so many years after what happened to her. In fact, this is the culture of small-town USA, period. All the old prejudices and hypocrisies are still firmly in place. The only thing that’s different here is that the “clean-cut” mask slipped, and someone got caught. That’s what bugged me about the sobby courtroom performance of those two guys. One of them expressed sorrow, not for what he had done, but for the fact that pictures got taken of it and circulated. He had no apparent remorse for the rape part, because rape is a jock’s entitlement; his regret was only for being indiscreet about it. His life won’t be ruined because he committed rape; it will be put on hold for a few short years because he was caught in the act by a camera.
The media, too, must bear a share of the blame for the perpetuation of this small-town jock rape culture. Aren’t they the ones constantly selling the wholesome image of the small town, the great place to raise kids, the golden jocks, the big fucking lie? Of course they are. And even now, those faithful crapaganda mills are churning out the rape apologia. On CNN, they’re all boo-hoo for the poor maligned boys, and not one word for the abused girl. FUX Snooze? Well, they did devote a few words to her; they divulged her identity, so she could be harassed and bullied still further. Maybe they’re hoping she’ll kill herself, to save the honor of the jocks. Blood expunges shit-stains, does it not?
Traci Lords has every right to be angry, because nothing’s really changed. Sure, two guys are going to jail and are going to be labelled sex offenders. Sure, their careers are going to be curtailed, at least where sports are concerned. Sure, they’re probably not going to get football scholarships; colleges will be passing them by for cleaner candidates, and they’re just going to have to work harder for an education, if they want one. They can’t rely on their jock passes anymore. In short, they’re just gonna have to live like all the rest of us unathletic commoners. But…cry me a fucking river! They are not going to end up on the streets, prostituted and acting in pornos, being degraded and subjugated for the delectation of other dudes. That’s for girls.
After all, that’s what happened to Traci Lords. She got singled out, assaulted, branded with a scarlet letter in her teens. She is still living with her trauma after all these years. The girl in this case will have to live with the same. She will deal, day to day, with everything that happened to her against her will being called a “cognitive choice” on her part. Never mind that she couldn’t say no because she was too bombed to say anything. And that the reason she was bombed is that she was set up for it in advance, called a slut and a whore ahead of time and then drugged without her knowledge, by those same guys who are now trying to make like it was all just a moment of weakness and poor judgment and blah blah blah. It was not. It was planned and premeditated on THEIR part, and yet she is the one bearing the burden for it.
Meanwhile, these guys are still getting the tragic hero’s treatment in the media. They weren’t even tried in adult court. They’ll probably brag about their juvenile delinquency raps 20 years from now.
Poor misunderstood babies, how dare we slap them on the wrist?