“I don’t hear her say anything. And I don’t feel her say anything. And so I continue and I go into the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection. I am not stopped.” -Bill Cosby in a deposition about his (multiple) alleged sexual assaults.
Where in that quote do you see consent ANYWHERE? How is this not legally considered anything BUT rape? The same goes for Brock Turner. He took a woman’s drunkenness (with no consent whatsoever) as a sign that he was somehow entitled to help himself to her body. And entitlement is an important word in both cases.
Much has been made about race in the Brock Turner case. If he had been poor and black, would the judge have seen his actions as a mere “mistake” of misguided youth, or would he have gotten a much harsher sentence, and zero empathy from this judge? I think it is obvious his sentence would have been far harsher, but even more than racial disparity in sentencing, which leave no doubt it is a pervasive problem in our not-so-colorblind justice system; I still think this case, much like the one involving prominent comedy icon and Jell-O Pudding schiller Bill Cosby, is even more about class and male entitlement than race.
Bill Cosby is African-American and has yet to have seen any real legal repercussions from his actions. He appears to have no qualms with blurring the lines of “permission and rejection”, which is a fancy, non-indictable way of saying he raped women he admitted to deliberately drugging. He speaks of these women as if they were not only sexual conquests, but appetizers before a meal. There have been allegations that he would “order” 4-5 models before a show to have dinner with him, and when he speaks of his accusers, it is with a very detached, angry tone as if he is the one who has been wronged.
Brock Turner is a young, wealthy star athlete at Stanford University. Yes, he is white, but there is a real bias in the media and in the justice system when it comes to holding star athletes responsible for sexual assault, like Kobe Bryant and Mike Tyson (or in the case of Michael Vick, animal cruelty). We hear of rape cases among football teams and fraternities on a regular basis.
Why is that?
Part of the problem is wealth. Wealth in this country is the ultimate Get-Out-of-Jail card (or at least Get-A-Reduced Sentence). You can have celebrities like Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Martha Stewart barely serving any time regardless of the crime simply because they are so famous and wealthy they are legally untouchable. If you can afford a great defense team, you can evade a trial like Bill Cosby, or even get away with murder (*cough* O.J. *cough). Jay-Z and Dr. Dre are both people who have physically assaulted people and because they are multi-millionaires and beloved within their industry, these incidents have been written off in pop culture as indiscretions of a rough youth. You even have cases like the ‘Affluenza’ teen who felt he was too rich to be punished! In a country where Donald Trump can run for President simply by talking about how filthy rich he is. He lies constantly and is never really called out on it because he’s, well, too rich to punish.
Donald Trump is also a good example of the other half of this problematic equation: male entitlement. He has made misogynistic commentary almost on the daily about the looks of women he has worked with, female celebrities he has publicly sparred with, about female reporters who dare to question his political acumen, and has gone so far as cite the possibility of one reporter’s menstrual cycle as his reasoning for why she fact-checking him. Why is this acceptable behavior of a Presidential Candidate?
Men are taught from a young age through our larger American culture, media, music, television, film, and the political arena that they have every right to comment on women’s looks, control their reproductive rights and birth control, slut-shame them for being sexual beings and then insist they have a right to, as Brock Turner’s father so elegantly put it “get some action”. Movies, especially comedies like ‘American Pie’ repeatedly revolve around young men trying to get laid, even if it means deceiving the women they go after because they have somehow “earned” the right to by being ‘nice guys’. And not just any woman, apparently no matter what the man looks like or what kind of a person he really is, the audience is expected to root for him getting laid with the most conventionally attractive woman possible.
There is a famous scene where the guys in ‘American Pie’ set up a webcam with a live feed to stream on the ‘net when a woman is naked in someone’s room by herself, unaware of the camera. Then the young man whose room she is occupying uses watching this video as an opportunity to walk in on her trying to entice her to have sex with him, while all of his friends watch on the live-feed, again without her knowledge. The comedy is that all the guys watching are rooting for him to have sex with her (and enjoy watching it). All without her consent.
How is it any surprise that in a culture that treats women like a gift-wrapped package for men’s enjoyment, referred to constantly in hip-hop as bitches, hoes, thots, and side-chicks, where the term “pimp” is exalted as some kind of cool compliment instead of the scum of the earth a person who befits that term actually is; that a man like Bill Cosby or Brock Turner assumes they don’t need to be explicitly told they have consent from a woman in order to get what they want from her? Because Brock Turner’s father’s attitude likely contributed to his son thinking fucking an unconscious woman he came across who gave no consent (and could not) was “getting some action” and not what it plainly was: RAPE.
The judge felt that it would be wrong to ruin a young man’s life by putting him in prison for what was a “mistake”. The same sexist (and often classist) reasoning applies to the attitudes of the military when a woman tries to report a rape by a fellow soldier, or worse yet, a commanding officer. The reasoning is that if the accusation can’t be proven, a man’s life has the potential to be ruined.
But what about that woman’s life? Why should her life be forever ruined by taking a stand and trying to get help and then being shamed, victim-blamed, and having constant doubt cast her way forever? Why should the women Bill Cosby allegedly assaulted be doubted because they trusted him? Why is ‘Straight Outta Compton’ hailed a great movie when the men it heralds made a career out of objectifying women in their songs and videos (and glorifying rape culture), and by being pretty unapologetic about violently assaulting at least one that we know of?
What about the life of the woman Brock Turner assaulted? Wasn’t her life, her potential career, her reputation worth the risk of putting a rapist in prison for what he did? What mistake did she make? She drank too much. She didn’t ask to get raped. And that’s the thing, she wasn’t asking for it. And in the end society told her the bright future of her wealthy young attacker mattered more.
“… the area that is somewhere between permission and rejection…” isn’t a thing. That doesn’t exist. That’s what male entitlement does, it turns ‘rape’ into ‘mistake’, into ‘didn’t know any better’, into ‘poor judgment’ instead of sexual assault and antipathy. It excuses violent behavior and makes it seem like ‘boys will be boys’, and ‘she was asking for it’.
This needs to end, or like Bill Cosby, it will not be stopped.