Rape Culture and Responsibility
Although I am a little late on this article on the Steubenville rape trial, I feel there are a few important points to mine from it. Above all else this should come down to a case of an egregious lack of responsibility taken by the boys, and seems symptomatic of the culture at large. As a man, I am placed in the ruling class if only because of the chromosome my father passed to me. That privilege comes with a tremendous responsibility that is often lost in our male-centric culture.
The male of complementarity is best explained as a sacrificial, hands-on servant leadership (Ephesians 5:25-26). It involves taking accountability for not just your actions but those of the people whom you have influence over or responsibility to. For example: a complementarian holds that if a husband and wife fight, regardless of blame (and within reason), it is the responsibility of the husband to initiate reconciliation. That does not absolve the wife from responsibility to reconcile or from her contributions to the fight. It also does not provide a value statement on who was right or wrong in the argument. All it says is the burden of initiating reconciliation – of swallowing one’s pride, right or wrong and extending peace – falls on the man; and he is accountable to that by members of his (church) community. (For further study or an example, this sermon by Dr. John Piper, with accompanying manuscript, is particularly illuminating)
Too often the rhetoric in the aftermath of the sorts of tragedies that happened in Steubenville is surrounding the tragedy of lost potentials, and of poor self defense. As Newcomb points out anecdotally in the piece linked above, there is little a woman can do to avert the constant male gaze. No amount of self defense techniques for girls or women will fix the deeper issue that they need defending at all. It should be the responsibility of men, both the community and the individuals, to teach boys that their value is not found in the power the are capable of exerting over women. Women are their unique but equal counterparts – just because men are typically physically capable of intimidating or taking advantage of a woman does not make them superior. Exploiting an advantage like that only serves to degrade one’s power.
Perhaps girls should not be in positions where they are more vulnerable than usual. Perhaps they shouldn’t get drunk, be too ostentatious in dress or flirtatious. The merits for those arguments aside, a truly complementarian man does not see that vulnerability as an opening to exert dominance; he sees it as an opportunity to protect and defend his friend.
It is a shame that those two boys, with their lives ahead of them, threw it away through an array of horrifyingly stupid acts. It’s a greater shame that they let their libidos, and need for approval and dominance permanently mar the life of an equally precious young woman with her whole life ahead. The failure to protect her while she was vulnerable, and use that state of inebriation and weakness as a window to satisfy their darkest impulses and cravings for attention and approval is deplorable and is a microcosm of the failures of rape culture at large.