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Katie Steen: Rape culture is real

By Katie Steen, Columnist
Published October 17, 2013

“What was a 13 year old girl doing hanging around with 18 year old guys…” one girl posted on Twitter. I’d ask the question in response, what were 18-year-old boys doing have sex with girls who weren’t even out of middle school? “You destroyed two people’s lives” another tweet reads, referring, of course, to the boys’ lives. This is past the point of rape apology — it’s sympathy.

One of the football players, Gonzalez, won the title of MVP for his team, and in response to the charges, Torrington High School’s Athletic Director Mike McKenna stated, “If you think there’s some wild band of athletes that are wandering around then I think you’re mistaken … These things happen everywhere and we’re not any different than any other community.” And he’s right.

I think it’s worth stopping and considering how this all-American, sports-centric model that exists in so many high schools — and colleges — affects how people view masculinity and sexual assault. I’m not saying football is to blame for rape, just like too many shots at a party, a short skirt, not having a boyfriend, letting him pay for you at the bar … is not to blame for rape. Rapists are to blame for rape. It’s been said so many times and yet it still hasn’t quite seem to have gotten through to everyone.

So what happens when the University has its very own sexual assault scandal involving a football player? We sweep it under the rug, pretend it never happened, and head to the game to lose our voices cheering on our beloved Wolverines. In 2009, current University senior and placekicker on the University football team Brendan Gibbons was arrested for allegedly raping an 18-year-old woman at a fraternity party. Washtenaw Watchdogs has a detailed synopsis of the allegations, and Daily blogger Emma Maniere wrote about Gibbons fairly recently, but for the most part, it’s been willfully ignored by the University. Many University students and Wolverine fans still don’t know about the allegations, and even after they do find out about them — well, the thought of there being a potential rapist on the field while we sing the fight song is kind of uncomfortable, so we dismiss those thoughts.

In the Gibbons police reports, it’s written, “(Gibbons) stated his whole life will probably get ruined, and that the girl always wins.” Let’s make one thing clear: The girl does not always win. According to RAINN, as many as 97 percent of rapists are not charged. The girl very rarely “wins.” And anyway, sex should not have a “winner.” A woman you want to take to bed is not your opponent. Sex is not just another sport — another way to reaffirm your masculinity and machismo.

Rape culture is real, and it’s important to be mindful of how we’re participating, even if it’s just as spectators.

Katie Steen can be reached at