It’s not “sex,” it’s rape

A reader sent in this story, about how this 18 year-old man was given only 6 months in jail for raping two women. (Oh, and he gets work and school release privileges.)
Michael Philbin, son of a Green Bay Packers coach, said he was “ashamed” and “embarrassed.” Well, that’s lovely, but I wish he was feeling ashamed from prison for more than 6 frigging months. The short jail sentence aside, what really bugged me about this article was the language it used to describe the attacks:

Philbin had sex with one girl after she passed out and was placed on his parent’s bed. He then joined another 17-year-old boy in the basement and forced a second girl to perform oral sex, according to the criminal complaint filed last month.

Excuse me, but you don’t “have sex” with an unconscious girl. That’s called rape.

Brown County Circuit Court Judge Sue Bischel, in accepting a joint sentencing recommendation, said by all accounts Philbin was a good person who made a horrible decision.

Making a “horrible decision” to rape someone doesn’t make you a good person who fucked up - it makes you a rapist.

Reading from a pre-sentence report, Bischel said Philbin acknowledged that he took advantage of the girls knowing they had too much to drink.

Took advantage of? Again, rape. Judge Bischel also ruled that Philbin didn’t have to register as a sex offender because it was “excessive” (and raping two women isn’t?) and that after completing probation he could petition to have the convictions removed from his record.
I am so tired of the rape apologism – in the media, in the courts, in the culture. How much more can we really take?

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69 Comments

  1. Okra
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Do you know why this inversion of the genders is useful (whereas in other scenarios, it does not always align due to a multiplicity of factors apart from gender)? Because when we reverse the genders, as you point out, it becomes inconceivable that society would in any way construe this as anything other than straight-up rape.
    And do you know what that this says about our society?
    That women are conceived of as existing in a perpetual state of possible-sexual “use.” That women are always halfway down the road to consent, and that it will take heaven and earth being moved–nothing short of the Central Park beatings and stranger-rape–to push them backwards on that road, towards that distant and elusive shore of non-consent.

  2. Posted March 17, 2009 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more with you.
    Sadly, justice tends to be very permissive with men in this kind of truly sad situation.
    I think that, in this case, the judge must considered that – since the girl was unconscious – the rape “wasn’t that bad”.
    I can’t find another explanation of how he got only 6 months in jail.
    Terrible story.

  3. dormouse
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I understand what BrownTrashPunk meant to say. I was responding to these assumptions. I know nothing about that family’s life. I know nothing about the trial. I was not there and neither were you all! One of you assumes the judge is a Packers fan. Don’t you see how dangerous that is? We spend all day fighting the stereotyping of women, gay people, and people of color. Why, then, is it ok to impose our assumptions on this situation?
    According to the article, the DA pursued charges that where he knew he could get convictions. I buy that, especially in a situation that involved intoxication all around–no real witnesses + one victim wasn’t conscious. We all know how sticky the idea of consent while drunk can be.
    I don’t want to sound like I’m excusing this kid’s actions. I find them deplorable. There are legitimate legal reasons, though, why someone might not end up with the punishment they deserve. I’m saying I don’t know what happened in this case (it might be just what you all suggest), but none of us knows the details. Besides, haven’t we learned from the Duke Lacrosse case not to jump to conclusions about the “rich white boys” just because they are rich and white? BrownTrashPunk would never say something so snarky about an individual in the opposite situation-poor and black.

  4. gracie-bird
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    “I just said that if there is an opportunity to actually get someone to see why its wrong, and that is what the victim wants, then what she wants should be respected.”
    I think this would work if every rape victim recognized what had happened, felt no guilt about what happened, and had no qualms about sending someone to jail. But there are so many cases where rape happens in a relationship – platonic or otherwise – or where the woman in question has been under the brunt of too much victim blaming or manipulation and may see the benefit of letting someone off the hook so she appears benevolent and forgiving. I feel so creepy typing this, but I know too many women that have been raped by men that they still know and are still affiliated with, and just don’t want to bring it up for fears of being considered bitter or crazy or traumatized – and many of them are the latter.
    I was date raped by a boy I was very in love with when I was young, and I could not get my head straight as to what I was going to do. It took me a while to break up with him. I told some of my friends, but not all. Some days I wanted him burned alive, some days I wanted him to just disappear so I would never have to think of it again, sometimes I wanted to forgive him and run back to his arms. I feel like this is the case for a lot of women. I’m not trying to downplay the wants and needs of rape survivors, because so many of them are legitimate and should be met as much and as soon as possible. But I wouldn’t go so far as to base the necessity of a jail sentence on them; I think you’d get way too many rapists off the hook with a clean slate when they don’t deserve one.

  5. Brandi
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    The judge’s name is Sue, so I think it’s fair to assume that she’s a woman. That mistake in your post just goes to show the problem with making assumptions based on your own biases.

  6. Brandi
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    Newspapers have staffs of attorneys for a reason. Libel suits are filed all the time – and not usually by the rich and powerful, in fact. I’ve been threatened with libel suits for things far less incendiary than using the word “rape.” It happens, and blaming “the media” is problematic because of it. The problem here is the criminal justice system, not the reporter.

  7. Brandi
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I think a large number of people don’t consider sex with a drunk person to be rape. I’m not sure why, but it seems like a fairly common sentiment to me. The reasoning seems to be along the lines of: a) believing the woman shouldn’t have been drunk in the first place and b) rape is bad because of the emotional trauma it causes. If the woman wasn’t conscious, she doesn’t remember the act, thus faces no trauma.
    I think the woman being drunk is a bigger issue, however, because if someone rapes someone in a coma or under anesthesia, more people seem to recognize that act as rape – and creepy.

  8. llevinso
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    I can see why people would think if you’re passed out and can’t remember the rape (I’m not going to call it an “act,” I’m going to call it what it was: RAPE) that you would face no trauma…but it’s complete and utter bullshit. I was raped when I was completely conscious and therefore I remember everything that happened. I live with it every day and it’s horrible. I can only imagine how horrible it would be though to know I had been raped but NOT know exactly what happened. To be left guessing. The trauma of not knowing. And then I’d be afraid to ever go to sleep or get drunk or what have you ever again. I would be afraid to ever not be in total control of my body. God, I feel so bad for that girl. All rape is traumatic and I’m so sick of people trying to say “this kind isn’t as bad as this kind” or whatever. I’m not saying that’s what you were saying Brandi, but the people that DO say that…

  9. DanielJ
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Gregory,
    Quit being a troll. The rest of us are trying to have a reasoned discussion here, and you’re poisoning it with wild, unsupported accusations about the media.

  10. Danyell
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Don’t you know that prison and sex criminal registrars are only for poor people??
    But I’m really sick of the quaint little euphemism “take advantage of”. I still hear this shit in sitcom wherein guys plan to get girls drunk so they’re more able to “take advantage of them”. Oh, bwahaha. It’s that funny and family-friendly!

  11. MM
    Posted March 17, 2009 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    So I agree that this is a major problem with any sort of non-punishment based paradigm, and I don’t really know what the answer is. I just know that for me, when I was given the option of having a high-school guy expelled based on his inappriatley touching me (13) on the bus, I jsut didn’t see at all what good came from that. Whereas I found it really empowering to make him sit in a room and listen to me explain how traumatizing it was, and, after listening to this, acknowledge how wrong what he had done was. I don’t know, maybe having him expelled just felt too much like he was being held accountable to the system, and not to me? In hindsight, I may have been too young to make that decision, but I still believe that that experience drastically reduced the liklihood of him doing that again, and left me feeling MUCH better than a purely punative action would have.
    What happened to me is not neaerly as violent as what happened to the girls in this case, and again, I am not saying that apology should replace punishment. I also think that if they want to send him to jail for a long period of time that is totally within their rights. I just hate that in punihsing people we tend to send them to a place where sexual violence is totally the norm, so it often has the contradicotry effect of reinforcing the idea that it is ok to use your own superior strength to dehumanize others, and then send them back out into the world.
    I don’t know, 11 years later, I am just still really confident that having him expelled would not have been the right option for me then. So I am really glad that I had a choice, even though I recognize the major downside of giving people that choice.

  12. gracie-bird
    Posted March 19, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I see where you’re coming from and, as always, it’s hard to impose a blanket rule over all cases :) it’s an interesting point, and if it could be worked into the system somehow without necessarily letting anyone go free or with less punishment than they deserve, i can get behind it.

  13. Jeff Fecke
    Posted March 23, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    A female judge in Green Bay is almost certainly a rabid Packer backer and a team shareholder. There’s not much else to do there. And I find it impossible to believe that if this was Joe Nobody, he’d be getting a slap on the wrist and a free pass from sex offender registration; if a multiple-rapist doesn’t fall under sex offender laws, then nobody does.

  14. Subestimado
    Posted March 25, 2009 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Of course I deplore rape and would never suggest that it is justified, but it important to put some history and context around these events. You can’t simply demonize the Michael Philbins and Lovelle Mixons of the world when they each have a story to tell. Philbin and Mixon both found themselves in unfortunate situations. Both were the result of society’s failures. Once again, the so-called criminal justice system has put a young man on the path to his own destruction at the hands of the police. The tragedy here is that we have taken the “justice” out of the justice system. Our puritanical country treats sexuality like it is a crime. Especially when old white men leer jealously from the bench at a young black man like Mixon who chose to make love to a girl younger than himself. This is an indictment of the system. Mixon and Philbin are the real victims here.

  15. Diogo
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    You’re wrong!! This is not rape! Rape involves physical violence. Not all non-consensual sex is rape – it’s wrong, but it’s not rape.
    Attitudes like this are extremely reactionary – calling for draconian punishment for a sexual offense of a 17 year-old kid means supporting zero-tolerance criminal justice. You may as well register to the Republican Party.
    6 months in jail is plenty of punishment in this case. It would be wrong to put a 17 yo kid in jail for longer for a sexual offense.

  16. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 27, 2009 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Re-read what you just wrote. By definition, having sex with someone who has not consented is rape. There absolutely does not have to be physical violence for it to count as rape.
    I’m assuming you’re a guy. So tell me, if you were unconcious and someone had anal sex with you (putting you at risk of various diseases, if not pregnancy), would you not feel violated? Would you not consider it a serious crime? What if someone did that to your 16 year old son or little brother? Would the fact that the guy who did it was only 17 make it less of a violation, less of a crime?
    And I believe we are ok with zero-tolerance for very serious crimes. Zero-tolerance for murder and rape, I’m all for. But usually what zero-tolerence means is people getting punished harshly for very minor offenses that don’t really hurt anyone, like posssesion of drugs. So I think its the wrong phrase to use here.

  17. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 28, 2009 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    I agree there are different degrees of rape, just like there are different degrees of murder or assault. But having sex with an unconscious person is rape, whether or not you are the one who made them unconscious. Being unconscious is very clearly a state of not being able to consent. We’re not talking about a girl who consented while very drunk and then didn’t remember the details– she was actually passed out. There is absolutely no excuse for “having sex with” a person who is unconscious. Its just as bad as “having sex with” someone who is in a coma, or put under for an operation, or given a date rape drug.
    I also don’t know why you keep saying things like reactionary and opportunist. Do those mean anything here? How is it opportunist to discuss an article in the news?
    Anyway, I don’t think I’m going to argue about this any more because your recent series of comments on several posts have shown you’re being troll-ish (misquoting articles, making up legal distinctions, etc) and its not worth my time. I hope that when you get tired of writing these comments, you actually think a little bit about what you’ve been saying.

  18. lisa66
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    My concern on this issue apart from its not only the privileged classes who escape punishment, what about the damage this one night has done to two young girls on the verge of womanhood, who maybe will one day be raising their own babies, these so called boys should not have the right to own testicles. Real sex between two lovers, kind and patient and understanding with full self restraint is not taught in this era, its still to close to taboo for my liking, we should take notice of our ancestors and honour first rites for young women.

  19. lisa66
    Posted April 5, 2009 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    This poor dumb young man has obvious control issues. After having sex with someone who mentally wasn`t even there is very disturbing, but then after that jacking off with a 3d picture and having his physical needs met, not hers. he then proceeded to find his friend in the same house to find out what he was up to. How did they gain enough mental control over the second girl? This boy obviously can`t find any control over his own life and a power surge to do these malicious acts on his fathers(where is the mother) bed. and within another room in the house denotes disrespect and a feeling of powerlessness. we all live what we know. This boy needs serious counselling and so does his father

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