On Steubenville and teaching young men not to rape

With the horrific response to Zerlina Maxwell’s (who is amazing) recent appearance on FOX News and CNN’s appalling hand-wringing  over the fate of the Steubenville rapists (call on them to apologize here), I’ve had just about my fill of the mainstream take on rape. But rising above the burnout-inducing articles rehashing every aspect of this case and the nastiness that continues to be directed at Zerlina from the darkest corners of the Internet, there came this incredible post from Mia McKenzie at Black Girl Dangerous:

What happened to this girl is horrible. Her life has been affected in serious ways by the unbelievably terrible actions of these boys. And CNN should not be talking as if her pain, her experience, and her life do not exist. It is unconscionable for them to do so and they need to be held to account for it. Elevating the experience of these boys above the experience of their victim is not okay.

But, you know what is okay? Also feeling sorry for these boys. [Emphasis mine]

Not in the way that CNN did it. Not at the expense of the girl who was raped by these boys. But including these boys in our feelings of sadness isokay.

I, unlike many people reacting to today’s verdict, am not just thrilled to death that two 16-year-old boys are going to jail. What they did was terrible. There is no excuse. They have to be two seriously fucked-up kids to have done what they did. But what I know for damn sure is that jail does not fix broken people. It only breaks them harder.

In the midst of my anger over rape culture and over what happened to this young woman, I plum forgot to contemplate the very sobering fact that incarcerating these boys will do nothing to teach them (or other young men) how to identify consent and how to not be rapists themselves. Incarcerating rapists doesn’t do anything to combat rape culture, which is what we really need to address if we are to eradicate rape. 
Zerlina’s amazing “5 Ways we can Teach Men Not to Rape” article is a great resource for parents, educators and other concerned members of society to address rape culture with impressionable young boys and men, but how do we address violence against women with those who have already committed it? Can they be taught not to rape, abuse, harass, stalk and threaten?
I hope that the answer is yes. Just as Zerlina kindly wished her bullies well (did I mention she’s amazing?), so too do I wish the Steubenville rapists well. And what I mean by that is that I hope they learn. I hope they come to feel fully accountable for what they have done as opposed to merely feeling sorry that they got caught; which is what I suspect Trent Mays feels given his apology for distributing a photo of the rape rather than the rape itself. I hope that they come to understand that what they did was wrong and more importantly why it was wrong.
And then I hope they tell others why it was wrong. I hope they do the same thing that many reformed convicts have done, which is to dedicate their lives to helping others make different choices.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Consumer technology geeker-outer. "Seamlessly integrated" with social networky goodness. Unapologetic spoiler of a small, emotionally needy cat. Bullied kid for whom it got better. Frequent singer. Occasional dancer, actress, photographer, psychologist, public speaker and circus performer. Man-loving feminist. Member of the landed gentry. Innovator, Latina, Jew, human. I product manage for Bobsled by T-Mobile (@letsbobsled) but do not speak for them.

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