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This Is What Rape Culture Looks Like

July 23, 2009

I often get asked what the phrase “rape culture” means. And while, honestly, the answer is no further away than wikipedia, it’s sometimes easier to grasp a concept by observing it in the wild.

Ben Roethlisberger is the Super-Bowl-winning QB of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last summer he was in Lake Tahoe for a celebrity golf tournament. While there, he flirted up a female host at Harrahs, the casino hotel where he was staying. Whether or not she voluntarlily flirted with him is unknowable – as a rich, high profile celebrity, he knew that it was her job to flirt with him, and so did she. That’s rape culture. When men make choices about what women do with their sexuality, that strengthens the idea that men can control women’s bodies.

The following night, he called her to say his TV wasn’t working – would she come take a look? She couldn’t find a tech person to do it, so she went herself, knowing that she had to do everything possible to keep her celeb guest happy. Once up there, she discovered a perfectly functioning TV. And then, allegedly, Roethlisberger blocked her exit and raped her. That’s rape.

When she reported the attack to Harrah’s security chief Guy Hyder, he declined to investiage and allegedly told her that she was “overreacting” and that “most girls would feel lucky to get to have sex with someone like Ben Roethlisberger.” He also told her to either keep it from their boss at Harrah’s, or to tell their boss they’d had sex voluntarily, in order to keep everybody happy. That’s rape culture. When people in power refuse to take women’s rape charges seriously, it means there are no consequences for rapists, which makes them more free to rape.

Later, while she was hospitalized for depression as a result of the assault, Hyder convinced her parents to give him the key to her house. He and other Harrah’s employees used it, allegedly, to enter her home without permission and erase information from her computer. That’s rape culture. When authorities use their power to deliberately silence rape victims instead of helping them find justice, it not only leaves rapists free but intimidates other victims from coming forward.

And now, as these details emerge, ESPN has instructed its entire team of reporters to not report any of this information. [Update: ESPN may be easing its ban, but it’s still unclear how much and what will be reported.] Yes, the same network whose sideline reporter is currently being exploited all over the ‘net in a peeping tom video. You’d think that would make them more sympathetic to the sexual exploitation of women just trying to do their job, but they’re too focused on protecting access to the star athletes who are their cash cows to even do their basic job as journalists. That’s rape culture. When our media won’t talk about rape, people think it doesn’t happen, and the rapists face no consequences. That emboldens rapists.

Gossip blogger Perez Hilton is already suggesting she may be a lying golddigger. That’s rape culture. As this woman’s case proceeds, her body, her actions, her mental state, motives and her history will be put on public trial in a way that would never happen if she were accusing someone of kidnapping or attempted murder. That’s rape culture. When women are too afraid of being re-victimized by the courts and the media to come forward, and when the public gets the message that women who accuse men of rape are lying or did something to deserve it, the cycle continues.

There is only one rapist alleged here. But there are so, so many participants. That’s rape culture, and it has to stop. In this case, let’s start with holding the media accountable for their role. Contact ESPN here.

[UPDATE #2: Read NBC Sports’ spot-on takedown of ESPN’s excuses for their “do not report” policy here. h/t Anna Clark]

156 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2009 11:09 am

    This whole story reminds me of a storyline on Aaron Sorkin’s show “Sports Night”. A big shot football player assaulted his girlfriend and someone on the Sports Night crew managed to get a locker room interview with him. The interviewer was female and the entire storyline revolves around the player’s assault on HER, which she blew off at first, then decided to press charges. She received numerous death threats and was dragged through the mud, much like this girl.

    It’s disgusting. I don’t think I go through a day without having rape culture rear its ugly head. Ugh.

  2. chris permalink
    July 23, 2009 11:15 am

    Great blog entry.

    A few years ago I saw a bumper sticker that said: “Men can stop rape”.

    I have to admit, I was completely shocked and had to take a few minutes to consider this.

    I’d like to think I am a well-educated, responsible and caring male but this statement took me completely by surprise.

    What I really think about is why such a true, accurate and simple statement would have that affect on me. I mean, it’s pretty obvious who is control and who makes the decisions when a man rapes a women but for some reason that bumper sticker took me by surprise.

    That’s when I realized that all the small comments, jokes, etc about women contribute to the rape culture you describe so well. These are everything from ‘dumb blond’ jokes to visiting the strippers all the way to prostitution, rape, etc.

    I also think this highlights an underlying issue in our society where despite all the talk to the contrary we still don’t respect women as equals or treat them that way.

    • July 23, 2009 5:50 pm

      thank you Chris, for your honesty – my daughter’s friend refers to some of her female friends as “bitches”, which I find appaliing!! Seems that’s their “lingo” and it’s no big deal…. maybe there’s an underlying disrespect among themselves?… I don’t know — all we can do, is bring awareness to finding a different way to express oneself, and notice how demeaning and destructive words, phrases and intention can be. My first sexual experience at age l6 was date rape – my daughter and son, know from where I come, and I will continue to “educate” them every day.

      • July 24, 2009 9:00 am

        In any culture where words are used to take down a person or class of people, taking ownership of that word can be the first step to reclaiming power.

        Referring to one’s female friends as “bitches” can be a positive thing in this manner. Context is crucial – as in anything. Especially as in rape culture.

        My derby name – Bitches Bruze – is taken from a Miles Davis album *Bitches Brew*. I can assure you, Mile’s use of the word “Bitches” is an empowering one for women. Listening to that music and contemplating the album art is all that should be required.

        We can enjoy women’s bodies safely and with their permission – including at strip clubs. Its the culture which makes strip clubs dangerous – not the clubs or the dancers themselves.

        Of course, I used to want to build a Jack and Jill strip club. Building businesses on principle takes a lot more money than I have though…

      • mamamojo permalink
        April 20, 2010 2:49 am

        Um, “Bitches Bruze” I think i get your sentiment, but actually, Miles Davis was not exactly the best example. He brutally beat his wife, actress Cicely Tyson. The couple divorced after seven years.

  3. Dawn Paul permalink
    July 23, 2009 12:39 pm

    Thank you, Jaclyn, for spelling this out, spinning it out, so completely.

  4. rainn01 permalink
    July 23, 2009 2:36 pm

    60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police and in many cases this is because the victim fears that they will not be believed. Only 6% of rapists ever spend a single day in jail. If you or someone you love has been a victim of sexual violence, you are not alone. To get help or information about how to help, consider calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE or instant message online with a professional at The hotlines are run by the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) and are secure, anonymous and confidential. To find out more about RAINN, check out

  5. July 23, 2009 2:57 pm

    Given the precise criminal charges that Ben Roethlisberger faces, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to name the particular type of transaction / relationship between male athletes and the media as “cash stud” rather than cash cow?

    Your exposé of the facets of rape culture as illustrated by the facts of this case is well done.

  6. July 23, 2009 4:28 pm

    I find ESPN’s reaction to be very troubling. I can understand having a policy discouraging reporting on civil lawsuits, but they still need to account for those cases which are clearly newsworthy and this certainly is. I know they’ve done it before, too. Just this year they reported on a lawsuit against former baseball player Roberto Alomar alleging that he recklessly infected a woman with AIDS. Likewise the Sexual Harassment lawsuit against Isiah Thomas and the New York Knicks. Clearly, they DO make exceptions to this rule, so it is still very valid to ask why haven’t they made an exception here. I have a very hard time believing that if a high-profile non-White athlete was sued on similar grounds, ESPN wouldn’t report the story.

    • Noelle permalink
      January 22, 2010 2:45 pm

      The racial dimension is interesting. Why are people still interested in using their positions of power to encourage hate?

  7. Rebecca permalink
    July 23, 2009 5:30 pm

    Thanks for passing along the info. I just wrote to ESPN to let them know how upsetting the viewers are finding it.

  8. emjaybee permalink
    July 23, 2009 9:37 pm

    Thanks for the link to their complaint page, I told them they were no better than rapists themselves to protect him and that they were making the world more dangerous for their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers. Which is true and I hope hits them right in the gut.

  9. TinaH permalink
    July 24, 2009 11:11 am

    I’m here from Shakesville. This was a fantastic take-apart of rape culture.

    I found the bumper sticker “Men can stop rape” to be equally jarring at first. Then, I thought about its corollary, “women can’t.” We’re not the ones raping. (Some exceptions may apply.)

    • Pat permalink
      November 28, 2012 3:01 pm

      If only the people who are actually rapists can stop rape, than most men can’t either.

      If my only power to stop rape is to not be a rapist… Well, first of all that’s a given. And secondly it doesn’t actually accomplish much in general.

      • November 10, 2013 6:47 am

        Ordinary men and women can try to question their beliefs and assumptions which support rape culture. If we continue blaming or disbelieving victims then rapists are free to rape, and may even not be aware that that’s what they are doing. I used to think that, in certain cases, the woman was ‘asking for it’. After a lot of reading, I know realise I was wrong. We need to make it a part of our culture that only a clear ‘yes’ counts as consent, and that without that, it is rape, not sex.

  10. Scott permalink
    July 24, 2009 12:08 pm

    I read this essay a scant few minutes after reading the following article on foxnews,2933,534665,00.html?test=latestnews

    and I am struck by the similarities between our allegedly modern and enlightened culture and an archaic and barbaric one.

    As a man, i take some different manners of offense to these crimes. I am shamed by such men who can not control themselves, and further feel they have no need to. It is useless throwbacks like Roethlisberger who give all men a bad name.

    I have many female friends, a sister a mother and a daughter and am consistently appalled by the statistics showing what percentage of women have been raped, or in our ever softened and less offensive lingo sexually assaulted ( is that terms existence rape culture?).

    • Essentialism & rape permalink
      March 23, 2010 4:49 am

      “I am shamed by such men who can not control themselves, and further feel they have no need to.”

      As a womanist man, I too am shamed and disgusted by these rapists. They represent the worst of masculinity in our times, I think you’ll agree.

      That said, and while I agree thoroughly with the rest of your post, I must take issue with the sentence quoted above. The language of “men who can not control themselves” almost seems to suggest that men have an inherent drive to rape, and that life in society requires us to just hold down this beast within us.

      I would argue, to the contrary, that it is sex we have an inherent drive for, while rape is just a symptom of a criminal or antisocial relationship to certain people (in this case, women): the belief that one is entitled to whatever one desires and that one can take it freely, disregarding the rights of others in the process. I have seen this behavior in other domains from men who I later learned were rapists, and it doesn’t seem to correlate with any level of sex drive, but rather with a belief in entitlement, self-importance and excessive self-esteem (that is, too high an opinion of oneself). I’m willing to bet Roethlisberger is the type who steals from roommates, blows his friends off whenever he doesn’t feel like putting in the effort, etc. and people let him get away with it because he’s a Super Bowl quarterback. Oh, and remember when he nearly splattered his brains across a Pittsburgh intersection because he decided he was too cool to wear a helmet on his motorcycle? He thought there were no consequences for his actions, probably because there usually aren’t.

      I think this speaks not to an inability to control one’s sex drive (if it were about that, he would have solicited a sex worker instead–the cost would be a drop in the bucket), but rather to a problem in how American society treats superstars in general and Super Bowl winning quarterbacks in particular. Along with the motorcycle incident, this may be only the second time in his life he’s ever faced the consequences of his actions. Shame on Roethlisberger, absolutely, but shame on the rest of us, too.

      • lex permalink
        September 14, 2010 3:35 am


        And I’d also like to say that hearing men say these things really really improves my day.

        Thank you.

      • Ehmiy permalink
        November 9, 2010 9:19 pm

        Before 6th grade, everyone in my class was friends– guys and girls. We saw eachother as “who” we were, not “what” we were. Now I’m finishing highschool and everything has changed. Girls and guys are separated, and anyone caught chatting with the opposite sex was considered “flirting”. Ugh that is so annoying. I guess as you get older you start seeing a bigger difference. I hated the thought that women were supposed to submit to men, and everytime someone told me that I couldn’t do something “because I was a girl” I would get furious. And then I would try and prove them wrong in their faces. I’m just stubborn and I have a lot more growing up to do I s’ppose…….
        But yeah– good to know there are still some guys out there who respect women and look at us as humans that have feelings and pride ;)!

      • Ariel permalink
        February 8, 2012 10:54 pm

        Ditto both of those comment replys. It’s truely wonderful to hear a guy actually care.

    • Pat permalink
      November 28, 2012 3:05 pm

      Sexual assault includes things that are not rape. I don’t see how feeling that these things are also part of the discussion is part of rape culture–if anything, I’d argue the opposite.

  11. Tammy permalink
    July 24, 2009 12:33 pm

    Conversely, There is complete silence from most media in reference to the recent quote from Tom Watson at the Open Championship (aka British Open) and his analogy to “taking advantage of a naked woman.” That is also rape culture

  12. July 24, 2009 2:33 pm

    I am cross posting this – hope you do not mind – this needs spread far and wide- I can be contacted at if there is a problem.

  13. Jennifer Roland permalink
    July 24, 2009 5:57 pm

    Great post.

    I would prefer that ESPN covered no news and just focused on sports highlights and trivia if they are going to pick and choose which stories will please the sports figures. Give me box scores and photo opps–nothing more, or else I might start to take you seriously as a journalistic endeavor and expect journalistic ethics and integrity.

  14. July 24, 2009 6:27 pm

    Grrr. from a disappointed Pittsburgh Steeler fan!

  15. Dawn. permalink
    July 24, 2009 7:26 pm

    You are SO right. Thank you for this direct, unapologetic, and accurate explanation of rape culture. This case is disheartening in the worst way–even many “progressive” individuals and media outlets are revealing themselves to be victim-blaming d-bags who are only reinforcing this systemic rape culture.

  16. July 24, 2009 9:16 pm

    These are important points you make. Thanks for bringing it out here. I think what we’re missing as a culture is basic respect — for self and for others. This subculture of our larger culture is a clear illustration of missing respect on so many sides by all the participants.

  17. Ann permalink
    July 24, 2009 9:17 pm

    Though I had heard of and seen many examples of rape culture, I didn’t know the term for it until this post. Thank you for the education.

  18. July 24, 2009 9:46 pm

    As I read this blog entry I was in a room full of my male co-workers and read it in it’s entirety out loud. The men went to another computer and looked up “Ben Rothlisberger Rape Charge” on line to get more details. I was shocked by some of the responses of the men I have worked closely with (some for over 10 years!) and their immediate disbelief in the womans account of what happened. They were quick to point out that she “waited” so long to actually report the incident. I heard comments from “She is just looking for money” to “Stupid Bitch”. As one of the few females that work in my department I was mortified by this. I told them so and even though they know me, they seemed to turn on me as if I was the person making the allegations. Strange.

    • jenn permalink
      October 24, 2009 12:04 am

      I am so incredibly sorry that you had that experience. I worked in a manufacturing plant on the grave-yard shift, with mostly 20-something males. That kind of reaction is something that I dealt with constantly. One of the guys that I worked with ended up in some serious trouble at work, and someone told the employers about the harassment I received at his hands (I was too scared to go and report him, because of the fall out that I knew would happen if I did).
      I was summoned to meet with human resources, and ultimately, I told them about some of the treatment I received from him. He was let go as a result of the combination of allegations of harassment and abuse from him…but…
      he had watched me go into the HR manager’s office, and promptly told all of his guy buddies on our shift that he saw me go in there.
      I wound up being ostracized like I never imagined possible. If I entered the lunch room, all the guys would get up and leave, en masse. If I asked a co-worker for a ride home (we ended our shift at 7am), they would say that as much as they would like to help me out, they couldn’t risk being seen as someone who was being friendly with me. I received phone calls threatening my well being, calling me all sorts of names, etc….
      The response of management?? To tell me that I could switch shifts, and lose my $2.00 per hour graveyard premium, or put up with it.
      There is a huge chasm between men and women, when it comes to this idea of rape culture…the question is, how do we close it?

      • ginmar permalink
        October 12, 2010 4:18 pm

        That is rape culture. The bosses could have done something there…and they didn’t. They’re going along with the culture of intimidation.

      • Eden permalink
        September 22, 2012 11:12 am

        I’m sorry that happened to you. We end it when men stand up to other men. When we, as a society, decide enough is enough. I’m not holding my breath.

  19. July 24, 2009 11:34 pm

    This is SOOO true! It’s why I have this deep, deep, innate sense of hatred of power. It’s a craving for power over other people that leads to a “rape culture!” (and many other ills such as political tyrants).

    Excellent term!

  20. Jessica permalink
    July 25, 2009 12:13 am

    Thank you for showing light on this subject. I was date raped many years ago, and when I went to the police to report it, they said that I was lying – because we were both out partying. I know exactly what happened – I WAS RAPED! And the San Jose Police Department raped me again by not pursuing the assailant. I feel more pain from that than from being raped because I expected them to protect me!

  21. July 25, 2009 9:44 am

    Thank you for this excellent article. I’ve been raped and sexually assaulted and didn’t press charges either time because I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold up under the scrutiny that rape victims deal with. I also felt it was worthless to try to pursue as they’d only believe the man and not me. I do feel that the culture we live in condones rape and I’ve said so many times. It’s horrifying.

  22. fatdown permalink
    July 25, 2009 2:41 pm

    I’ve been shocked at what my daughter has to put up with at work. It’s not rape but the comments and attitudes surprise someone who went through the discomfort of relating to other women during the Clarence
    Thomas hearings. I remember one morning I remember feeling uncomfrotable hugging female employees because of the stress those hearings had put on male female relationships. Now, we were at a natinoal newspaper and were probably more aware of what was going on.
    But still, must guys like me, or so I like to think, are careful what we say and leave doors at least cracked open during meetings with just one other female and so forth. I didn’t know what to expect when I clicked on this article. I had been side tracked by sushi. But I agree there is a dangerous attitude in our culture. I flirt and try to get women, and men, to laugh or at least smile all day. Its something I look forward to.
    Anyway, its not normal for a woman to say something about being harassed by a guy.
    My daughter has me, her father, and three brothers. In the past it would be our roll to crack some heads. But now we have to rely on the law and police and society supposedly, or pay some heavy consequences. But civilization isn’t living up to the role that supposedly makes violence or threats unneccesary, we aren’t doing the job.

    • Noelle permalink
      January 22, 2010 2:53 pm

      I wish that my family was as undersatnding as you!

  23. D. Roque permalink
    July 27, 2009 1:06 pm

    What messages are you sending your daughters, wives, mothers and your sisters when you do nothing? How are you telling them that they are honoured, respected and truely loved.I guess it is just funny, huh. I can’t begin to tell you what it is like to be raped, but if you ever go to a rape crisis center ( assuming you care enough), you will just begin to see the horror these women go through. So lets not forget to teach our mothers,sisters,wives and daughters that they DESRVE to be sexually assaulted! SHAME ON YOU! and GOD help the women in YOUR life.

  24. oh, please. permalink
    July 27, 2009 4:56 pm

    Oh, Fatdown, your poor poor oppressed mayyyunnnn. Calling attention to the oppression of women makes you so uncomfortable!

    And, yeah, screw trying to get justice through the courts. Justice should only be obtainable by women who have big strong daddies and brothers and husbands to defend their property wimminfolk. And if a woman’s being raped by one of her relatives? Well, pshaw, that’s family business!


  25. July 28, 2009 8:15 pm

    When the very essence of ‘rape culture’ emerges within society, a very real and very tragic sequence of events has taken place. The story posted regarding Ben Roethlisberger is deplorable. Although my feelings towards Mr. Roethlisberger transcend anger and disgust to loating – as they do towards any other man who uses sexuality as a tool of power, I truly believe this speaks to the very essence of power. I sincerely hope this realm of power can become a tool of change – change for women against a power struggle that leaves them victimized and lost. And although I know I will never tug the strings of rape culture – I will move forward with the knowledge that I can affect change by stopping the inherent nature of rape culture that I see so often these days…

  26. Will Weldon permalink
    July 30, 2009 6:01 pm

    I think we still have to remember that BR is being accused of raping her. We have no way of knowing yet what he or her employer actually did, and while I know some of you are speaking hypothetically, I think some of you have already made up your minds. No real evidence or details other then the allegations have come out yet, so it’s important to not rush to any judgments. Which really goes against everything the internet stands for, I know.

    I also think that celebrity isn’t being given enough credit in the reactions people have in these situations. It’s much easier to believe a “lowly” construction worker could be capable of rape then a beloved athlete. Why, they’d never do anything like that, because I live through them vicariously and that I would mean that I’m guilty of second hand rape. Too many people seem unable to look past the high powered PR machine employed by these poeple to make them seem like our “buddies” and become attached to them as if they’re a close friend.

    • ginmar permalink
      October 12, 2010 4:22 pm

      So you’re calling her a liar, basically. Based on nothing but the fact that you don’t want to believe her, and you absolutely have to support this guy. And that guy. And that other guy. It’s funny—-all the people you give the benefit of the doubt to are men, and powerful. Sheer coincidence, I’m sure.

      • December 30, 2010 12:50 pm

        Ginmar: Just because someone supports the idea that someone should be treated as innocent until proven guilty, it does not mean that he believes the woman to be a liar who is accusing a man of rape.

        Our legal system is set up to give the accused the “benefit of the doubt” until such evidence can be provided that can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the crime alleged.

        I find it disturbing that you would insist that we treat people accused of rape any differently in our judicial system than we would treat murderers or other violent (and non violent) criminals.

        If you had your way, would you wish that our legal system forced the accused rapist that he prove he was innocent?

  27. ariseile permalink
    August 2, 2009 7:59 pm

    I just wanted to say that I checked out the link to the wikipedia page on rape culture, and your definition of rape culture provided in this post is far, far better. Because I really don’t think that page would make a lot of sense to anyone who doesn’t already have an inkling of what the term ‘rape culture’ means. There’s way too much unnecessary lingo. Anyways, kudos on an insightful post and a great definition. Keep up the oh-so-necessary work, please!

  28. BethDiane permalink
    August 15, 2009 9:55 am

    Luckily for Jane Doe, in spite of the fact that the security guard came into her home and messed with her computer, no computer file ever really goes away unless the hard drive gets fried, destroyed, or reformatted. If none of those things have happened to her computer, those files can be retrieved.

    The same is also true for anything that ever gets posted on the Internet. Food for thought, isn’t it?

  29. August 31, 2009 7:59 pm

    I just read an interview with Jaclyn Friedman, and got wowwed by the accuracy of the term “rape culture” Of COURSE that’s what it is! We needed the language! I have 2 questions to ask of womynkind. A), why isn’t self defense taught as a fundamental, essential right to every womyn child on the planet? Why with the appalling sacrificial/murder rate of womyn, aren’t there more safe houses?? And B) WHY can’t womyn understand that MGM, Male Genital Mutilation or circumsicion, usually performed when the babe is on the breast, manifests itself as rage, misogyny and violence later in life. PLEASE educate the planet that ALL genital mutilation is a crime.

    • Less Popular Time permalink
      May 18, 2011 12:41 pm

      Your A) comment makes sense. Your comment B)…well, that explains why historically almost all rapists were Jewish.

      Your comment B) is completely whack. As someone with a circumcised penis who has never come anywhere close to raping anyone, the notion that circumcision causes men to rape does nothing but give some a-holes an excuse for their misogyny. I was circumcised back when everybody was doing it regardless of religion, and I’m glad I was, for several reasons.

      If I may be blunt, from what I understand about male vs. female sexual response time generally, the last thing most men need is to be way more sensitive.

      To compare male circumcision to FGM is preposterous. That’s why “female circumcision” is such a terrible euphemism. It would be more accurate to call FGM “female castration.”

      Really appreciate the post and comments, but I had to react to this one.

      Best regards,

  30. September 1, 2009 11:09 am

    Yes, this is a rather late reply to this article, but I’ve just stumbled on it. Full disclosure: I am a Steeler fan that was saddened by the fact that I was going to have to switch teams to be a fan of, if these allegations were true. I’m no longer a Lakers fan because Kobe is still on the team.

    But this is different. Every bit of evidence, suggests that the accuser is lying, and that this was a case of consensual sex. I think the accuser that is looking for a big payday from a lie, is doing more to promote rape culture than ESPN ever could. She is contributing to promoting the first response to the claim of rape as being “is she lying?” which is not what the first response should be.

    • where you on the jury? permalink
      October 30, 2009 4:56 am

      Most cases of rape have no evidence, ESPECIALLY when the victim and assailant are at least acquainted – as it is clear in this case the two were. Leave the judgment to a jury – which is actually presented ALL the evidence, and officially as well. Also, it would take one hell of an actor to fake the emotional response women have to rape. If you don’t know, don’t judge. If you weren’t on that jury, and you don’t have access to certified evidence, do not accuse this woman of lying. Admittedly, false cases do arise (i.e. Duke Lacrosse). I don’t have statistics on any of what I’m about to presume, and no citable evidence, but I’d be willing to bet my life that there is a more than a significant number of unreported rape cases than false charges. So your jumping to conclusions in this case, because of a suspicion of star fucking for monetary gain, very much contributes to rape culture. While I firmly believe that you are entitled to believe whatever you want, I also believe that the voicing of disbelief in a woman’s claim with no conclusive evidence discourages other rape victims from reporting their attacks. Speaking from experience as a rape victim that didn’t report my attack, reading presumptions like yours was a large factor in why I never did.

      • Ariel permalink
        February 8, 2012 11:24 pm

        The amount of false rape accusations/reports is about 1.2%. Less then the percent for cars falsely reported stolen.

  31. ammonoid permalink
    September 16, 2009 6:48 pm

    Who cares if the damn TV was functioning? Who is to say the rapist didn’t break it on purpose to get her to come to his room? Why are you dwelling on minutia that have NOTHING to do with anything? Can it be that you are making excuses for a rapist?

  32. Ben permalink
    September 22, 2009 8:49 am

    Oh come on Adam. What Rick is saying has nothing to do with race. There are actually serious questions about these accusations, though they certainly haven’t been brought up. These include affadavits and statements by several friends and co-workers saying that McNulty inquired whether she would get in trouble for going to Roethlisberger’s room and having sex with him, and then bragging about it afterwards and saying how great the experience was. Most troubling, it also includes a large number of texts and emails filed in court and given to media outlets, in which McNulty not only brags about the incident, talks about plans to see Roethlisberger again and joking about carrying his baby, but also an email sent before the incident joking about asking God to give her the strength to keep her from going to his room and “fixing his tv”.
    It is possible all of these emails and statements are all fake, but this would be fairly extreme given the enormous legal consequences every conspiritor would risk just to protect a client of a hotel.
    Now imagine they are all telling the truth, that there was no break in and information erasing , and that ESPN had access to these emails before they were filed and didn’t want to be in front of they pack reporting civil charges that seemed to be quite false. The “rape culture” in this one instance would evaporate.
    I am very sympathetic of rape victims, as I am of victims of false accusations. I believe it is important to expose rape culture where it exists. But ignoring any information that goes against one’s point, especially where such serious accusations are concerned, is bad journalism, bad blogging and bad social criticism. When I was going through journalism school, we were taught that if you reported charges or accusations against someone, you were responsible for following their story to its conclusion, reporting all pertinent information the whole way along. If they were found innocent or charges were dropped, you should give this as much prominence as you did the initial accusation. I hope that if Ben Roethlisberger is found inncocent or the charges are dropped, this is not ignored on this blog the way all these emails and statements were, whether or not this contradicts your picture of this incident as rape culture.

  33. Sad permalink
    October 5, 2009 3:20 pm

    This is awful. What is the status of this? Is it still useful for us to write in to ESPN at this point?

  34. jenn permalink
    October 24, 2009 12:08 am

    Really??? Why does there even need to be weight added to her “story”??? How about looking at the ramifications of his actions, and putting the onus on him, not her??

    that right there, in that little blurb you just wrote, is a shining example of rape culture. You just contributed to it. Good job.

  35. October 27, 2009 1:33 pm

    this is brilliantly put.

  36. jenn permalink
    October 27, 2009 5:53 pm

    I am hoping that you mean this in a most sarcastic way.

    • October 27, 2009 6:11 pm

      Mod note: A Damned Soul’s trolling comments deleted.

  37. jenn permalink
    October 27, 2009 7:36 pm

    thanks Thomas!!! That was a really horrible comment to read…

  38. Quick note permalink
    March 23, 2010 4:19 am

    Thanks so much for this–I know it’s been a while, but this will stand the test of time as an illustrative example of what rape culture is, and you have ably dissected it to show us each of the ugly parts.

    I must point out, though, and this is not to nitpick, but rather to help you see something you may have overlooked, so you can make sure you’re saying exactly what you mean to say, either way:

    When you said “And then, allegedly, Roethlisberger blocked her exit and raped her. That’s rape.”

    I think you may have meant to say “That’s rape culture” instead of “That’s rape.” Seems a bit redundant otherwise, and “That’s rape culture” is exactly the kind of punchy, concise but powerful sentence I thought you meant to put there.

  39. Cheapjack permalink
    June 24, 2010 8:33 am

    Some cultures have so much of a rape culture, that police forces enourage it. And, we’re not talking about the 3rd world!

  40. February 10, 2011 7:43 pm

    Nice post and summary of something I didn’t know there was a word for until a week or two ago. Except one thing:
    “as a rich, high profile celebrity, he knew that it was her job to flirt with him, and so did she. ”
    I don’t see how he would “know” – OR that it’s “her job to flirt with him” – it seems to me you’ve fairly well made up your mind about what happened. How about innocent until proven guilty in a court of law?
    Except for that, yeah, pretty much sums it up, I have no other objections.

  41. Aubs permalink
    February 25, 2011 10:24 am

    I was called a liar, too. That doesn’t make it any less true.

  42. Vel permalink
    December 30, 2011 2:24 am

    Dickwolves and Team RAPE. Being a female gamer, I followed that whole travesty.

    If you are not familiar with it, I’ll try to summarize it: Over at Penny Arcade there was a comic in which a slave, wanting to be rescued, referenced severe beatings in the morning and being raped to sleep by dickwolves at night. The hero refuses to save him as said hero has filled his quota. I personally didn’t find it particularly offensive, especially since it wasn’t the punchline; it was parodying real MMO quests that work like this, and the whole comic is filled with references to violence, arson, bestiality, etc. Some readers, both male and female, pointed out that the rape reference could be a trigger to someone with PTSD. I can understand that; indeed the whole series could be a trigger concerning any number of crimes or war itself.

    Instead of being mature about it and taking this opinion into account, the creators post an incredibly demeaning and patronizing comic stating something like, “We do not promote rape. Rape is bad. If you’re raping now because of our comic, stop it.” Basically a non-apology apology completely misrepresenting the issue. Even more people, including myself, found it even more offensive than the first. It was a shitstorm after that.

    The comic’s creators made dickwolves shirts available, but then pulled them for their convention, citing that they wanted everyone to feel safe. Yet in a Twitter comment, Mike said it he’d be wearing his dickwolf shirt to the expo. Hypocritical much? He also said on Twitter that he was happy to contribute to the rape culture. Meanwhile, a supporter of his made Team RAPE on Twitter and used it to harass critics. One woman who was a rape survivor was asked for evidence that she was raped, and then accused of lying about it, with assholes spreading rumors that she lied about it to make money.

    Word’s cannot explain how I feel about people like Mike, Team RAPE, et. al.; to me they are the scum of the earth. They should be forced to read this post and ones like it.

  43. April 26, 2012 2:41 am

    Reblogged this on Preconscious and commented:
    Rape culture, rape jokes, “make me a sandwich” jokes, calling men ‘girly’ to be meant as an insult, calling women who chose to explore their sexuality ‘sluts’ – THAT is all rape culture. And it should be acknowledged, and changed. We all need to wake up.

  44. June 1, 2012 9:27 pm

    Reblogged this on Ardentmeld's Blog and commented:
    Great blog regarding rape culture.

  45. Suzette permalink
    June 15, 2012 8:14 am

    Whaaaat ? It was her job to flirt ? Hell no !

    It was her job to smile and be polite, that’s not flirting. Then it was her job to find someone to repair the TV, not go in there herself.

    If she flirted with him and then went into his bedroom to do something she was not even remotely qualified to do. How is society supposed to know she is telling the truth about not wanting sex with him ?

    Hence the lengthy court proceedings. Still, if she went to the hospital / police, it would have been investigated fully.

    Your argument is a pile of bullshit. I’ve been “assaulted” once I guess, a guy touched my ass in the elevator at work. I reported him and never even saw him again. They escorted him out of the building. I was totally surprised they wouldn’t even confront us or anything…. Apparently there was a tape.

    Still, no one pressured me or anything, it was investigated and taken care of.

    • January 13, 2013 2:30 pm

      Have you ever worked in hospitality? Depending on the culture of the establishment, even with non-famous customers there is a tremendous amount of pressure to accept unwanted advances and even flirt back, whether or not you want to. If you don’t respond to flirting with flirting, you face the risk of the customer complaining about you to management, who often will side with the customer over their employee. I’ve even seen customers flat-out lie about what happened. On one notable occasion I was sort-of witness to (it happened where I worked and I knew the employees involved, but I did not know the customer), a wealthy but not famous male customer made a very lewd and inappropriate comment to a young female employee, and she politely told him that she was unable to assist him any further, but that the male employee standing nearby (who overheard all this and supported her) could assist him. The customer later complained to management, accusing the female employee of coming on to him and then attempting to extort him. If not for the male employee who witnessed their interaction and supported the female employee’s account, she very easily could have lost her job (as it was, she was training for a promotion that was practically guaranteed, but suddenly went to someone else instead after this incident). Even with the witness and with other female employees coming forward to say that the customer had behaved inappropriately to them, management remained suspicious of her and she wound up leaving the job less than a year later, after being passed up for 2 more deserved promotions. And, to keep with the topic of the article, that is rape culture.

      Even in less egregious circumstances, young women working in hospitality or retail often feel pressure to be “nice” and flirt back. And when a celebrity is there, there’s pressure on everyone to bend over backwards and make them happy. If you don’t think that a woman working as a casino host for a famous client wouldn’t feel pressure to flirt and maybe even check out his TV, then I don’t know what to say. I don’t know whether to believe this particular woman, as there has been some credible evidence that she planned the sexual encounter–which still doesn’t mean it couldn’t have become a rape, but it does raise some serious questions about her account. But the claim that it’s her job to flirt with and even to go above and beyond her job description to keep a celebrity guest happy isn’t really out there at all.

      Also, while as I said the casino host’s story isn’t totally credible, it also isn’t the only time Roethlisberger has been accused of sexual assault (though I believe it was the only one that was public at the time this article was originally written), and at least one other accusation is very believable if you don’t buy into the rape culture “women frequently lie about rape” BS. I’m not sure I believe the casino host’s story, but I’m also pretty comfortable believing that Roethlisberger has raped at least one woman.

    • July 15, 2014 3:13 am

      @ Suzette: You’re right, it was her job only to smile and be polite, but so many managers expect their staff, both male and female, to flirt back to customers who are flirting with them, especially the female employees. I’ve seen it myself and it disgusts me, which is why I’ve never flirted with anybody serving me.

  46. Girl living in a PRO rape culture Area permalink
    June 20, 2012 5:20 am

    I was raped in Wrens Georgia, which prooved it’s self an incredible rape culture by not acknowleding the rape. It’s a rape culture which has flowed over into Aiken South Carolina, by the sheriff of Aiken county ruling an illegal entry (i woke up to find a stranger had entered my secured home) and telling me “under the good samaritan act it is legal for total strangers to open your closed fromt door and enter your home, calling it a well being check.” I called the soliciters office, and the Aiken co sheriff’s office Internal affair, and they responded by sending a police officer out to tell me that if I ever called about the subject again they would arrest me for “harrassment of a governmental agency” The Aiken/Augusta area is a solidified rape culture.

  47. AitchCS permalink
    November 30, 2012 12:04 pm

    When I watched The Invisible War. I really got, finally, what rape culture is.

  48. January 18, 2013 10:12 pm

    It’s fantastic that you are getting thoughts from this piece of writing as well as from our dialogue made at this time.

  49. April 26, 2013 9:58 pm

    Hi there, every time i used to check webpage posts here in the early hours in the dawn, as i
    love to learn more and more.

  50. July 14, 2014 3:54 pm

    As a man, what really gets me is all those ads telling women to prevent rape by not wearing certain clothing. If you ask me, it would be far better to have posters saying, “It doesn’t matter what she’s wearing if you can’t keep it in your pants.”


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