We're doing a series on the
ten most sordid social welfare cases.
--I Am Curious (Yellow), 1967
Subtitle: Stupidity Masquerading as Violence and Redemption.
Talk about turning rutabagas into sunflowers.
Our group think culture has taken a tawdry act on the part of all parties and massaged it into a cause célèbre. The incipient plucky heroine of the recent Stanford sexual assault case has a book contract and is well-placed for a Medal of Freedom.
Except, she is no heroine, and the story of this case lies in a place other than where the media shines its spotlight. However, everything is to be wrung dry for its entertainment value, or for its exploitation by vested interests, and "Emily Doe" is a "Citizen Ruth" for our times.
Vice President Joe Biden called her "courageous" and the Swedish passers by, "heroes". One of the ersatz news programs gave her 12-page manifesto one-half hour of valuable air play. Last week "House Members United to Read Stanford Rape Victim's Letter" (except in their passion they and the NYT got it wrong -- it was not rape but sexual assault.)
Representative Ann McLane Kuster, Democrat of New Hampshire said, “We are all Emily Doe,” a la President Kennedy's momentous, "Ich Ein Berliner" speech.
But no, we are not. Not unless you go to a frat party after drinking four shots of whisky and drinking two more of vodka and unknown quantities of beer and then go with a younger frat boy behind a dumpster, for that is who Ms. Doe is.
At the moment, she is an addict and possibly a sexual predator, most likely just wanting to get her kink on with a younger man. (The distance from 19 y.o. male freshman to a 22 y-o female graduate is great.)
The young man, Brock Turner, is nothing special in this regards, and neither is she. It is hardly the "night that ruined her life", as she began drinking her shots eyes wide open.
In reality, it will be the night that made her -- undeservedly -- something special in our culture of instantaneous stardom. She will possibly do the media rounds to capitalize and monetize her moment, and crocodile tears will be shed over the actions of the Big Bad Wolf.
She says she was "robbed of [her] worth", but she did that to herself before she went behind the dumpster to have sex with a frat boy three years her junior. (You didn't think they were going to read "Ulysses", did you?)
She calls herself "Everywoman", and why not? It's a heady moment for her. I suspect it is not her first rodeo, and an erstwhile skanky scene has been spit-polished into a story of true grit.
But she doesn't speak for me, not at any point in my life.
I don't care to talk of the young man, for he is a known quantity: 19 y-o male drinking heavily at a frat party. His role as an insecure and/or horny young male is to find the low-hanging fruit and schtup her; call it a night. He could be a necrophiliac in training, or maybe just a young American male getting ready for the sort of action he can anticipate after graduation when he marries a sorority girl.
But the female is the sticking point in this story, and we are not viewing it for what it actually is.
The obvious untold story is the substance abuse of the designated victim and her choice to be in a frat house party environment so drunk that she did not wake up for six hours after the act. The violence in this story is self-inflicted and issues from the same fonts which are now celebrating her victim-hood, who run flashy stories which depict drunken celebrity party-goers as having the time of their lives.
The violence may lie in having the misfortune to live an entitled and cosseted life as so many Santa Barbara residents do. In having a mother who would deposit you at a frat house party after you had already consumed four shots of whisky.
One subtext of this story is misogynistic. The press and politcoes are falling over the 12-page victim’s statement, but implicit in their surprise is that not all women who drink to the point of being comatose are illiterate hootchie mamas. In fact, they exist in number, but we are not interested.
This is what passes for a "feel-good" story today. Predictably, we get up in arms. We act like we are shocked and outraged, like we actually care about the plight of women (and men for that matter.)
My guess is that the 12-page manifesto was either a compiled effort by a women's group who saw their moment in the sun, or the writer herself is a borderline personality, either of which was necessary to push this story into the spotlight, with a bump from social media. But beyond the uncovered substance abuse and misogyny lies yet another story, that of privilege.
This sort of thing happens every day of the week in most towns, but the participants are not often white frat boy potential future Olympians or UC-Santa Barbara grads. The privilege of the participants alone is what makes it newsworthy. It feeds our salacious desire to have the privileged white man atone, or for self-flagellation, depending upon your affiliation.
The ultimate irony is that the outlets which are supposedly uber-sympathetic to this woman, couldn't give a damn that the same thing (and far worse) happens every day of the week to younger or older, non-white, non-Santa Barbara grads. What they dare not say is: those stories are ugly. This story is pretty, so it has legs.
We get to discharge more collective vitriol, hate the judge ("off with his head!"), and feel very smug, righteous and strac, for a bit.
Very probably, had the Swedish bicyclists not happened by the scene, we never would have heard about the matter; it wouldn’t look good for either party. (Wouldn't be prudent, as a Bush père might've said.)
What makes this a good story is that white male privilege gets a knock (and we will give a pass to the white female of privilege, ignoring the actual issues at hand.) Messy facts simply do not matter today.
The fact is, the press on this issue will change nothing, because the things which can be changed are not being addressed. But the folks on Capital Hill get some nice press and ensuing gravitas by leeching on to the non-story.
Here's a surprise: young men like sex, and if you put yourself in an extremely compromising position, you cannot cry wolf. For all our enlightenment, we may not re-engineer human brains or hormones. But what we could address is the culture of binge drinking, and to do so honestly would require both males and females to take responsibility for their actions.
You don’t get to wave the red flag in front of the bull and not elicit a reaction, or claim naivete when you do. (Drinking' til you're trashed does not provide plausible deniability.) You may re-educate, but that training will go by the wayside once one’s executive functions have been overridden with booze.
Lesson: Everyone must be responsible. If you want to get wasted, have a designated escort to watch over you; better yet, do it at home, or among a group of trusted, platonic friends. Best -- don’t get that wasted, and choose your environments wisely.
Ms. Doe should not be book-worthy until she enters and successfully completes a course of rehab, and stays clean and sober for six months. She can then write from a position of understanding a cautionary "life of an addict" book, and it will be one of much too many.
Next: A Year of Inanity