I’ve been following the Steubenville rape case and the aftermath. With this case, we have a lot to be horrified and disgusted about. We have a town obsessed with image and it’s football team, we have a lot of media sympathy for the wrong party, and we have a victim who is receiving death threats. It’s a clear example of rape culture in action, and the entire thing can only be called evil, while at the same time I’m not sure I can call it evil.
This is mostly because I think that when you say someone or something is “evil” you are removing that someone or something from the norms that created it in a way that is different from simply calling something criminal, illegal or unethical; it’s as if you’re pretending that the something that occurred was supernatural and beyond the norm in its malevolence. “Evil” is a metaphysical concept.
What do I mean by that? I mean that the crime that was committed is horrible, but not metaphysical in nature. I mean that the crime that was committed was the outgrowth of a dysfunctional society, a “rape culture” in which teenaged boys gleefully call themselves “The Rape Crew,” and commit horrible acts of abuse. I mean that if you call those teenaged boys evil, you should also be calling their parents, their teachers, and their lawyers evil. (Let’s also throw in the relatives and friends of the rapists, the media and all of the people who seem to be so horrified over the conviction.)
The list of evil people here would be pretty much infinite, especially if you consider that it is likely that the “Rape Crew” had probably gotten away with their activities in the past and it was only this most recent incident that was finally caught. (It is not difficult to imagine that this case was the tail end of a series of escalating incidents as the Rape Crew slowly became bolder.)
I also mean that if you are actually feeling sorry for a pair of teenaged rapists or their “Rape Crew,” then you need to examine your personal ethics. I mean that if you think the victim in any way “deserves” what happened because she was drunk or “careless” you may need to rethink your basic comprehension of “right” and “wrong.” This goes double if you try to weasel out of this self-examination by attempting to reason that rape is a natural consequence of a lack of commonsense, and state that the victim was being irresponsible. (I would also like to suggest you examine your morality if you think the rapists in turn should be raped.)
Rape culture is being more concerned about the “ruined” life of the rapists, over the ruined life of the victim. Rape culture is defending the news media when they reveal the name of a victim, even if the victim is underage. (I saw this in the comments of a Think Progress article. The man in question kept saying there was absolutely nothing illegal about revealing the name of the victim. Basic decency did not even seem to occur to this person. All that mattered to him was the lack of illegality, which apparently to him meant there was therefore nothing wrong with it.) Rape culture is blaming the victim for the crime. Rape culture is spending more time cautioning potential victims on what not to do instead of cautioning potential aggressors what not to do. Rape culture is a bunch of adults desperately trying to keep a teenaged victim from getting justice. Rape culture is threatening or harassing the victim after the fact.
“Evil” is a difficult concept to pin down, and a easy one to throw around.