There was no rape episode on 'Leave It To Beaver' [UPDATED]

Those widdle wascals!

UPDATE: Kershner has added this addendum to the piece

 Some people seem to have misunderstood my point. Mays presented himself to adults far differently than to his friends. I used a TV character many people would remember to illustrate the insincerity of his text to the victim’s father. The string of text messages linked below amply demonstrates how abominably he acted toward the victim, who deserves everyone’s support.

Unfortunately, the use of that character as reference is entirely in keeping with the rest of the media's apparent tendency to recast the rapes as youthful indiscretions. What was Eddie Haskell's most egregious crime? Anyway, poor choice of metaphor, blog post stands. 


I'll tell you how not to start your morning: like I did. I crushed my soul catching up on the Steubenville rape case. While still in bed. Really dumb.

Seriously, do not read the text message transcripts of all the lol's and bragging-lying flip-flopping that happened during and after the atrocity commited against the 16 year old woman before you've hugged your loved ones. Most definitely do not watch the video that helped kick off scrutiny of the incident when KnightSec leaked it. 

And I guess, don't go to the biggest website for daily news in town, because you're going to get kicked in the gut there, too.

This is how the Chron's Vlae Kershner -- the news director and sometimes sportswriter (UPDATE: I guess he writes about all kinds of stuff, oh current media climate!) who has been covering the case on SFGate -- starts out today's "Hot Topics" column on yesterday's sentencing of Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond. 

Fans of classic TV will remember Eddie Haskell from “Leave It To Beaver”. Making mischief, getting his friends in trouble, sucking up to their parents as if he were the nicest boy who ever lived.

As a Guardian writer I am generally required by profession to digress with what the Chronicle writes in most, if not all circumstances, but this is beyond. The fucking. Pale. 

How do you make young women who have been molested look like they are the aberrations? Starting off with the most innocuous sitcom in, oh, television history is a really good stab at it. Eddie Haskell? Did Eddie Haskell rape anybody? The next line of Kershner's column is this: 

If the writers had cast Eddie as the bad guy in a crime show instead of a sitcom, he might have resembled Trent Mays.


It goes from there. You can read the rest if you're interested in the pathos of retro musings that'll embarasss their author for years to come. As yesterday's similar debacle of the fawning CNN reporters proved, we have a serious problem here.

That serious problem is not that a bunch of football players in Steubenville, Ohio are sexual predators (they are.) Those boys didn't build a society that is built on treating women like chattel when they're in vulnerable situations. But they are a fucked up iteration of it and no single person should feel bad for them being sentenced to years in jail.

We should feel bad that their coach, parents, small town, media, world taught them that putting it in a girl's ass when she's unconscious, taking photos of it, and bragging about it is what a man does in this brave new Internet era.

The problem is that people get raped all the time. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, rapes happen every two minutes in this country. And 97 percent of those rapists never spend a single day in prison. 

So maybe society needs a trigger warning. 

Maybe it made Kershner feel better to tell himself that Mays' and Richmond's behavior is just boys being boys, or boys being boys in a new weird way that 1950s TV couldn't have predicted. Duh, boys aren't bad! Society isn't based on oppression, men don't need to examine their actions, and women don't need to adjust to the fact that they live in a society where one in six of us report having been (which is different from having been) raped. 

How should we be writing and talking about this stuff? How about education? How soon is too soon to start counteracting the messages that little boys and girls get every day, all around them on buses and late-night talk shows, and in presidential debates? 

I think the important thing, too, is to hear less from the people who hear "Steubenville" and think "Leave It To Beaver" and more from the people who hear "Stuebenville" and it makes their world end, albeit briefly (like this hella brave blogger who came in with the Twitter screengrab on those assholes.) That feeling is not coming out in the media, and I think if the former group is going to learn a damn thing from this episode it's going to take the latter group stating their feelings uncompromisingly. 

I bet you didn't think this was going to end in shameless self-promotion, but surprise! The Guardian (in conjuncture with Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center and Artists' Television Access) has been planning a Women's History Month screening on Monday, March 25 of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof's global look at violence against females and other women's issues. The discussion that follows the screening will be a great opportunity to talk about what to do in a post-Steubenville world -- or what to do about making it a post-Steubenville world. Please come, there will be adult beverages if you're into that kind of thing. 

Women's History Month screening: Half the Sky

Mon/25, doors at 6:30, film at 7pm, free

Artists' Television Access

992 Valencia, SF

Facebook event



Is there really nothing more important and this to report on?

Or is the old adage about sex always selling?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

You don't have daughters

Posted by caitlin on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 2:23 pm


Posted by caitlin on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 2:23 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 2:56 pm

weird thing to get angry over

Posted by caitlin on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 2:58 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

don't be an asshole

Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 9:00 pm

Rape is not sex. It's about power and violence.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 10:40 pm

Get over the old-school talking points. If rape weren't about sex, it wouldn't involve sexual organs.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2013 @ 7:20 pm

It's almost as though the San Francisco Chronicle presents a viewpoint well to right of most San Franciscans.

Posted by generic on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

Only from the very peculiar SFBG standards does it appear right-wing, but that tells us more about SFBG than it does about the Chron.

The Chron was around 50 years ago and will be around in 50 years time as well. The SFBG is already on it's last legs, and they cannot even give it away for free.

SFBG was always ever only a vehicle for hooker ad's.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

true - sfbg is not a publication best suited for middle-of-the-road, status-quo-beholden, anonymous trolls.

thanks for taking the chron to task, caitlin.

... and it's "sex worker ads", buddy.

Posted by Lee on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

moderation, tolerance or ability to see both sides of any story.

Fun with words, huh?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 3:06 pm


Posted by caitlin on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 3:50 pm

You're here, aren't you?

Posted by marcos on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

And will be here after you pass on.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

I may just be a girl who's bad at math and generally asking for it but how does that work?

Posted by PJ on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

article, and its author's righteous efforts to challenge stupid comments like the first one above.

Down with stupidity (and sexism)!!!

Power to the thoughtful!!!

Posted by San Francisco Anti-Stupidity Campaign on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 3:16 pm

Caitlin, I'm not sure how the politics of personal outrage at the use of language stops rape.

You don't know what else the archetypal "Eddie Haskell"s did back in the 1950s because the character was an antisocial secretive sucking up little prick, and the words "date" and "rape" had never been used in the same sentence at the time. In those days, widespread view was either it was a violent attack rape which would send you to the gas chamber, especially if race was involved, or it was that they knew each other, she really meant yes, and "boys will be boys." That is not what I believe or agree with, it is what my impressions of the 1950s are.

It was not until the women's movement in the early 1970s, you know, the one that actually organized and mobilized women to demand social change, that public perceptions about rape began to change. But that required women organizing, actually doing something other than venting outrage.

You might not remember this stanza from this solid gold mega hit from 1970, "In the Summertime" by Mongo Jerry:

If her daddy's rich, take her out for a meal
If her daddy's poor, just do what you feel
Speed along the lane
Do a turn or return the twenty-five
When the sun goes down You can make it, make it good and really fine

It is not like patently offensive language like this, sexist AND classist, that sold 30,000,000 units, encouraged more men to rape. As this song hit the charts, feminist consciousness rose independently due to organizing and the system got serious about rape prosecution.

What I think we're reading in the Chron piece are the defense mechanisms that go up when people see people who they view as being "just like them" doing horrific things. There must be a reasonable explanation for it that comports with their culture and experience. And when there is not, they try to craft one no matter how contrived to try to make sense of it for themselves.

Over the past 20 years, the women's movement has stood down on the organizing front, becoming a base rousing adjunct of the Democrat Party, and as a result, now < 50% of women support reproductive choice and there is no organized power capable of mobilizing for further social change. Hell, the Democrats aceded to the damn Stupak Amendment in order to get insurer corporate welfare ACA passed.

The legal system in the Steubenville case worked as it should, the perps went down for the max, as they do most every time that law enforcement has evidence to bring a rape case. It is not like there is some grand conspiracy amongst good ole boys to excusify rape. And, no, minors should never be tried as adults, not until they enjoy the rights and privileges of adults, even if their crimes gore your ox.

It is not like there is any evidence that the use of language, in the Chron piece or in the song, lowers the barrier that inhibit rapists raping. Not every bit of writing has to respect every readers' sensitivities. This idea that everyone's language and conduct should constrain themselves to the norms of a minority of educated, straight, white, progressive women or else they're being oppressed is a bit much, don't you think?

Shit, I've got old school lesbian friends who think that "Under My Thumb" by the Rolling Stones is one of the best songs ever written and they're not even into BDSM (that I know of).

Posted by marcos on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 5:10 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

This post is offensive to my sensibilities that all rejoinder should at least try to be logical.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 6:43 pm

that you have perfected, rather sadly.

Posted by anon on Mar. 19, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

was it a "legitimate" rape?

Posted by Chromefields on Mar. 20, 2013 @ 10:21 am

Reading comprehension? Caitlin fails the remedial test. Abysmally.

Rape is an awful, terrible, violent crime.

But Vlae Kershner did nothing to minimize that essential truth in that article. Nothing. Nada. Zero. You could make the point that CNN did in its coverage, but not Kershner. Not if you're honest.

He was making an entirely different point. One that sailed right over your head.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 22, 2013 @ 4:19 pm