Hobbies are cool. They’re a fun way to make friends and discover our true passions. I love hearing about what makes people excited about life, whether it be theatre, sports or community service. Hobbies are great, but they’re not always relevant to the conversation. Like, for instance, when someone commits a violent sexual crime. That’s when I stop giving a flying fuck about what makes people tick.
Take Brock Turner. He was, apparently, a great swimmer – though I have a sneaking suspicion that his talents may have grown greater in a move to retroactively inflate his good character. Swimming is a cool activity and I’m sure he derived great joy from jumping in the pool everyday. But we don’t know Brock Turner because of his prowess in the pool. We know him because he raped a young woman at a party. His claim to fame is not based on his passion project, but rather a violent crime he committed against a compromised young woman.
So why the fuck are we even discussing his swimming career?
Rape is a truly tragic, terrifying crime. Nobody can imagine it happening to themselves or their loved ones. We promote the idea that rape is committed almost exclusively by strangers jumping from dark alleys in the middle of the night. We say that “real rapists” are older creeps who keep duct tape and rope in the back of their windowless vans. Rape is committed by those we don’t know – by those we can avoid. If we give ourselves something to look out for we can ensure our safety. But nothing is further from the truth. The vast majority of sexual assaults are committed by acquaintances.
To promote Brock Turner as a star athlete is a thinly-veiled effort to separate him from the “real rapists,” the predators of our worst nightmares and most fascinating episodes of Dateline. Most of us know somebody who is passionate about sports. Most of us know young men who resemble Brock Turner. Most of us don’t know somebody who hangs out in dark alleys, stalking women as they walk home alone. It’s terrifying to think you may KNOW a rapist, so rather than confront this disturbing idea, we create a fake profile of what a rapist is and is not.
But it doesn’t benefit us to perpetuate this lie. Because, no matter what you think a “real rapist” is, real rape is committed by people across all walks of life. Creating a false, narrow profile of a predator only helps to invalidate the testimony of victims (no matter how graphic and compelling that testimony may be). And that shit has got to stop.
Brock Turner’s swimming didn’t prevent him from raping his victim anymore than her talents caused it. They’re absolutely irrelevant facts. The same way any victim’s clothes or sexual activity are irrelevant. What matters are the events that occurred on THAT ONE NIGHT. What matters are the effects of the crime on the victim, not the melancholy demeanor of a young man who was forced to take responsibility for his crimes.
So don’t try to talk to me about what a great swimmer Brock Turner was. Don’t try to tell me what great football stars the Steubenville rapists could have been. Don’t talk to me about what a profound influence Bill Cosby’s comedy has had on society.
We seem so concerned about creating a character that could not possibly be perceived as a rapist that we don’t take any consideration into raising boys with values that will actually prevent them from becoming rapists. We tell men to be upstanding citizens in public while avoiding teaching them how to behave in private. We tell women to avoid dangerous situations, to not let themselves become compromised. But it’s been proven time and again that the most talented and charming of individuals can commit the most grotesque acts. So rather than teaching young men to not look like a rapist, how about we start teaching them to not behave like one?
I don’t give a shit about Brock Turner’s extracurriculars anymore than I care about Ted Bundy giving his female coworkers rides home from work. That’s a super gentlemanly way to behave, but even a gentleman can become a violent criminal.
The sooner we stop talking about what great guys people like Brock Turner were before they committed rape, the sooner we can start enacting justice for the victims of these crimes.
Molly Regan is an improviser and writer in Baltimore. She likes chicken pot pie, Adam Scott’s butt and riot grrl.