When you start a discussion about a rape case that ended in conviction, with “so-called rape” and then specify that “it was not a rape involving intercourse,” you set yourself up as someone who doesn’t understand, in the least, the concept of rape or the right a person has to the sanctity of their bodies. Thanks, Richard Cohen, for being that person.
On Tuesday, September 3, Cohen wrote a Washington Post op-ed about his feelings about Stubenville – and book-ended these feelings with a discussion of Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance, because he saw Cyrus’ performance as an opportunity to discuss an article by Ariel Levy that appeared in The New Yorker. After he finished reading it, Cohen felt “unhappily immersed in a teenage culture that was stupid, dirty and so incredibly and obliviously misogynistic.”
So incredibly and obviously misogynistic. You’ve got to wonder where teens (ugh, even the word seems dirty, amirite?) come up with these things! Surely it’s not from the generations before them. They probably invented it all by themselves, without the help of Washington Post editorialists—and people who think like them, which based on news stories covering Cyrus over the last week, is most mainstream media—who see fit to call a twenty-year-old woman “a cheap act” and “a tasteless twit.”
There’s also clearly no way that this misogyny the teens (there’s that word again) could be related to Cohen’s assumption that the boys convicted in the Stubenville rape case were innocent and that the internet created a lynch mob to go after them. He doesn’t want to count it as a gang rape because only two boys were arrested and convicted. He implies the old standard of boys will be boys and that more than anything, this is a reflection of a teen (ick) culture that “is brutal and unfeeling.” Again, I’m sure this has absolutely nothing to do with reflection of a larger culture in which rape is normalized or in which women are still often expected to be virgins or sluts. This probably also has nothing to do with the type of thinking that allows a man to think that a woman who dances in public deserves to be raped. These teens (omg, that word is just so vile) are also probably not products of a culture which has been at war their entire lives, or nearly so.
Cohen compares the Stubenville rape to the 1964 rape and murder of Kitty Genovese – a brutal case – a then says really, a person can’t compare the two. It’s clear that Cohen believes because Stubenville rape wasn’t a “beat-up rape” and because there wasn’t intercourse, that it wasn’t legitimate rape – even if he never states this directly.
All of this, really, is about Cohen policing women’s bodies. Women shouldn’t twerk because it makes them jiggle and wobble. If they dance or participate in the culture in which boys exist in freely and they get raped, well, that’s just a consequence. They shouldn’t have been dancing or having fun. Cyrus, according to Cohen, cheapened herself and all women through her performance at the VMAs (note: he says nothing of cultural appropriation). The Stubenville rape victim, and her supporters, are encouraging a teen (that’s the last time I use that dirty, dirty word, I promise) culture that is disrespectful and lewd — and which persecutes “innocent” young men who were just having a good time (at someone else’s expense without regard to boundaries or violating that person).
Cohen believes the kids are in trouble. Especially the girls. And, it seems, he sees it as his duty to save them with his white manliness by further dehumanzing them and calling them names so they can reconsider their choices and choose a more appropriate station in life — one that Cohen, and others like him, will be happy to define for them.