1. Archive

Of rape, jerks and culpability

There are lots of jerks in the world, and at least half of them are male.

All during the trial of Mike Tyson and its aftermath, these men have given bleats of pain for that neurotic hood and the retribution that overtook him.

Some of these guys almost make you ashamed of being a man. "The woman knew what she was getting into," they say of the fighter's 18-year-old victim. She was after his body, his money, his fame.

A lot of men are sneakily pro-Tyson, careful whom they express themselves to. They pour out their venom in sports bars, where they trust their listeners, or on local talk radio where they can be anonymous. Sometimes, afternoon drive-time hosts Lionel on WFLA-970 AM and Dave Campbell on WFNS-910 AM seem as appalled by the calls as the women who phone in to rebut the creeps.

One of the latter proclaimed his credo. It went something like this:

If a woman comes to my place at 8 p.m., then maybe we do or maybe we don't. But if she comes late at night, that gives me some rights. I go for it.

Many males swallowed the defense plea that Tyson's reputation was so bad only an eager sex partner, or a gold digger, would go near him. Indeed they accepted the fighter's reputation, approved of it; many thought it admirable. Ol' Mike, one said fondly, he lets 'em know up front.

Some said that she was stupid to go to his room, which is difficult to dispute. And since she did go there, what followed was her own fault.

As if rape were the proper punishment for doing something stupid.

As if we hadn't all done stupid things in our lives, especially at the age of 18. Should we all, male and female alike, be raped for our foolishness?

Indeed, stupidity was the name of the game at the Miss Black America Beauty Pageant in Indianapolis, where this all started. And a lot of the stupidity was by people who will never see 18 again.

For example: the pageant officials who invited Tyson in the first place; or the Rev. Jesse Jackson hanging out with the fighter-hood, restraining him a bit when the pinching and prodding got too overt, but standing by nevertheless.

There are lots of damn fools in the world, and at least half of them are female.

My girls would never go to that man's hotel room, said a righteous woman on a call-in show. My girls were brought up right. I told them never put temptation in a man's way. If you do and something bad happens, you've only got yourself to blame.

That was the reaction of many women. They hold that it is the woman's responsibility not to arouse a man, lest the poor creature reach a certain pitch, and then nature takes over and he can't stop himself.

Males have been using this ploy for years, generations, millennia. Amazingly women still fall for it.

The truth is, a man can stop if he knows he has to. At worst, he can go off by himself and do what he did when he was an adolescent.

One of the unexpected developments of the recent show trials and confirmation hearings is that so many women have supported the accused. Polls showed more women believed Judge Clarence Thomas than professor Anita Hill. William Kennedy Smith had a female claque applauding for him at his trial. Afterward, a female juror said she could not believe anybody "that charming and good-looking" would have to force himself on a date.

She didn't understand what rape is all about. Too many women, and way too many men don't understand.

The truth is there is no right to rape and no excuse for it. Rape is always a crime. It is not even truly sexual. Rape is a power trip, a particularly ugly one in which the criminal gets pleasure from overpowering, entering, taking over another person's body.

There is only one cure. Perhaps we have finally gotten down to it: Lock up the rapist.

Jacquin Sanders is a columnist for the Pinellas editions of the Times.