As we all know, the Super Bowl is upon us. And with every Super Bowl comes the obligatory rehashing of the major players’ histories of criminal charges, or, in some cases, still-pending criminal charges. Good old-fashioned American fun!
Anyway, of course the most prominent rapist player-with-a-past to look out for this year is Ben Roethlisberger, who has a series of sexual assault charges against him, some of which have been dropped.
In my brief research about this charmer, one of the first things I came across was this gem of a sentence from writer Russell Goldman at ABC News:
“‘Big Ben’ Roethlisberger dodged prosecution earlier this week when a Georgia district attorney announced that he could not prove that the quarterback had raped a 20-year-old sorority girl in a nightclub bathroom.”
This. Makes. My. Blood. Boil. I’ve already read it like five times and it still makes my blood boil each and every time, and here’s why: what purpose does it serve to call the woman, first and foremost, a “sorority girl,” other than to sexualize her and portray her in a negative light?
The writer could have said, “a young woman who belongs to a sorority,” and that would have been better, although when you put it that way it becomes a lot more apparent that the fact that she’s in a sorority has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not she was raped.
But it does have a lot to do with the way people perceive her, her case against Roethlisberger, and Roethlisberger himself. Because I suppose there are a few other common connotations with “sorority girl,” right? We might think of her as a pretty blonde thing, so how could “Big Ben” — I mean, he has a nickname! Everybody loves a guy with a nickname! — Roethlisgberger have been expected to keep himself from fucking her? And she was probably drunk, if she’s a sorority girl, so she was probably throwing herself at the big, impressive football player. Oh, and since she was drunk — because that’s what sorority girls do — we really can’t trust her to know whether or not she was raped, can we?
Or maybe this is the best case scenario: everyday news turns a bit more into porn, as the entire country is invited to imagine what it’s like to have sex with a “sorority girl” in a bathroom at a bar. In other words, the woman gets violated just a little bit more.
It might not piss me off so much (although I imagine it would) if this kind of sexualization of victims of assault didn’t happen all the time. How many times have we read about “a prostitute” or “a stripper” who was assaulted? Or had the pleasure of reading articles that take just a little too much poetic license in describing what happened to a woman during a rape, or what she looked like, or how old — or young — she was.
For reporters, it’s a simple question of semantics, and perhaps a tougher question of self-reflection. What are you trying to say in your article? Who are you trying to blame? What kind of a picture are you trying to paint? With rape and sexual assault, it seems like the picture being painted is way too often about the “sex” part of it. And if you’re cheap enough to try to get more people to read your article by making a story about rape sexy, in my opinion, your press credentials should be stripped as fast as Roethlisberger should be kicked out of the NFL.