A New York Times story about 18 teenagers and men raping an 11-year-old girl is generating a lot of repercussion for the Times because of the way the story was written. What seems to be missing in the understanding of the reporter and the paper’s editors is that when a penis is used for violence, it is no different from a gun or a knife or a club. In rape, the penis is a weapon.
Would the newspaper have written the story in the same way if the 11-year-old child were stabbed or clubbed by 18 men? I think not. There is terribly, distressingly something associated with the act of sex that in the eyes of some lets the crime of rape off with much less cry for punishment, much less sympathy for the victim. It is impossible to even imagine the incredible deep physical and psychological trauma these teenagers and young men inflicted one by one — each one responsible for his own indecent, illegal act — upon this helpless child. An affidavit said the rapists threatened the child with a beating if she did not comply.
There is a quote from a woman who knows several of the males charged in the crime who remarked “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.” There is no quote expressing outrage and sorrow for the child who was raped, first in a house, then in a filthy abandoned trailer.
Then there was this paragraph:
“Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.”
Excuse me? Is this blame the victim, the child who was playing dress-up? Where are the quotes from anyone who knew the little girl and could express who she really was? Who could express the anguish they felt for what happened to her?
A science story has recently been making the rounds about the history of the penis: male chimpanzees have knobby spines on their penis that humans lost during evolution. Makes me wish that females had retractable spines in their vaginas that were more like needles than knobs and, when being attacked, the female could release her spines and sink them into the intruding penis. If the little girl who was gang raped could have done that, maybe the 17 teenagers and men who heard the screams of the first would have tucked their collapsing penises into their pants and run for the woods.
Guest Blogger Profile: MARY KNUDSON is the co-author of “Living Well with Heart Failure, the Misnamed, Misunderstood Condition”, a health blogger at HeartSense Blog, teaches writing at Johns Hopkins, loves books, baseball, and critters. She can be found on Twitter as @maryknudson
The When a Penis is a Weapon by PLOS Blogs Network, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.