We have all seen the headlines: A horrifying drama has been playing out in Steubenville, Ohio, and in the national spotlight. It concerned a rape that happened in the town, not the university Catholics know and love, and it involved high school football, not college faith.
But that didn’t stop the Salon website from featuring a strange piece by journalist Molly McCluskey who talks about her horror at her own Steubenville teen experience – she attended a Steubenville Catholic Conference, and didn’t like it … which she somehow tries to compare to the horrifying experience of rape.
First, the news: Two high school football players were convicted Sunday of raping a teenage girl at an August party. The story received national attention. Drunken teens had photographed and videotaped the sexual assault and shared the images on social media. There was widespread confusion as to whether the boys’ actions “counted” as rape – since the girl was drunk, couldn’t they do what they wanted to her? Many excused their behavior; some blamed the girl.
Commentators have taken a number of lessons from the event. Journalist Nina Burleigh writes, in The New York Observer:
“By now, we’ve all absorbed the main lesson of Steubenville: the dehumanization of the female is so pervasive that young people will stand by and not just watch rape, but laugh at it, video it, tweet it, post it to Facebook, and try to cover their tracks when police investigate.”
The event sounds ripe for a wake-up call: Wake up to the dangers of drinking, wake up to the hookup culture our teens are living in, wake up to the dangers of the pornographic culture of sexting.
That’s not how Salon sees it. The website chose today to highlight not the clear, present danger of the kinds of events that led to the Steubenville rape, but a vague, esoteric danger of the events designed to prevent such behavior. A journalist named Molly McCluskey writes about her experience going to a Steubenville summer camp.
“We gathered in seminars to discuss celibacy. We listened to seemingly savvy college students discuss how Jesus had made all things possible for them. We were told, repeatedly, that we were part of a community, we were loved, we were safe. We were blessed, and were the blessed,” she says.
“There was a darker side, of course,” she adds. She lists the problems:
Leaving aside the fact that her first point contradicts her others (“they should be open to others’ differences – but how dare they expect me to be open to theirs?”) her story reveals something shocking. She equates the experience of enduring a religious conference she didn’t like with the experience of a rape victim.
She does it in a very indirect way, but the implication is clear. She writes of the victim of the Steubenville rape:
“Her tale rips me up, because she was victim of a culture that was not safe, where football was the religion and the boys were the chosen ones. Not everyone can leave Steubenville on the back of a bus. I was lucky I could. I was lucky that I could move on from my own closed world.”
What are you saying, Molly?
See for yourself what Steubenville Conferences are trying to do. Their message: “From the beginning of time God chose you with a perfect love he called you to echo a love that resounds throughout all creation. … God delights in you and he wants you to be happy.”
They are telling kids to respect themselves and others. They are connecting the beauty of creation to the beauty of their bodies.
In the midst of an explosion of venereal diseases and pornographic understandings of sexuality, the Steubenville conferences are doing exactly what is needed.
By denouncing them in the national media on the basis of her own dislike, who is McCluskey trying to help?